Who was Senator Raffaele Cappelli and why Italian wheat bears his name

Today is probably the typology of grain more known in Italy. There Senator Cappelli it is a particularly renowned autumnal durum wheat cultivar, whose derivatives are also widely used in haute cuisine. But why did this variety of wheat take on the name of a person who actually lived? Who was the Senator Raffaele Cappelli and how is it related to this type of raw material?

Who was Senator Cappelli

So let’s go find out who was Senator Raffaele Cappelli, and why today one of the best known and most recognized varieties of wheat bears his name. We have to go back over a hundred years, to when in 1906 the Marquis Raffaele Cappelli, owner of numerous land holdings near Foggia, entrusted the geneticist and agronomist Nazarene Strampelli part of these fields to be allocated to experimental cultivation. The target? Manage to get new cultivars and more resistant.

Nazarene Strampelli

Strampelli, for years, had been engaged in a research activity concerning thehybridization of various species of wheat, trying to apply Mendell’s theories which in those years were experiencing particular following. Strampelli had set a goal in mind: to try to increase crop yield. This would have been possible through the creation of wheat varieties resistant at bad weather and to the specific droughts of the different climates typical of various parts of Italy, so as to be able to cultivate them both in the North and in the South. A noble intention, above all because in that period there were not a few people who starve. Creating a more robust and resistant variety, capable of allowing a higher yield of crops, would have helped many farmers otherwise in difficulty. When the offer came from the Senator the good Strampelli did not hesitate and from Rieti (where he held a chair) went to Puglia to start, manage and monitor his experimental barn. The fascist regime, years later, also favored the activity of the scientist and geneticist, supporting and supporting his commitment. Strampelli, with his research and his results, was placed at the center of the regime’s propaganda in the so-called ‘Battle of the grain’, the policy of independence Italy from foreign supplies of wheat, until then mostly imported from Russia and the United States.


In the 1915 officially saw the light of day there Senator Cappelliobtained from the variety of Tunisian origin Jenah Rhetifah, with an important protein value and which has proved to be particularly suitable for making pasta. In a few decades, this type of wheat experienced a great diffusion on the national territory thanks to the excellent yield capacity, lower water requirement and higher resistance to wheat diseases and adverse atmospheric agents. In the 60s of the last century Senator Cappelli was the more grain present in Italy, up to 60% of total crops, then gradually replaced by varieties with higher yields but not adequate quality. With the rediscovery and revaluation of ancient grainsthen, in recent years Senator Cappelli (who, however, as we have seen is not so ancient) has gradually returned to the fore. In 2017, its production settled at 2.5 million kg.

Being a very durum wheat, the pasta that is made with it hardly gets overcooked, remaining instead al dente. Even from a nutritional point of view, Senatore Cappelli still remains one of the best grains In circulation.


Strampelli actually obtained several varieties (about 60) from quite a few crossings, naming each of them in honor of people close to him or in any case inspiring and representative of Italian culture. Raphael Hatsobviously, because thanks to him (and his funding) she had been able to carry on her studies and research on the subject, but also Charlottein honor of his wife and faithful assistant, Mendel same and pure Dante.

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