The surnames in Italy reflect the interaction of cultures and languages that have been superimposed on the peninsula in the course of the centuries. European countries, as Italy, have been along the centuries populated by different ethnical groups, with different cultures and languages. It led to the development of also different dialects. When Italy became a unified country in 1861, it adopted the Florentine dialect as the official Italian language. Before then, each independent state had its own dialect, which is reflected in regional surnames that have not been Tuscanized.
By consequence, many surnames where shaped by regional language characteristics. In brief: some Italian last names are very common and spread by the whole country, and other last names are geographically located in only a couple of departments.
Surname distribution maps provide a way to learn what parts of Italy your surname is most frequently found. This may indicate a place of origin for your ancestor.
The GENS search engine displays how last names are distributed around Italy, a visual map of the distribution of people in Italy with your last name. This search engine was built based on the Italian Phone Directory.
Go to the website and type in your surname in the box under Cerca un cognome (look for a last name). Then click on the TROVA button.
A map of Italy will pop up and display the results. You can click on three different styles of maps and even zoom in for a close up view.
This will give you some idea of the possible region of origin of your surname.
Cognomix - il portale dei cognomi italiani offers a map of Italian last names.
Discover the distribution of last names in Italy: enter a surname into the search box and click the search button.
You'll see an interactive map with the surname distribution in Italian regions. This map contains stats on the distribution of the surname according to regions, provinces or Italian communes.
You can also choose to see results as a relative distribution and display the percentage according to the population living in those regions.
The English version of the site is: ItaliaNames
Italian Surnames divided by region
In dettaglio - All the Italian last names by town, province or region. Fill in the form on this page to obtain information about the occurrences of the various surnames in the various Italian regions.
You can search the exact surname, or by indicating the initial of the surname, or by indicating the string that must be contained within the surname. On the page output will be given a list of municipalities and provinces in which the surname occurs, together with an indication of how many people have that surname. The list is sorted by name and then by number of individuals per municipality or province.
There are some sites in Internet where genealogists can add the surname they are interested in, giving the reference of their own e-mails to be later contacted.
The goal of these databases is to contact people searching for the same surname, to exchange information and perhaps to discover that they have some common relative.
When a surname is found, we can contact the visitor who left his or her e-mail on there. There are several websites in English containing these lists: Italian Surname Database, Italian Surname Collection