History of the Bonuccelli

Those with the name Bonuccelli are fortunate possessors of a surname and family lineage whose origins are clearly traced back to one village of one region of one country on the planet. In the north of Italy along the Ligurian Sea (a portion of the Mediterranean) is found the region of Tuscany, famed for brilliant architecture, artistic geniuses like Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, fertile countrysides and world-famous wine. It was from Tuscany the Renaissance was born some 600 years ago. In the north of this Tuscan region one finds a fertile coastline between the ocean and the Apuane Alps known as the Versilia Riviera. Versilia lies on the coast tucked immediately between the famous five towns of Cinqueterre to the north and Pisa with its leaning tower to the south. Beach resort towns such as Viareggio have sprung up here, destinations for Italians and foreigners alike. The famed marble mountains of Carrara are located in the foothills here, source of marble for Italian masters over the centuries. And right in the middle of it all is a modest village called Camaiore. From here, if you ascend the Apuane Alps a few miles and scurry up through steep overgrown olive groves you come to the ruins of Montecastrese, where the story begins...


Chapter One: Montecastrese
The known story of the Bonuccelli family begins in an ancient hilltop fortress a few kilometers above Camaiore on the slopes of Mount Prana, in the Apuane Alps. This fortress was called Montecastrese (which translates to "Castle Mountain"), and it originated around 190 BC as a Roman fortification. It existed as an outpost and fortress until the year 1226, when war with the Luccans brought its demise. The powerful city of Lucca to the southeast desired to control the trade routes to the northwest, and this meant conquering the castles and fortresses along the path. The entire fortress of Montecastrese was destroyed and burned, thereby ceasing to exist as a town, and the survivors eventually migrated down the mountain to the more fertile plain and larger burg of Camaiore. Another implication of the sacking of Montecastrese is that unfortunately no written records from the fortress exist. Therefore, it is impossible to document the origins of the Bonuccelli line further back than the year 1226, but we do know the ancestors of the man named Bonuccelluo came from Montecastrese and had lived there prior to 1226 (this will make sense as you read on).



Chapter Two: Camaiore
On the plain immediately below the Apuane Alps and near the sea is the village of Camaiore, which dates from the first or second century BC, and derives from a Roman settlement called in Latin "Campus Major" (Large Plain). The church, according to feudal tradition, documented births and deaths, and many of these old books remain in the Camaiore Library today. The first documented Bonuccelli lived in Sesto San Pietro (a part of Camaiore town close to the main piazza). His named at this time was actually Bonuccelluo, singular for Bonuccelli, meaning "Good Bird." Eventually the descendants of his family became the "Good Birds." Over the course of 7 centuries, the Bonuccellis largely remained in the Camaiore region, multiplying the family into numerous different distinct lines of Bonuccelli lineage (Gongone, Nibbi, Radicchi, Pieroni, etc). These names were used to help distinguish the different strands of Bonuccelli: Nibbi, for example, means Kites (the birds); Pieroni, for example, means Big Pete. Certain family members might have emigrated out to Florence, Pescia, Genova, etc., but generally the vast majority of the family remained near the walled town of Camaiore until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Camaiore still exists as a quiet and charming medieval town; long and rectangular yet oriented on a main piazza. I'm told one of the more delightful times to visit is during the vigil for Corpus Domini, when artists labor allnight to prepare beautiful and gigantic "tapestries" along Camaiore's skinny streets, all to be marvelled at for a few hours in the morning and then ruined by the passing of the Corpus Domini procession.

Chapter Three: The Research
My second day in Camaiore, I had the great pleasure of meeting archivist Luca Santini of the Camaiore Cultural Office. He is the recognized expert on the surnames and history of Camaiore and the surrounding area. Within minutes, he whisked me into the locked room where they store the treasure-trove of ancient books from the town's history. Many are Estimi (Estimates), which essentially chronicle possessions of the citizens and the tax due on said items. With these Estimi, early Bonuccelli ancestors can be traced and identified according to what part of town they lived. Likewise, the early church generally documented births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, etc., and Luca can read the Latin/old Italian entries in these journals. The earliest documented Bonuccelli was a man named Bonuccelluo, born around the year 1270. We can trace his descendants. But the truly great find is in a book from 1466 documenting the election of the rector to the altar of Santa Barbara in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Camaiore. This altar was in memory of the destroyed church of the fortress Montecastrese which was razed by the Luccans in 1226. Only descendants of Montecastrese survivors were allowed to vote in the election of the rector; serendipitously the majority of signees are Bonuccellis, proving the Bonuccellis originally emigrated from Montecastrese.
Chapter Four: Present Day
SIDENOTE ABOUT THE RUINS OF MONTECASTRESE: The ruins of the ancient fortress are found nowadays on a hilltop on private property in a barely developed, very steep agricultural area. Luca Santini and friends of the Archaeological Group of Camaiore are currently engaging in efforts to clean and catalogue the ruins for future preservation. The Italian government has so many ancient relics found throughout its countryside that it doesn't have the money to purchase every location in order to preserve and maintain it. Luca wonders if oneday a group of Montecastrese descendants will band together and purchase the land in an effort to fully excavate and maintain the eroding site of their ancestors' mountain castle.
The economic crisis in Italy at the beginning of the 1900s and the increasing ease of global travel made conditions ripe for large scale emigration of Bonuccelli out of Italy to countries more favorable at the time. My own great grandfather Vincenzo Bonuccelli (from the Gongone line) transplanted to America with 3 brothers and a sister around 1905-1915. Often the impetus was to assimilate as quickly as possibly into the new culture; therefore over the three to four generations that have evolved since that time, Bonuccellis outside Italy have often lost contact with the Italian family, forgotten how to speak Italian, etc. But many traditions remain, usually including special Italian dishes at holidays and calling one's grandparents Nonno or the like. In the present day, as completely as I can tell, Bonuccellis, having emigrated around the globe, currently reside in these countries:
ITALY (a huge nucleus around Camaiore, throughout Tuscany, etc.)
AMERICA (probably near 300, in San Francisco, Spokane, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Chicago, Arizona, Washington DC, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, etc.)
CANADA (11 family members in Edmonton area)
ARGENTINA (perhaps 60 in Buenos Aires area)
BRAZIL (perhaps 20 in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro)
PERU (perhaps 20)
AUSTRALIA (in Sydney, a handful)
NEW ZEALAND (a handful)
ENGLAND (a handful)
FRANCE (at least 10)
BOLIVIA (a handful)
SWITZERLAND (a handful)
Any corrections or augmentations to this list would be greatly appreciated!

