Life & Style

Names and Italian geographical identity

Names can tell much more than expected


Several names translate qualities such as strength, politeness and beauty, while others are inspired by classical or mythological characters facing obstacles or wars. In Italy, names too can be the expression of a personal choice inspired by the meaning of the name itself, or by a famous person or character. However, what names express most of the times is a regional origin.


Although there are names common all over the country, we could say that the motto  tell me your name and I will tell you where you are from could be easily applied, because in Italy there really are names that let us understand a person’s geographical origins. 


In this, as in many other cultural aspects of the country, differences are marked following the lines of northern, central and southern Italy. 


In the northern part of the country, less traditional and more unconventional names are usually given to babies; in the center of Italy, you will find more classical names and especially in Rome some recall Latin and Roman origins; in the south more conventional names or those in honor of saints are usually chosen. Nicknames and abbreviations are popular all over the country.



Here is how to pronounce some of the most common Italian names!


Common regional names 


Giuseppe, Vincenzo, Anna, Maria and other names in honor of saints are typically given in the south. However, there are some that identify a specific regional origin: Calogero or Salvatore are names associated to Sicily. Ciro, often with the combination of the family name Esposito, will immediately reveal Neapolitan origins.


Vieri, Vanni, Lapo, Dante and Nieri are male names which are used in Tuscany,  in particular in the town of Florence and they are traditionally associated to it. They are often the abbreviation of longer names widely used in the past such as Olivieri (Vieri) or Giovanni (Vanni).


In Rome, names are often inspired by ancient patronimics:  Marco, Flavio, Cesare, Adriano for men and, more frequently, Flaminia, Aurelia, Lucrezia for women are common in the capital and recall the spirit of Classical times. 


In the northern part of the country names tend to be less traditional and you will more rarely find names such as Ambrogio, typical of the city of Milan, which was particularly common in older times. In this part of the country less geographically marked names tend to be given to children and people usually opt for names that can be frequently found in every part of Italy.


The entire country seems to be still following the common and international tradition of naming their children with names dear to the family. Many children today carry their grandparents or great- grandparents’ names. 


Names in Italy are not often chosen by chance:  they tend to follow a long tradition, based on special social roots and origins. Some names are clearly indicative of a place and they will identify the geographical origin of the person carrying them for the rest of their life. On a side,  this is clearly a mark of originality and a link to their home land, but many people are starting to introduce new choices because they want to break up with the past and be more innovative. However, you will hardly find names typical of the south in the north, and vice versa, unless it is a person who moved to the other side of the country or comes from another town. 


Author: Anna Defilippo

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