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The Italian national anthem : Italian culture and traditions in words and music.

The history, words and music of the Italian national anthem -  and some fun facts.

Ever been at an Italian soccer match and wished you could join in with their national anthem? Ever listened to it and wondered what on earth it's all about?

Italians love their national anthem. They sing it with huge enthusiasm and defend it against any who may criticise it. 

Here's your chance to learn the words, tune and history of this all-time favourite - the  national anthem of Italy.

The Italian national anthem  :  what's it called?

The national anthem of Italy has three different names  :  its formal name is 'Inno di Mameli' - Mameli's hymn, named after the man who wrote the words; 'Il Canto degli Italiani' - 'the song of the Italian people'; and its most well-known name - the name Italian people almost invariably give it -  'Fratelli d'Italia' - 'Brothers of Italy' - which is its first line.

The Italian national anthem : background.

Like all great national anthems, Italy's was written in the shadow of war and is a patriotic call to arms with music to match.

Italian national anthem composer
Goffredo Mameli.

Its composer was a twenty year-old poet and composer, Goffredo Mameli, who tragically died only two years after it was written. He wasn't well known and this was really his only masterpiece.

Written in 1847, during the first battles for Italian unification ('Il Risorgimento') it was provisionally adopted as the Italian national anthem only in 1946.

Even more surprisingly, it was made the official anthem by law as recently as November 2005.

The Italian national anthem : words.

The complete anthem has a total of five verses and a chorus which is sung between each. However in Italian culture, traditions dictate that at every official occasion only the first verse and the chorus are sung - although they are repeated and followed by an - always very loud - "Sì!"

English translation

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,

Chè schiava di Roma iddio la creò;

Stringia moci a coorte, siam' pronti alla morte

Stringia moci a coorte, siam' pronti alla morte

L'Italia chiamò!

Stringia moci a coorte, siam' pronti alla morte

Stringia moci a coorte, siam' pronti alla morte

L'Italia chiamò!

Sì !

Brothers of Italy, Italy has awoken

Scipio's helmet is binding her head;

Where is Victory? Let her bow down,

For God has made her Rome's slave.

Let us join together - we're ready to die

Let us join together - we're ready to die

Italy has called!

Let us join together - we're ready to die

Let us join together - we're ready to die

Italy has called!

The national anthem of Italy : music.

Have a look at this video, which provides you with the words of the anthem on screen as it is sung. If you really want to learn it, this is the best way.

The Italian national anthem words - do they make any sense?

Some politicians in Italy have tried to get rid of its national anthem on the grounds that, as Umberto Bossi - a prominent Italian politician - says, "no-one understands the lyrics anyway".

It's not the happiest of anthems. All through it, things sound pretty bleak, most of the lyrics relate to some fairly obscure episodes of Italian history which don't have much meaning in the modern world, and the music is regarded as poor.

And who on earth is 'Scipio'??

But despite all that, 'Fratelli' has become one of the most popular of Italian culture traditions and it's hard to see anyone allowing it to be replaced.

And Scipio? - he was one of the great generals of the ancient Roman Republic.

The Italian national anthem : the Prime Minister's view.

Ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seems to have some problem with the lyrics too. Have a look at this clip - and watch his hand at the phrase "Siam' pronti alla morte" ("We're ready to die").

It seems he's not really so sure ...

(The first part of this clip is not the greatest quality - but it's still worth watching!)

Fun facts about Italy and the national anthem.

The Italians do take some things very seriously, and their national anthem is one of them.

Not very long ago, the Bolzano Museum of Modern Art in northern Italy displayed a toilet which, when it was flushed, played the Italian national anthem.

The toilet was found to be an unpatriotic insult to the country of Italy - and impounded by the police, pending a trial in Italy's High Court to decide its future.

Defence lawyers argued that although the anthem does have sentimental and patriotic value, it is not a national symbol. Prosecutors argued that it is a national emblem which should not be belittled - and that flushing a toilet to the sound of 'Fratelli d'Italia' is laying it open to ridicule.

The Court's decision is still awaited.

Only in Italy ...

Want some more Italian patriotism? This page will tell you all you need to know about the Italian flag.

Want some more music of Italy? Here we have a great selection of Italian Christmas music for your enjoyment.

Have a look at some more fun and interesting facts about Italy.

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