Names can tell a lot when researching our Italian roots. But there are some names which tell a sadder tale back several generations or so. Orphans and foundlings in Italy were given special names. This list includes the most common surnames used.
Some means of names are pretty obvious: Bastardo... for bastard. Della Femina for From a Woman. Dell'Amore means From Love. All are a testament to those who came before and the trials they must have gone through to get through troubled times of war or poverty or disgrace. Many suffered through the horrors of war or famine. Anyone bearing these Italian surnames should be proud of what their fore-bearers went through to give life to their children and their children's children.
Although these names do have a high probability of being rooted in an ancestor being orphaned, there are exceptions to this.
Amodio (Love God), Arfanetti (Orphan), Armandonada (Donated by Hand)
Bardotti (The sterile hybrid offspring of a male horse and a female donkey)
Bastardo (Bastard), Circoncisi (Circumcised)
Colombini (Little Dove), Dati (from you)
De Alteriis (Changling), De Angelis (From Angels)
Della Donna (From a Lady), Della Femmina (from a Female)
De Domo Magna ("Of the Ospizio" ,of the Hospital or Hospice)
Degli Esposti (Abandoned)
Della Scala (Name assigned by foundling home in Sienna)
Della Fortuna (from Luck), Della Gioia (From Joy), Della Stella (From a Star)
Della Casagrande (of the Hospital/Orphanage)
Dell 'Amore (from Love), Dell'Orfano (the Orphan)
Del Gaudio (of Grace & Goodness), Diodata (God Diven)
D'Amore (Love), D'Ignoto (from Unknown), Diotallevi (God Raised You)
Esposto, Esposito, Esposuto (Lost)
Fortuna (Luck), Ignotis (Unknown), Incerto (Uncertain) Incognito (Unknown) Innocenti, Innocentini (The Lost Ones)
Mulo (Mule), Naturale (Natural/Careless)
Nocenti, Nocentini (Little Innocent), Ospizio (Foundling Home)
Palma (when child is abandoned on Palm Sunday)
Proietti (Thrown away - also, Projetti, Projetto, assigned by an ospizio in Rome)
Sposito (Lost), Spurio (Illegitimate)
Stellato (The Stars), Trovatello, Trovato (Foundling)
Ventura, Venturini (Angels, Little Angels)
Legislation passed in 1928 outlawed the practice of assigning orphans surnames indicating their illegitimacy or abandonment, but surnames of some sort still had to be given to these children. These were sometimes the surnames of royal and noble families, but more often they were geographical in nature or alluded to the day, month or season of the child's birth (i.e. Sabato, Maggio, Primavera and so forth).