As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
I know from general genealogy materials that the origin of surnames came from a variety of sources such as the using the name of the father (Johnson being the son of John and their descendants), occupation or craft (Taylor or Carpenter), the master of the land (ie ancient nobles names for servants om their households to American plantation owners names being given to African slaves from these plantations), or the hamlet the family was originally from (York or Bremerhaven). How much of a tradition in Italy (and for my immediate interest in Sicily) is it for families to have originated their surnames from the community in which they are from?
I was advised of an ancient city in Sicily (no longer on the maps) from which part of my last name could of been developed. But I have a great-grandmother with the surname of Tortorici who I wondered if her familly came from that community even if all the ancestors I can currently trace are from the community of Capri Leone, which really is not that far away in today's standards but was it to far in distant times to be any connection?
Yes, a number of family names are derived from the names of towns and cities, but not quite in the way you describe.
When moving into a community, people were often given the names of the places they came from. So using your example of Mr York, he would only have taken on that name when he moved into another town, where identifying him as the man from York served to differentiate him from other people. When he still lived in York, he would have been known by some other name.
wonderful news but it still has to be substantiated to the inquirer and not a tale told regarding your family that may or may not have substance for his inquiry. I did not mean to impugn your accouint but rather to document it independently. Peter