Italian Surnames

Exploring the History and Meanings of Italian Surnames

Surnames and their Meanings

Delving into the research of surnames, also known as last names or family names, is an exciting way to learn more about your family history. When researching Italian surnames, you will quickly find that each family name in Italy was formed for a particular purpose. Italy has always been known for its lively and extraordinary land and people, and Italian names exhibit these same qualities.

In the age of ancient Rome, individuals were named in three parts. These parts included a basic first name, a name in which a person's family was identified, and also a unique name that described that individual. This three part name was common throughout Italian history until the medieval days, when the latter two names were dropped and people were known only by one name. This tradition of only giving one name began to cause confusion among citizens, and slowly Italians began adding a second distinguishing label to their names. By the 15th century, most Italians identified themselves by their individual name as well as a surname. Surnames in Italy very commonly identified a person by their family or their father. These types of surnames are known as patronymics. Italian surnames that include a prefix of "di" or "da" often mean "son of." For example, "di Francesco" would be mean "son of Francesco." The suffix "-ucci" also means "descendant of."


Italian surnames can also identify where an individual is from. Some of these surnames simply identify a person with local geography, such as "di Montagna" for "of the mountain." Individuals or families that migrated often took on a surname that described their region of origin, such as "Milani" or "Romano" if they were from Milan or Rome.

Occupations were also commonly used to form surnames. A person could carry the name of the occupation, such as "Zappa" for farmer, but it was also common for Italians to choose a surname that described an animal or object associated with their occupation.

Of all Italian surnames, the most entertaining and unusual names can be found from the family names formed from nicknames. These could virtually describe any detail about an individual, from their hair color to the appearance of their teeth to their height., such as using the name "Basso," which means short. Some of these names even went as far as to describe a person's eating habits!

Whatever your genealogy, if an Italian surname is part of your ancestral past, it will no doubt provide you with many interesting details as to where your family originated from and what they were like.

By Elizabeth Walling

Italian Genealogy

Another good source for Italian Last Names



Saturday, May 16TH, 2009 by Guest

I need to find some help if I may. My father's side of my family has ancestory from Italy. I've been told we're from Milano but, my family name is Vitatoe. It has, in fact been Americanized so, I don't know what the Italian spelling of it would be. I'm trying to find the actual meaning of our surname. I've researched it and I know "Vita" means "life, Vitality" but, what is our actual history? My father died in 2004 four months after his father. I don't know of anyone else close to me to ask. Any information would be greatly appreciated! Also, is Vita, Italy a part of my family history and if so, how? Thank you for your time.

Saturday, January 09TH, 2010 by Guest

I've been told that the surname "DATA" is Italian and from the Piedmont region around Forno Canavese. My family is from Rzeszow, Poland. My grandfather's name was Stanley DATA. Can you tell me is the name really Italian? Were there Italians at one time migrating to Poland around this area? How can I find out more about this?

Tuesday, July 26TH, 2011 by Guest

I would like some help if possible. I understand that my great grandfathers last name was Pastorino . He was originally from the Florence ,Italy area . Is there any one who can help me . I know that his sons name was Alfred Angelo and I believe that he was born here in the U.S. . I understand that I have have relitives still living in the Florence area but I'm not sure . Could some one help me . Will send more info if needed. Contact me @ Please. 

Thursday, July 28TH, 2011 by Guest

I would like some help to find my father, his name is Francesso Ugo. My mothers name was Yolanda Puzo, she die 5 years ago, if anyone know any information please email me Vanessa Deluca at

Wednesday, September 07TH, 2011 by Guest

My husband's family name (last name) is Rocco...are there many with that last name in Milan Italy ? thank you...also Vincegerra (spelling  ?)  is one of his family's name.  My maiden name is Scarpitti from Carovilli Italy (mostly:) . thank You. .my email address is 

Friday, January 13TH, 2012 by Guest

I need help finding my grandfather's history. My grandfather was born in Italy but he went to Argentina in the year 1883. He married my grandma and had my father. His name was Jose Ronzio. If you have any information could you please send me an email at

Saturday, May 19TH, 2012 by Guest

need help finding my lost family in Italy my grandfather;s side name Luigi Siamarro does anyone know of him or where he lived in Italy?

Saturday, May 19TH, 2012 by Guest

Luigi Siamarro BD 03/21/1901 lived in Mass. USA and Brooklyn NY Was a brick layer and died in 1930 when the building they were constructing collapsed he was crushed under the bricks.

Tuesday, October 16TH, 2012 by Guest

To whom it might concern.
My name is Marja Lesman and I am looking for my grandfather. He was born in Modena, Italy by the name Giovanni Mario Brini, or Johanni Mario Brini.
During WWII he met my grandmother, who is a Dutch woman, and had a breef relationship. Giovanni was a soldier for the Italian Military and served in Germany (Hamburg) in the beginning of 1945.
I am looking for my Italian roots and hope there is someone who can help me with this search.
Kind regards,
Marja Lesman (

Sunday, December 30TH, 2012 by Guest

In search of my Italian roots. My grandfather Louis (Luigi) Cannamela was born 04/10/1891 in Sortino,Siracusa Italy. He came to the US and lived in Springfield MA. His father was Joseph Cannamela and his mother was Vincenza Rizzo. Louis married MaryEllen Liberto. Her father Antonio Liberto was from Cefalu, Palermo, Sicily. I would to know if there are any relatives in Italy or the US. Any info would be of gret help.
Thank you MaryEllen Vetal (