Arcevia doesn’t exist

An odd renaming

Arcevia has only been called Arcevia since 1817, when the town was still known by its original name “Rocca Contrada”, which can also be seen in the Vatican in the large Gallery of Maps.

“Rocca” is the Italian word for fortress or castle. The strategically located “Rocca” was originally a Frankish foundation of the 9th century. A document from the year 1147 still calls the place “Rocka de Contrado”. “Contrado” could be a form of “Konrad” (Corrado) or of “Conte Rado” (Count Rado), the old place name meaning “Castle of Konrad” or “Fortress of Count Rado”.

How did it become Arcevia? Ambitious local scholars of the 18th century with a Latin obsession are to blame. They translated the Italian common word “rocca” with the Latin “arx” for castle or fortress, which they apparently thought as to sound more sophisticated. In Tuscany and elsewhere in Italy, “Contrada” usually means neighbourhood or city district, but also street (“via”). From “arx/arcis = Arce” and “via” the new name “Arcevia” was created. To support the fictitious name, they added some forged documents, received the papal blessing for the rebaptism – and got away with it until today.