Research into the prominent family name Perelli reveals origins in the proud and culturally rich Italian region of Lombardy. The surname Perelli has been located in the city of Pavia, where records are found in 1040 with Manfredi and Arizzone Pietra, feudal Lords of the territories of Pietra, Bissone, and Costa.
Various forms of the name exist, which are the result of different pronunciations across dialects. The forms include Pietri, Petri, Petris, Pedri, Pieri, Pero, Pierri, Pierro, Perris, Peire, Peiro, Peyro, De Pietri, De Pietro, Di Pietro, Di Pietro, De Petris, De Pero, Petrovic, Perich, Peric, Perovich, Pietrini, Pietrucci, Pietroni, Petrelli, Petrello, Petrella, Petrilli, Petrillo, Petrini, Petrin, Petrina, Petracchi, Petrachi, Petracca, Petacca, Petraccone, Petrarca, Petrarchi, Pierazzoli, Pierazzoni, Pieralli, Pierallini, Pierattini, Pierattoni, Perelli, Perello, Perella, Perilli, Perillo, Perillio, Peretti, Peretto, Perini, Perino, Perin, Perinelli. While this list is quite extensive, many more variants are found, too numerous to mention here.
The region of Lombardy is named after a tribe from northwest Germany, the Lombards, who invaded northern Italy in 568. They conquered the central and parts of the southern regions of Italy. Areas of southern Italy at this time were occupied by the Eastern Byzantine Empire. Before the invasion of the Lombards, Italy became part of the Ostrogothic Empire. The Lombards soon adopted the language and lifestyle of the native Roman civilization.
Italy was invaded by the Franks in the middle of the 8th century. It came under Frankish rule first under Pepin and then under Charlemagne the Emperor, who became king of the Franks and of the Lombards.
In the 12th century, the Lombard League was formed in order to protect the area of Lombardy from other surrounding nations which threatened the safety of the people. This League was supported by the Pope and Venice, which was already an important merchant centre. However, the Lombard League did not last long in the face of the dynasties. At this time, there were three main dynasties: the Scaligers, the Este family, and the Visconti dynasty, which was the most powerful of the three. Lombardy was then divided among them all and turned into several regional states. Italy was then controlled by the Spaniards for two hundred years with the Treaty of Cateau/Cambresis in 1559, and controlled Italy for nearly two hundred years.
The surname Perelli has been traced in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Sicily, Pavia, Naples, Milan, Venice, and Siena. From this lineage, a very famous individual is Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch, considered to be one of the four great Italian poets. Born in Florence in the 14th century, one of his most famous poems is entitled "Il Canzoniere". Riccardo Petroni was a Cardinal in Siena in 1313; Cola Petruccioli was a painter in Perugia in 1401 whose works can be seen at the Cathedral of Assisi and in Orvieto; Nicol Pierozzi was elected Archbishop of Florence in 1445; Lodovico Petroni was Senator of Rome in 1451; Pandolfo Petrucci was Lord of Siena in 1452; Ottaviano Petrucci, born in Fossombrone in 1466, is considered to be the inventor of music printing from movable type. This new printing process required three impressions - one for staves, another for notes and a final copy for texts. He printed everything for the Papal States for a number of years. Alfonso Petrucci was a Cardinal in Siena in 1492. Fantino Petrignani was Governor of Romagna in 1594; Francesco Petrobelli was a church musician and was choirmaster at the Padua Cathedral in 1651. Two centuries later was Enrico Petrella (1813-77), famous operatic composer from Palermo who composed 25 operas in his life, his first accomplished at age 16. Some of his most famous operas were "Marco Visconti", in 1854, "Jone" in 1858 and "I promessi sposi" completed in 1869. All his operas were written in the old "buffo" style.
Lombardy finally came under Italian leadership in 1859 and fully unified in 1861. Before this time, emigration was strongly discouraged. Settlers of the Perelli lineage include a Pieretto who arrived in New Orleans in 1822 at the age of 23; Lina Petri settled in Texas in 1861; August Petronella emigrated to Philadelphia in 1868. Many emigrants came and settled in large numbers in New York and Toronto where they have formed large popular Italian communities. Italians have had a strong impact upon North America with their strong enterprising spirit and industrious nature. Of these, noteworthy members of the Perelli family include Stephen Petronio, a descendant of these early settlers. Born in 1956, he is an American dancer and choreographer in New Jersey and has established his own troupe, which continues to gain fame. Ironically, he was studying medicine at college when a chance visit to a dance class changed his future. He began choreographing while still a member of Trisha Brown's company (1979-86) and has continued with many successes.