24.09.

1955: The Italian “King of Coffee” Riccardo Illy and the Medieval Heretics

1955: The Italian “King of Coffee” Riccardo Illy and the Medieval Heretics
Photo Credit To flickr.com by Niccolò Caranti

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 24 September 1955
  • It is interesting to note that Riccardo Illy was a so-called Waldensian, i.e. member of the old religious group which separated from the Catholic Church in the 12th century. 

Politician Riccardo Illy, the member of the family who has produced coffee and its successor, was born in Trieste, Italy on this day in 1955.

The founder of the family fortune was Francesco Illy, born in 1892 as a Hungarian in Timisoara (present-day Romania). His birth name was Ferenc, a Hungarian form of Francis (Francesco). He started a coffee business (roasting and selling coffee) in Trieste, and founded the Illycaffè company, which became famous in the world, particularly for its espresso. Today, they sell their products in approximately 140 countries, and the company is still headquartered in Trieste.

Riccardo Illy is the grandson of the founder, and he worked in a family business, but started to engage in politics. In 1993, he was elected mayor of Trieste. Riccardo was re-elected in 1997, and completed two terms, which is the maximum allowed by the law. He wanted to become president of the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. He really became president, and held that position until 2008. Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of the 20 Italian regions, bordering Slovenia and Austria. Economically, it is one of the most developed regions of Italy.

It is interesting to note that Riccardo Illy was the so-called Waldensian, i.e. member of the old religious group which separated from the Catholic Church in the 12th century. The Catholic Church declared them a heretical sect in the Middle Ages, and launched a crusade against them. Namely, the Waldensians are named after the seller from Lyon Peter Wald, who influenced their establishment. Due to the religious persecution, the Waldensians were almost eradicated in Europe, and those who survived retreated into the mountains of northern Italy.  Only about 45,000 Waldensians have survived (about 30,000 of them in Italy). 

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