In Savigliano we made an amazing discovery, a place to visit with the eyes and especially with the nose: the MÚSES. The MÚSES defines itself as “a techno-sensorial museum pole” which allows visitors to discover the Piedmont tradition of aromatic herbs, as well as taking them on a journey through the art of perfumery, inside an historical palace. In short: perfumes, history and art (classical and modern) all in one.
The museum is suitable for both adults and children, who receive a small activity book to use and complete during the visit. The MÚSES is located on the ground floor and on the first floor of the historic Palazzo Taffini d’Acceglio, which dates back to 1620. In this palace, the noble family Taffini d’Acceglio used to host princes and princesses. In times that are more recent, a small local bank opened a branch in this building, and it is from the former counters area that the museum tour begins.
The Perfumer’s Organ
The room where the counters were located has been transformed into an educational laboratory. Here our guide showed us the perfumer’s organ, which is nothing else than a box containing various bottles of essential oils. She invited us to smell some and guess what they were: sage, chocolate, hazelnut, pear. Well, let me tell you: without a visual association, guessing a perfume – no matter how familiar it may be – is a truly difficult task. And we did a very bad figure (the first of many).
The essential oils are divided in three groups distinguished by colors, and so we learned that each color corresponds to a certain “note”. Each scent has top note (the head, or else the scent that we notice first), a heart note (the scent that is feel secondly, the middle fragrance basically) and finally a base note (or belly note, which is the one that evaporates slowly and stays with us the longest).
The bank vaults
After the counters/lab, a corridor (do pay attention to the wallpaper made with floral elements from banknotes from all over the world) leads you to the vaults, where you find an old treasure chest and, in the shadows, many bags full of local essences that you are welcome to touch and smell. There’s lavender, chamomile, peppermint (of which Piedmont is the biggest exporter in the world), lemon balm, wormwood, helichrysum, hyssop, passion flower. Our guide explains that a few drops of passionflower are sufficient to calm people down. Our friend Giacomo, who has three lively children, dreams of becoming rich by inventing the world’s first passionflower ice-cream.
The “smell-me” bells
After the vaults the museum visit continues upstairs, on the first floor, where one can also admire old and amazing frescoes. This is the place where classic art blends with modern art, nature, history and perfumes. Some rooms are more impressive than others are, for kids at least. One of the favourite is the halls of the “smell” bells: two dark rooms with round and colorful stands, with bells that do not produce sounds but essences. Obviously you have to guess which one, and again it is not an easy task.
Some amazing halls
A great hall is the one with “smell me” panel, depicting the map of the “mude” covered in olfactory sticks that can be extracted and smelled. “Mude” were convoys of ships which usually left from Venice between the thirteenth and fourteenth century, which carried raw materials for perfumery. This floor contains many incredible halls, including the one with an installation by a Japanese artist, with round mirrors reflecting beams of lights on the walls. We had the feeling that it would be a stylized representation of a flower or a plant; and of course we were wrong! It is the visual perception of a perfume molecule.
The fragrance fountain
Once you’ve covered the entire first floor, the visit is not over. Outside, in the inner courtyard, you will find a “magical” garden, with a fountain that activates itself when someone approaches it –it is called the “painters’ palette”. In addition to splashes of water, there are splashes of fragrant vapors, too. The fountain is a pleasant sight, and if you close your eyes, you will also small the scents of the flowers in the garden. This is a year-round experience as the plants have been selected to bloom throughout the year. One last interesting detail: pay notice to the material used to prevent weeds from growing and be surprised: hazelnut shells!