This Spanish and Italian surname of VALLETTA was a locational name for someone who lived in a valley. The name was originally derived from the Old French word VAL, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form VALLIS. Other spellings of the name include VALLA, VAL, VAUX, LAVALLE, VALLI, VALLES, VALLARINO, VALLONI and VALEANO, to name but a few. In the 8th century, Spain fell under the control of the Moors, and this influence, which lasted into the 12th century, has also left its mark on Hispanic surnames. A few names are based directly on Arabic personal names. The majority of Spanish occupational and nickname surnames, however, are based on ordinary Spanish derivatives. Lorenzo VALLA (407-57) was the humanist and critic, born in Rome. He taught classics at Pavia, Milan and Naples universities. He was expelled from Rome for attacking the temporal power of the Church in the 'On the Donation of Constantine', and was prosecuted by the Inquisition in Naples, but in 1448 was again in Rome as apostolic secretary to Pope Nicholas V. Despite evidence that hereditary surnames were in use in the Venetian Republic as early as the 10th Century, the origin of many Italian surnames is unclear. There is still a great potential for research into medieval Italian records while documented evidence indicates the adoption of the father's name as a surname is the most common form. The familiar endings of "i" and "o", meaning to be a member of a certain family, bears this out. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular.
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