The unheralded Italian city that put the coffee in your cup

Feb 08, 2019 353

BY: Chris Leadbeater

What have the Hapsburgs ever done for us? OK, so the answer to that question is perhaps not quite as humourously self-evident as the list of Roman achievements summarily dismissed by John Cleese's disgruntled leader of the "People's Front of Judea" in Monty Python's Life of Brian ("All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"). But it is one which bears closer analysis - as, the chances are, evidence of it is sitting in front of you as you read this piece, its familiar aroma giving your nose a playful pinch.

The ruling family of Austria was Europe's main power player for the best part of half a millennium - from 1438 to pretty much the final artillery blasts of the First World War. It was a dynasty which wielded emormous power, to the extent that, when the emperor coughed in Vienna, the effect was often felt not just in Hungary and Germany, but as far afield as Spain and Portugal. It was a protagonist in numerous wars, from its collisions with the Ottoman Empire on its eastern flank to the trenches of 1914-1918.

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