‘Il Canto degli Italiani’: What the Italian national anthem means – and how to sing it

‘Il Canto degli Italiani’: What the Italian national anthem means - and how to sing it
Italy fans sing the national anthem before the EURO 2020 match between Italy and Austria on June 26th. Photo: Ben STANSALL/POOL/AFP
The Italian football team and its fans are known for belting out rousing renditions of the country’s national anthem before matches. But what exactly are they singing? Here’s how you can join in.

Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians), is better known as Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) after its opening line, or Inno di Mameli (Mameli’s Hymn) after its lyricist.

Whatever they call it, Italians have been singing this anthem for almost 75 years after the post-war government picked it in October 1946 for the new Republic.

However, since they didn’t actually write it into law at the time, the song was only made Italy’s official national anthem four years ago.

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Usually only the first stanza is sung – twice – followed by the chorus.

All five stanzas of Mameli’s Hymn have been taught in schools since 2012, meaning most younger Italians at least will know the words.

Once you understand the lyrics you’ll see that it’s not the most lighthearted or family-friendly of songs, being almost entirely about war and death.

But at least it’s not as controversial as France’s La Marseillaise – and it has words, unlike Spain’s La Marcha Real.

So if you didn’t learn the Italian anthem at school, here’s a demonstration from the national team. The lyrics (for the short version) are translated below.

Fratelli d’Italia,

l’Italia s’è desta,

dell’elmo di Scipio s’è cinta la testa.

Dov’è la Vittoria? Le porga la chioma,

ché schiava di Roma, Iddio la creò.

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò.

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò! Sì!

In English:

Brothers of Italy,

Italy has awoken,

Bound Scipio’s helmet upon her head.

Where is Victory? Let her bow down,

For God has made her a slave of Rome.

Let us join in a cohort,

we are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called.

Let us join in a cohort,

We are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called! Yes!

The longer version is translated in this video: