The Ruffo di Calabria are one of the most ancient and noble families of the Italian nobility, already counted among the seven great families of the Kingdom of Naples. Paola, the sixth queen of the Belgians and daughter of Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, is a descendant.
The antiquity of the origins of the Magna Domus of the Ruffo di Calabria was for a long time the subject of the writings of hagiographers and genealogists. Simone da Lentini, bishop of Syracuse, in the second half of the thirteenth century, wrote: «Rufa nobilissima et vetustissima familia, tempore romanae reipublicae magnopere vixit et usque ad meum tempus potentissime vivit». Giovanni Fiore, treating them in the seventeenth, more fully noted: "to the Ruffo di Calabria they attribute remote origins, as if their name derives from the Latin Rufus. The reporters told that the Ruffo and the Giuliani family, then extinct, would have been lords of vast territories, so much so that about the year one thousand "the imperator of Constantinople, with their connection, recovered Puglia and Calabria". Others estimate them of Norman origin: Filippo and Errigo Ruffo, at the service of the Guiscardo, occupied Terra d'Otranto and Basilicata ".
For sure the historical sources unanimously attest to the fact that the Ruffos were already thriving in Calabria before the year one thousand. As for the alleged Roman origin and the imaginative genealogical reconstructions proposed, these can only be read as a sort of foundational myth, a politically legitimate legend to whose construction the family did not have to be, boasting about it during the following centuries, of the all foreign. Less implausible, as will be seen, the hypothesis of Byzantine origin appears, for which however the same considerations expressed for the Roman are valid; that of the Norman origin, though always on a conjectural basis, appears to be the most reliable.
The great fortune of the family certainly began with the Count of Catanzaro Pietro I (m.1257), who was a courtier of Emperor Frederick II and named him as executioner, great marshal of the kingdom of Sicily and besieged by his son Corrado. Baseless, if not false, and only to diminish the figure, appear the news contained in the Historia de rebus gestis Frederici II imperatoris of the so-called Pseudo-Jamsilla, according to which Peter I was of poor and humble origins. Appointed vicar in Sicily and Calabria by Corrado IV, was reconfirmed in these positions by Corradino, but openly deployed against Manfredi was deprived of all his property and forced into exile, dying murdered by the partisans dell'Hohenstaufen in Terracina.
The same political parable followed Giordano, nephew of Peter I; he too was an officer of the Kingdom of Sicily under Frederick II, first a castellan and then an imperial maniscalco, later abandoning the Swabians to stand on the side of Pope Alexander IV, but he fell prisoner of the Ghibellines and was first blinded and then executed.
Peter II (1230-1310), after having found refuge in France with part of the family, sided with Charles I of Anjou obtaining the investiture of the county of Catanzaro as compensation for having removed Amantea to the followers of Corradino di Svevia (1268) , later distinguished himself in the defense of Catanzaro (1280-1281) during the war of the Vespers.
The adhesion to the Angevin party procured for the various branches of the Ruffo family a great economic power and considerable political weight. The interminable wars of succession that followed, first between Angevins and Durazzeschi and then between Durazzeschi and Aragonese, still saw the Ruffo protagonists, but divided between the various contenders depending on the convenience of the moment.
Exemplary in this sense is the figure of the last count of Catanzaro, Nicholas who, as a partisan of the Anjou-Durazzo, sided with Charles III of Naples against Louis I of Anjou. Appointed in 1384 viceroy of Calabrie by Queen Margherita and vicar of ecclesiastical assets in Calabria by Pope Urban VI, he obtained in 1390 from Ladislao I of Naples also the crown of Marquis of Crotone along with many other benefits. In 1399, forgiven him a brief defection alongside Louis II of Anjou, Ladislao will confirm Niccolò also as viceroy of Calabria, nevertheless these will again take the parts of the Anjou-Valois rebelling, but at the end of 1404, after having barricaded themselves in the city of Crotone, he will be forced into exile in France and ousted of all his goods. Niccolò will return to Calabria only in 1420 along with Luigi III d'Angiò regaining titles and properties and being reconfirmed Marquis of Crotone. During the war between the Angevins and the Aragonese, Nicholas consolidated and expanded his power now to the detriment of the opposing party, now to the detriment of the church, now to the detriment of the Anjou themselves. He died in 1435 without leaving male heirs, he remembers two daughters: Giovannella, who married Antonio Colonna prince of Salerno and nephew of Pope Martin V, and Enrichetta, adventurously married to Antonio Centelles count of Calisano.
The Ruffo di Calabria were perpetuated, however, in the branch of the Lords of Sinopoli of which Fulco was the forefather, also a prominent member of the Swabian court and rhyme of the Sicilian school. His nephew William was preferred by Robert of Anjou to his elder brother and was awarded first of the title count on Sinopoli in 1333-1334.
Partisans of the house of Angiò, the Ruffos later participated in the conspiracy of the barons, although without holding a significant part of them, being displaced by the Aragonese of a large part of their possessions that only came with the reduction of the Kingdom of Naples to Spanish viceroyalty. In this period Paul, the seventh count of Sinopoli, acquired the lordship of Scilla, but it was his successor Fabrizio who first obtained his investiture as prince in 1578.
The successors were also awarded the titles of marquises of Licodia, princes of Palazzolo, dukes of Guardia Lombarda, counts of Nicotera, marquises of Panaghia, as well as feuds and minor seigniories. During the seventeenth century, however, there was an arrest of the impetuous development of the family that had characterized the previous centuries, the interest of Ruffo in this period seems in fact focused mainly on the management of the Calabrian and Sicilian landholdings, rather than attaining a effective political power at the court.
In the eighteenth century with the introduction of the land registry and the first attempts at subversion of feudality by Carlo di Borbone, the Ruffo heritage will suffer a strong downsizing. At the end of the century, however, the figure of Fulco Giordano Antonio  (1773-1852), State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, who as ambassador to the court of Spain treated the marriage of Maria Cristina of Bourbon, daughter of Francis I, with King Ferdinand VII, who gave him the Order of the Golden Fleece and named him duke of Santa Cristina, elevating him to the hereditary rank of Grande di Spagna of first class; in 1832 he also had the task of escorting Princess Maria Cristina of Savoy to Naples, who was married to Ferdinando II of the Two Sicilies, thus being decorated with the collar of the Santissima Annunziata.
Fulco Salvatore (1837-1875), had no male descendants, daughter Eleonora Margherita (1861-1959), already owner, not to extinguish the nobility of the Ruffo di Calabria, refused before marriage (1878) in favor of two uncles paterni of a part of the titles maintaining for himself that of the principles of Scylla: Fulco Francesco di Paola, who passed the first line, went the noble predicates of Prince of Palazzolo and Marquis of Licodia; in Fulco Beniamino those of duke of Guardia Lombarda and count of Sinopoli.
Subsequently Umberto will marry the cousin Isabella of the Marquises Torrigiani and the Principles of Scilla acquiring, maritali nomine, the titles and reacquiring to the primogenital line that of the principles of Scilla; the two had only one male son, Francesco di Paola (1907-1975), who had no male descent, at his death then the first-born line passed to Fabrizio Beniamino (1922-2005), at the head of which the family titles that from him they were transmitted to his son Fulco.