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Italy puts 200,000 classic Italian songs online for free

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Italy puts 200,000 classic Italian songs online for free
Italian singer Andrea Bocelli. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
18:43 CET+01:00
Have you been hunting for the definitive version of 'O Sole Mio? The original Volare? Folk songs of deepest Puglia? Or how about pop diva Mina covering The Beatles' Hey Jude?

You're in luck: Italy's Ministry of Culture has just put a century of Italian popular music online, for free.

Go to canzoneitaliana.it and you'll find some 200,000 tracks available to stream to your heart's content, courtesy of Italy's Central Institute for Sound and Audiovisual Heritage, ICBSA.

Created in partnership with the Spotify streaming service, the site launched on Monday to coincide with Italy's biggest music festival, Sanremo, which opens on the Ligurian seaside on Tuesday. 

The catalogue covers Italian music from 1900 to 2000 and is divided chronologically, geographically and thematically. You can search for traditional songs from each of Italy's regions, explore political songs from the first half of the 20th century, track down Italian hits used on movie soundtracks, or work your way through 49 years of Sanremo archives. 

Not sure what you're looking for? Browse the specially curated playlists for an overview of everything from Enrico Caruso's greatest hits to the women of Italian rock to cult TV theme songs.  

Each section is accompanied by historical and musical context, available in eight different languages.

If despite all that you can't find what you're looking for, have hope: another 5,000 songs will be added each month, according to Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, who says the idea is to make the site "a sort of central state archive that will last throughout time". 

While popular music has sometimes taken a back seat to Italy's more highbrow cultural exports, he told reporters on Monday, this project finally recognizes the artistic and social significance of the tunes that form the soundtrack to Italians' lives. 

 
 Mina performing at Sanremo in 1960. Photo: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Five playlists The Local recommends:

  • 'O Sole Mio: No, not Naples' most famous song on repeat, but 12 classics of Neapolitan song.
     
  • Dialects in the City: Early recordings of ballads sung in regional dialects from across Italy – a rare chance to hear lyrics in original Venetian, Sicilian, Florentine and more.
     
  • Sanremo '58: Go back in time to this legendary edition of the Sanremo festival, the one that gave the world Nel blu dipinto di blu (better known as 'Volare'). 
     
  • Mina 1960-1970: Italy's greatest modern diva at the peak of her extraordinary powers. Go on, treat yourself.
     
  • Italian Songs in the World: Did you know that Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me was originally Italian? Or that Elvis Presley's It's Now of Never is based on 'O Sole Mio? You'll find these and other songs that might surprise you on this playlist of internationally covered Italian hits.
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