Salvatore Averna was born into a well-off family of textile merchants in 1802. He grew up in the industrious city of Caltanissetta and became one of the most active members of the community; he was Judge Peace and benefactor of the Convent of St.Spirito’s Abbey. According to a very ancient tradition which originated in the fortified Benedictine abbeys, and afterwards spread all over Europe by Cistercian and Cluniac convents, the friars produced a herbal elixir following a secret recipe. Although the elixir tasted “bitter”, it was good and, according to the popular belief, it possessed some tonic and therapeutic quality. In 1859, as a token of gratitude, the friars decided to hand the recipe for the infusion over to Salvatore, and in 1868 he started the production for the Averna household guests.
It was Francesco Averna, Salvatore’s son, who decided to make the Averna bitter renowned by presenting it at different fairs in Italy and abroad. By 1895, the Sicilian liqueur was already well-known. During a private visit to king Umberto I in the same year, Francesco received a golden brooch with the insignia of the Savoy House.
In 1912, after another series of successes, Vittorio Emanuele III bestowed the Company Averna the right to print the royal coat-of-arms with the inscription “Royal Household Patent” on the bitter-liqueur label. Averna became the official supplier of the Royal Household. All these acknowledgements, over the years, led Francesco to re-design the first liqueur label by adding all these certificates and prizes. Francesco died quite early and his wife, Anna Maria, took the reins of the firm. Though she was soon helped by her young sons, she represented an exceptional case of a female entrepreneur in the heart of Sicily during the early XX century.