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Hope For Venice? Venetian Bitter Select Will Restart Production In The City

Producers of the alcoholic bitter Select, originating in Venice, have announced they will open a production branch in the historic city. The news has been welcomed by some inhabitants of the canal city, who are currently battling to extricate their economy from almost sole dependence on tourism, but others view the new opening as another big tourist attraction in disguise. 

Select, often used in the place of Aperol to make a Spritz Select, was invented in 1920 by the Pilla brothers, originally from Bologna, in the Castello district of Venice. With La Serenissima’s trading connections to the Orient, ample exotic spices and herbs were available to create the Venetian bitter. 

On the centenary of the bitter’s invention, Gruppo Montenegro, who have taken over its production, have announced their return to Venice. The new production branch, named “Ca’ Select”, will reportedly be housed in an ex-industrial building, which the company is restoring, in the Cannaregio sestiere

The Select factory will house a herb and spice crushing plant, but it has also been billed as an “experience” where visitors can discover the Venetian history of the bitter and participate in tastings and events. 

The new factory space has been deemed positive news by some residents of Venice who feel the city is overdependent on tourism and, as a consequence, provides few job opportunities outwith the tourism sector.

Many residents have seen the current restrictions on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, and consequent reduction in visitors to the historic city, as an opportunity to rethink the economic model. 

Venipedia, a group advocating for a sustainable future for Venice, calls it, “A first step for a Venice which is less a museum and more a city.” 

CEO of Gruppo Montenegro Marco Ferrari has said the new branch hopes to “enhance” the city where Select was born and bring “the production process back to Venice [and] share it with the city and its inhabitants.”

Others, however, are wary of singing its praises too soon. “It’s just another way to name a bar,” says Fabio Vianello, a restaurant marketing manager from Venice. 

“It’s very tourist-oriented, I don’t see it much as a revolution, and I don’t think it will be a great place of production,” Vianello comments. “It’s just a mask for a flagship bar, they would never have had the permission to do something like that in another way so it’s called a museum, but it’s a commercial operation.” 

Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro has said he hopes the new opening will “bring to the city new jobs and growth in order to attract new residents.”

When asked about the job opportunities it might provide, Vianello says, “it’s like opening a big MacDonalds, there will be jobs for young people but not stable work.”

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