However it was Molinari Sambuca, created by Angelo Molinary in 1945, that became world famous (and is still the best-selling sambuca in the world). During the "La Dolce Vita" era in Italy the brand purchased TV ads and it became the second-best selling spirit in Italy after Aperol.
Today there are two Molinari distilleries. One is still in Civitavecchia (though they say the facility is now more for administration and a small production line) and the other is Colfelice, about a 1 hour drive south of Rome, where they make the majority of the product.
The company is still run by family members. Only one person per generation knows the exact recipe for Molinari, but after one of them was kidnapped and held for ransom many years ago they decided that they should also keep a copy in a vault.
The primarily flavor of Molinari comes from star anise that is imported from southeast China. To prepare it, the fruits are harvested, the seeds are blanched to stabilize them, they are then partially crushed and essential oils are extracted through water distillation. I believe this all happens in China, though some refinement of the essential oils may occur locally. Most of the essential oil from star anise comes from the seeds.