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History of the Italian national anthem

In the fall of 1847, a young man of just twenty years by the name of Goffredo Mameli put pen to paper and penned a stirring set of lyrics. Little did he know that it would become the Italian national anthem. His inspiration? None other than the rousing strains of La Marseillaise, that fiery call-to-arms of the French.

But Mameli did not stop there. Rather than setting his words to music that already existed, he sent them off to fellow Genoese composer Michele Novaro, who set to work crafting a melody that would do justice to Mameli’s stirring words.

It was not long before their creation was ready to be unveiled to the world. In December of that same year, a crowd of thirty thousand people gathered in Genoa to mark the 101st anniversary of a popular rebellion in the city’s Portoria quarter during the War of the Austrian Succession. They came from all corners of Italy to protest against the foreign occupations that had so long plagued their land.

It was then, before this throng of impassioned patriots, that Mameli and Novaro’s creation was first played in public. It was called Il Canto degli Italiani, and its stirring melody and powerful lyrics captured the hearts and minds of those who heard it.

In later years, during the dark reign of Benito Mussolini, many songs were banned or discouraged for not fitting the fascist mold. But Il Canto degli Italiani was different. It was tolerated, and in time came to be seen as the official anthem of the land.

After World War II, the song enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, particularly among those who had fought against the fascist regime. And in 1946, it was even declared the nation’s provisional national anthem. But though it was meant to be officially adopted as such, there was no legislative decree to confirm it.

Still, the song endured beloved by Italians at home and abroad. And in 2017, after many long years, the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies finally approved a bill that made Il Canto degli Italiani the official hymn of the Italian Republic.

Il Canto degli Italiani

First Strophe

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.

Chorus

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!

Second Strophe

Noi fummo da secoli

calpesti, derisi,

perché non siam popolo,

perché siam divisi.

Raccolgaci un’unica

bandiera, una speme:

di fonderci insieme

già l’ora suonò.

Third Strophe

Uniamoci, amiamoci,

l’unione e l’amore

rivelano ai popoli

le vie del Signore.

Giuriamo far libero

il suolo natio:

uniti, per Dio,

chi vincer ci può?

Forth Strophe

Dall’Alpi a Sicilia

dovunque è Legnano,

ogn’uom di Ferruccio

ha il core, ha la mano,

i bimbi d’Italia

si chiaman Balilla,

il suon d’ogni squilla

i Vespri suonò.

Fifth Strophe

Son giunchi che piegano

le spade vendute:

già l’Aquila d’Austria

le penne ha perdute.

Il sangue d’Italia,

il sangue Polacco,

bevé, col cosacco,

ma il cor le bruciò.

Italian national anthem in English

First Strophe

Brothers of Italy,

Italy has woken,

Bound Scipio’s helmet

Upon her head.

Where is Victory?

Let her bow down,

For God created her

Chorus

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!

Second Strophe

We were for centuries

downtrodden, derided,

because we are not one people,

because we are divided.

Let one flag, one hope

gather us all.

The hour has struck

for us to unite.

Third Strophe

Let us unite, let us love one another,

For union and love

Reveal to the people

The ways of the Lord.

Let us swear to set free

The land of our birth:

United, for God,

Who can overcome us?

Fourth Strophe

From the Alps to Sicily,

Legnano is everywhere;

Every man has the heart

and hand of Ferruccio

The children of Italy

Are all called Balilla;

Every trumpet blast

sounds the Vespers.

Fifth Strophe

Mercenary swords,

they’re feeble reeds.

The Austrian eagle

Has already lost its plumes.

The blood of Italy

and the Polish blood

It drank, along with the Cossack,

But it burned its heart.

Would you like to understand the Italian national anthem in Italian and much more? Click here to check out this Italian podcast-style course!

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