Research into the Bonuccelli Coat of Arms

Renzo Angeli, a Nibbi Bonuccelli man who currently lives in Camaiore, had commissioned some research in Italy into the existence and origins of a Bonuccelli crest. The crest the researchers were able to find the most information on came from a tomb in Florence from 1601. No doubt this was a Bonuccelli family which had moved over the centuries from Camaiore to Florence. Therefore, there was likely a previous crest from Camaiore, but so far it has not been uncovered. Likewise, the researchers' text says the family comes from Pescia, but this refers only to the Florentine branch of Bonuccelli whose tomb features this first crest. They may indeed have lived in Pescia but the original Bonuccelli came from Camaiore and before that Montecastrese. However, the second crest described in the researchers' text below was found much closer to Camaiore, in Lucca, and features a mountain scape similar to the Coat of Arms of Montecastrese, which makes me firmly believe it is the more authentic and original crest of the two. So far I have not found this crest in person and cannot verify its authenticity.


"This ancient family originates from Pescia and descends from small business people. It is one of the many families that prospered when that city fell for the first time, that is when it was captured and sold by the Genovese.

In 1582 a member of this family, by the name of Prospero, was very close to the Medici family. He armed at his own expense 500 men to go help the Medici who had been besieged by the Imperial forces.

In 1601 a member of this family by the name of Pietro died of a wound received on the battlefield and was buried in Florence. On his tomb this coat of arms can be seen.

In the following years the family branched out and in so doing they adopted different coats of arms. The first of these can be seen in the Archives of Milan, page 134 letter B. The second coat of arms can be seen in the ancient convent of S. Maria Bianca, in Lucca."

Many many thanks to Luca Santini of the Camaiore Cultural Office for being so incredibly accommodating, for the majority of the info and research on this page and for giving me so many books for free. Also huge thanks to Anna Romanini and Renzo Angeli (of the Nibbi line of Bonuccelli), citizens of Camaiore, for their amazing work on creating the bulk of the ancient family tree. Thanks to Leonardo Bonuccelli (of the Pieroni line) of Capezzano Pianore for his research into Montecastrese and its crest. Thanks to Ubaldo Bonuccelli (of the Gongone line) of Capezzano Pianore for his passion about a world reunion of Bonuccellis in Camaiore, possibly in the summer of 2004 or 2005. Thanks to Francesco Ceragioli of Camaiore for an incredibly informative personalized tour of Montecastrese. Thanks to David Bonuccelli of Sacramento, California, for kicking me in gear to finish this project. And last but not least thanks to my dad Robert "Signor Picoloco" Bonuccelli for taking me to Camaiore for the first time and getting me hooked on parmigiano and all things Italian!
INFO UPDATED: January 2005


History and Origins of the Bonuccelli
The Branches of the Bonuccelli
NEW: DNA Analysis of the Bonuccelli Genetic Line!!!
A Dinner in Viareggio to Organize a World Bonuccelli Reunion in 2005
Recent Italian Newspaper Article on Emigrant Bonuccelli in America

REGISTER: Bonuccelli nel Mondo USA

FAMILY TREE: Index of Last Names
FAMILY TREE: the first known Bonuccelli, born circa 1250

STORE: Order a bonuccelli.com Email Address for yourself!
STORE: Order 3x12-foot Chart of Bonuccelli Genealogy

LINKS to Handy Resources


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www.bonuccelli.com = Bonuccelli genealogy website
www.azfoto.com = Dominic's photography website
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fax USA 520-297-7658

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