Amaro Lucano is a herbal liqueur infused with the essence of more than 30 herbs. A product of Basilicata, it has been a staple in the houses of expat Italians for the past 125 years. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Francesco Vena, CEO of this family run business, who told us more about the company, its values and what the future holds for this Lucano brand.
Francesco’s great-grandfather, Pasquale Vena, a baker living in Naples, was intrigued by the fragrances and tastes of the herbs crossing the Neapolitan ports. He began experimenting with these herbs and almost by chance created an infusion. Thus, in 1894 the first bottle of Amaro Lucano was born. After Pasquale’s passing, Amaro Lucano was inherited by his two sons, Leonardo and Giuseppe, who began advertising their product throughout Puglia and Basilicata in an effort to push their newly acquired company ahead. At first, the two brothers faced challenging times, but as the Italian economy boomed in the sixties, so did Amaro Lucano. The company’s advertising campaign in the eighties, “Cosa vuoi di piu’ dalla vita? Un Lucano!” (What do you want more from life? A Lucano!), won them nationwide popularity and launched their climb to international recognition.
Today Amaro Lucano is renowned as a symbol of Italian culture overseas, and the secret to the company’s success lies with expats. Francesco tells us that when launching their product into a new market the first point of contact for him and his team is the Italian community, who with great pride introduces Amaro Lucano to their peers. To this day many Italians choose to gift a bottle of Amaro Lucano when visiting their migrant families abroad. Francesco thinks that the pacchiana (countrywoman) on the label reminds emigrants of the place they came from. A simple bottle of Amaro Lucano is a gift that carries a warmth and a sense of home. For many Italians, it is a symbol of pride.
All members of the Vena family have always been involved in the production of Amaro Lucano. For the past 125 years, they have been dedicated to their product, passing the secret recipe down from one generation to the next. They have combined innovation and know-how along the way to continue to grow and improve their product. With Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, Amaro Lucano inaugurates its latest endeavour — Essenza, the perfect marriage of tradition and innovation. Francesco tells us that Essenza will be a place where visitors can immerse themselves in an interactive experience inspired by the world of Amaro Lucano. Essenza Lucano will feature a bar where visitors can taste their product, a garden where they will be able to see, smell and touch the herbs that are in an Amaro Lucano bottle, and finally an exposition room where they will be able to interview all generations of the Vena family, all the way to his great grandfather, through their innovative 3D interaction tool which will project a hologram of the interviewee. Visitors will also be able to retrace the company's history on a voyage between the past and the future.
It’s important to note that Amaro Lucano, in partnership with the local university, has also implemented educational programs for future liquorists. The university provides the courses and Amaro Lucano provides a job market for graduates, thus guaranteeing the longevity of the artisanal trade of liquor making.
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Written by Elena di Maria and Robby Vrenozi, Photographs by Stepanie Palmer D'Andrea