Italy finally has an official national anthem

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Italy finally has an official national anthem
It's official: Italians have a national anthem. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

It’s official: Italy has a national anthem, just in time for the World Cup... oh.


No one will be singing it on the stands in Russia, more’s the pity, but Italian footballers, fans and schoolchildren can rest assured that the next time they’re required to join in with the “Song of the Italians”, it’ll be official.

It turns out the anthem Italians have been singing for the past 71 years – also known as “Mameli’s Hymn” after its lyricist, or “Brothers of Italy” after its opening line – was only provisional.

In October 1946, Italy’s post-war government picked it as the de facto anthem of the new Italian Republic, but they never wrote it into law.

It was only on Wednesday, seven decades later, that the Italian senate’s committee for all things constitutional approved a provision stating once and for all that Il Canto degli Italiani is the national song of choice.

Mameli’s Hymn has been taught in schools since 2012, which means that young Italians at least ought to know the words to all five stanzas of the original poem. (Usually, though, only the first stanza is sung – twice – followed by the chorus.)

Italy’s Sky TG24 went out on the streets of Rome on Thursday morning to test how well Italians really know their new, old anthem and the results were... mixed.

The hymn dates back to 1847, when Goffredo Mameli of Genoa wrote a patriotic ode invoking Ancient Roman victories and an independent, unified Italy. A fellow Genoese, Michele Novaro, set his words to a rousing tune and Il Canto degli Italiani was born.

The song was popular during the period of Italian unification, but lost out to the royalist Marche Reale when the newly formed Kingdom of Italy picked an anthem in 1861.

Both fascists and partisans continued to sing Mameli’s Hymn during World War Two, and when the post-war Republic was born, the song was the obvious choice for its anthem.

Italians have been singing it before football matches and at military parades ever since, though some have suggested replacing it with the more solemn – though arguably, more tuneful – Va, Pensiero from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco.

Notably, the regionalist Northern League objects to the parts about Rome ruling over a united Italy. The party’s members have been known to sit down or leave the room during official renditions of Mameli’s Hymn, and for a while sang Verdi’s aria at their party meetings.

Everyone else, though, will be singing Mameli’s anthem for many years to come. If you want to join in, here are the words.


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