The Calabrian cousin: the bergamot

The bergamot (Citrus Bergamia) belongs to the family of the Rutaceae and comes from Persia. The etymology recalls its middle Eastern origins: the Turkish epithet “berg-àrmundi” means “pear tree of the Lord” (it looks like the bergamot pear). Its peel is smooth and yellow and contains bladders rich in essential oil, which is largely used in the preparation of perfumes.

Today the plant is cultivated only in Calabria, along the coast of Reggio Calabria, on clayey and calcareous grounds. The first tree was planted in 1750 in the feud “Giunchi” by Nicola Parisi who, to extract the perfumed essence, used the technique of absorption through sponge down: the peel was pressed with the hands and the essence, absorbed by (natural) sponges, was poured in proper containers. The essential oil of bergamot from Reggio Calabria in 1990 obtained the D.O.P. mark (Denomination of Protected Origin). There are three bergamot cultivars: “Femminello”, “Castagnano” and “Fantastico”.


Bergamot essence has an incredible stimulating power. It’s helpful in relieving anxiety, stress, tension, depression and stimulates the central nervous system. Avoid any application before being exposed to the sun: bergamot essence is photosensitive, so brown spots could appear on your skin!

Beauty treatments and perfumes

The essential oil, extracted with machines that “peel” the flavedo, is exported all over the world and is used as fixing agent for perfumes. The bergaptene, the phototoxic part of the fruit, is eliminated, and this prevents skin spots from appearing when you expose yourselves to the ultraviolet rays. Its essence is the base for of many classical perfumes. The oil is also used in the dermatological cosmetics as adjuvant against greasy skin and acne, and it has antiseptic and antioxidant properties. Moreover, it is used to prevent the loss of hair.

Besides the cosmetics industry, bergamot oil is also used in pharmaceutical industry for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Its essence is also the principal ingredient of the well-known Calabrian sweets (from 1857), and one of the most appreciated flavours of the famous English tea “Early Grey” (from 1830).

In the XVIII century traditionally the peel of the bergamot, deprived of the pulp and dried, was used as snuffbox: in this way, the tobacco was aromatized and could maintain the right moisture.