Giovanna (jee-oh-VAH-nah, joh-VAH-nah) is an Italian baby name meaning "God is gracious," and a feminine form of John. Giovanni is the masculine counterpart in Italian. In 2012 Giovanna ranked at #878 in the U.S. with 300 girls given the name that year. Those numbers are down from 407 births in 2005 and a ranking of #681. If you compare Giovanna to her sister name Gianna she is less popular, with Gianna ranking at #73 in 2012 and the alternate spelling Giana at #606. In the early 1900's Giovanna was given to 5 girls if at all, slowly increasing to 20 a decade later.
Giovanna of Italy was born in 1907 and the last Tsaritsa of Bulgaria (equivalent to a queen). She was born to King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena, former Princess of Montenegro, and Giovanna's brother Umberto became the future King of Italy. Benito Mussolini attended Giovanna's wedding to the Tsar of Bulgaria, and she knew the future Pope John XXIII. After her marriage she became involved in charities, and she and her husband helped Jews around the time of World War II. Giovanna lived in Portugal during the last years of her life, eventually being burried in Assisi.
Blessed Giovanna Maria Bonomo (1622) was a Benedictine nun in Bassano, Italy, who was harassed by members of her own community for being so dedicated and having mystical experiences. Blessed Anna Giovanna Francesca Michelotti (1843) was from a very poor family who focused on helping others. Because of this she was able to study with the Institute of Sisters of St. Carlo and then Small Serve in Lyon. There are at least four more Blessed Giovanna's, including Signa, Soderini, Orvieto, Scopelli, and possibly Irrizaldi.
Several other famous people have had the name Giovanna. Giovanna Garzoni was an Italian painter from the Baroque era with many famous patrons. Giovanna Amati is a former professional race car driver from Italy during the 80's and 90's. Giovanna Melandri is a current Italian politician. Four time Olympic champion Giovanna Trillini is an Italian foil fencer. Giovanna Bassi was a ballerina born in 1762. Giovanna Fratelli was an artist from Florence during the Baroque period. Most recently, "Snooki" of TV reality show fame named her daughter Giovanna in 2014.
She has been featured many times in art and drama, including Giovanna d'Arco, Guiseppe Verdi's opera about Joan of Arc.
Supposedly in ancient times this name was given to babies born to late-in-life parents.