The foundation of the city

The history of the origins of Recanati is still quite unclear, even to experts. The earliest 'fact' is that the name Recanati is attested to in a document dating from 1139, when Pope Innocent II (died September 24, 1143) confirmed some property rights to the monastery of “Fonte Avellana” and mentioning a church called Santa Maria di Recanati. The document, taken from “Camaldolesi Annals”, year 1139, said:

"[...] We grant to the Monastery the Church of Santa Maria di Recanati, with other churches and all their appurtenances."

This ancient document has been handed down to us from ancient sources including Count Monaldo Leopardi (1776-1847), Giacomo's (1798-1837) father, who had written a “History of Recanati” [1].

Medieval origins

Historically, 'modern' Recanati was born from the union, in the 12th century, of three castles, “Monte Morello”,  “Monte San Vito”, and “Monte Volpino”, which together constitute the oldest part of Recanati and which, from eaerliest times and until the Unification of Italy in the 19th century belonged, with ups and downs, to the rule of Church State.

However, during the conflict between the Papacy and the Empire, Recanati sided with the Swabians and Frederick II (1194-1250). During the so-called “Avignon Period”, when the Holy Seed was at Avignon, the city rebelled against papal authority, and, for this reason, it was deprived of the bishopric privilege, but ithis was later returned to Recanati by the Cardinal Albornoz.

From the 15th century a very important and economic privilege for Recanati was formed by the power to establish an annual Fair, a privilege that was confirmed by the pope in 1422.

The Recanati Fair, over time, became the largest trade event of the Papal States, with an exceptional volume of business for a few months each year involving Italian and foreign merchants. The market was also bolstered by the presence of “Porto Recanati” (the structure was given by Frederick II of Swabia), which allowed a wider market of local artefacts, especially potteries, footwear and wool.

Recanati in recent centuries

But Recanati suffered a decline from the 16th century due to competition from Ancona Port. This involved a restructuring of the city economy, which was transformed from a commercial base to an agricultural economy, with a preponderance of subsequent land investments, and also with considerable consequences for the town layout and urban structure, because of the disappearance of the merchants.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries the most significant changes of the ancient urban structure of Recanati took place with the construction of new buildings, but also with the demolition of old buildings like the Town Hall - although the famous “Ghibellina” Tower in “Piazza Leopardi” was happily preserved.

In the 20th century, changes occured outside the walls, and Recanati Old Town was preserved, being today a tourist destination for more and more people, who discover a modern industrial city, rich in services, but also deeply tied to its cultural roots, and in particularl to Giacomo Leopardi, whose work is a source of cultural meetings and conferences of the highest level, involving Italian and foreign scholars.

Origins of the name Recanati

With regard to the etymology of the place name, we can say that the problem of its meaning, much like the history of the origin of the village, remains somewhat uncertain. According to the traditional hypothesis, which is today widely accepted and repeated, it seems that "Recanati" comes from the Latin word "Ricinetum" (or "Recinetum). This is widely attested to by all the ancient historians, such as Flavius Blondus (1392-1463), for example, who wrote:

"[...] The city of Recanati, which was originally called 'Ricinetum' [...]".

Basically, very recent studies show that "Ricinetum" was founded by refugees from the nearby town of "Helvia Ricina," who were attacked by the Goths in 407 AD and sought refuge on top of the hill where Recanati is now located,, calling it "Ricinetum,". This word is a diminutive of 'Ricina', for which it was called “‘Little’ Ricina”. In this regard, M. Fagiolo writes that:

"[...] it also seems to be exact, according to recent studies, the assumptions made about the continuity of the new name that emerged in the medieval village on top of a nearby hill, 'Ricineto' then 'Recanato’, the current ‘Recanati’ [...]" [2].

According to this interpretation, therefore, "Ricinetum-Recanati" means, more or less, "the little Ricina," or “little town built from the ruins of ‘Ricina’”. This explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain what the term "Ricina" means. There have been many assumptions about this question, sometimes very imaginative. The traditional case was illustrated by Count Monaldo Leopardi who wrote that:

"[...] some want it to take its name from a temple dedicated to 'Venus Ericina' ... from the famous temple erected to her in Sicily by Aeneas on Mount Erice, and others wrote that it had its name in "Cino King", who ruled in Italy four centuries after the flood [...]".

Count Monaldo Leopardi recognized that these were just legends, and, after having said that "not having the eyes sharp enough to penetrate at times so far", he basically gave up making any assumptions.

We must however say that in recent years, some linguistic studies have pointed out that the Latin name "Ricina" has close links with the name "Recco" (Province of Genoa), which would be a pre-Latin word, Celtic to be more precise, that would be rooted precisely in the Celtic word "Rico", meaning "furrow". "Rico" ("furrow") is therefore the root of different place-names: "Ricina", "Reca", “Recho” and “Recco”.

In this case, therefore, "Ricina-Recanati" would probably have a relationship with the "furrow" trackes made by a plough. Probably it could mean "the land cleared", "ploughed", "land suitable for agriculture"; and, moreover, knowing that the settlements were developed in places that were fertile for agriculture, perhaps the “Celtic” etymology  has a great deal of credibility. We do know that Senones had settled along the Adriatic coast, and in particular in the “Marche” region [3].

See also the Recanati guide for travellers.


1. See Monaldo Leopardi, “Serie dei Vescovi di Recanati, con alcune notizie della città e della Chiesa di Recanati”, ["Series of Bishops of Recanati, with some city news and the Church of Recanati], Recanati, G. Murici, 1828, p. 46, footnote 1

2. See “Atti del Convegno su Sisto V, Corso Internazionale di Alta Cultura” ["Proceedings of the Conference about Sixtus V, International Course of High Culture"], Rome, 19-29 October 1989, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1992, Vol. 2 p. 356

3. About the question of relationship “Ricina”-“Recco”, See “Toponimi Celtici d'Italia; i Paleonimi localizzati ( M-Z)”  ["Celtic Place-names of Italy, the localized Pal-names (MZ)”] in “Wikipedia”