The history of Eau de Cologne

Many people believe still today that the name of the most famous and ancient perfume of the world derives from the German city of Cologne. Only a few, however, know that Eau de Cologne was definitely an Italian creation.

This fascinating history goes back to the end of the 17th century thanks to the brilliant invention by Giovanni Paolo Feminis, born in Crana, a small hamlet of Santa Maria Maggiore. But it continues still today with the opening of Casa del Profumo in Santa Maria Maggiore.

It is known as “Eau de Cologne” simply because its inventor settled down in Cologne, where the company, which has been producing this perfume since 1709, was opened and has its headquarters still today. But the history of one of the most famous perfumes of the world began in Valle Vigezzo.

Both Giovanni Paolo Feminis, the inventor of the original formula, and Giovanni Maria Farina, who merchandised this perfume, were born in the beautiful Valle Vigezzo.


Giovanni Paolo Feminis (1660-1736) was very young, when he left his home (as many other people of Valle Vigezzo did at that time) and went to Germany to find a job. Here he opened a distillery and he focused on the production of herbal and soothing infusions. Among all his products, he sold also the extraordinary Aqua mirabilis – which became the famous Eau de Cologne – whose medicinal properties were certified in 1727.

Giovanni Maria Farina (1685-1766), a distant relative of Feminis, promoted and merchandised this new invention that was not so famous at the beginning and, above all, that was produced in origin only for its medicinal properties. With an extraordinary commercial insight, this young man had a great success and in a short time the brand “Aqua admirabilis” became very popular.

My perfume is just like an Italian Spring morning after the rain: it reminds of the oranges, the lemons, the grapefruits, the bergamots, the citrons, the flowers and the aromatic herbs of my land. It is refreshing, it stimulates the senses and inspires fantasy.

(Giovanni Maria Farina, 1708)

Eau de Cologne had really a great success and became one of the most famous and sought-after perfumes in the world, appreciated by kings, queens and illustrious personalities, like Goethe, Voltaire, Queen Victoria, Napoleon Bonaparte. This fragrance is composed of thirty essences and it smells of bergamot (the base note) and then lemon, orange blossom, rosemary, lavender
Today all these herbs, plants and fruits grow in the beautiful garden of Casa del Profumo in Santa Maria Maggiore.