There are at least thirty known spellings of this famous Italian surname ranging from Ricca, Ricci, Ricco and Rizzo, to Riccelli, Ricioppo, Rizzillio and Rizzotto. However spelt they are all nicknames, and all derive from the ancient word 'ricco' meaning 'curly'. It is generally accepted that this was originally a nickname given to people with curly hair, however it was also probably more specific and regional, and may have referred to people from the south of Italy or Sardinia. Like most such names, and at least fifteen percent of all surnames are of nickname origins, it is at least seven hundred years since it was first used, with the result that it is now quite impossible to determine the exact original meaning, and to whom it was applied. Only those that were there can be sure of that! In addition surnames of Italian origins usually suffer from a lack of early recordings. This is because Italy did not become a unified country until 1860, prior to that it was a loose confederation of about twelve states. Some insisted on recordings of births and deaths, but most did not bother. To this lack of information has to be added war and general neglect, resulting in the loss of many early registers. We have however secured a number of early recordings and these include: Giovanni Ricci, a witness at Pontelandol, Siena, on February 17th 1545, David Ricca, christened at Angrogna, on June 1st 1652, and Pietro Riccio, christened at Napoli on August 5th 1675.
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