Italy’s National Anthem – Il Canto degli Italiani – A Tale of Patriotism and Unity


By Cynthia-G-Toups

“Il Canto degli Italiani” (Italian pronunciation: [il ˈkanto deʎʎ itaˈljaːni];[1] “The Song of the Italians”) holds a significant place in Italian history and culture. Authored by Goffredo Mameli and set to music by Michele Novaro in 1847, this canto stands as Italy’s current national anthem.

Known as “Inno di Mameli” or “Fratelli d’Italia,” it played a crucial role during Italy’s unification, encapsulating the spirit of patriotism. In a 4/4 time signature and B-flat major key, the anthem features six strophes and a refrain. While its early history is tied to Italy’s monarchy and republicanism, it became the official national anthem in 2017.

Italian lyricsEnglish 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,
ché schiava di Roma
Iddio la creò. 𝄇

𝄆 Stringiamci a coorte,
siam pronti alla morte.
Siam pronti alla morte,
l’Italia chiamò. 𝄇

𝄆 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. 𝄇


𝄆 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? 𝄇


𝄆 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. 𝄇


𝄆 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. 𝄇


𝄆 Evviva l’Italia,
dal sonno 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. 𝄇

𝄆 Brothers of Italy,
Italy has woken,[N 7]
bound Scipio’s helmet
Upon her head.
Where is Victory?
Let her bow down,
Because as a slave of Rome
God created her. 𝄇

𝄆 Let us join in a cohort,
we are ready for death.
We are ready for death,
Italy has called! 𝄇

𝄆 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. 𝄇


𝄆 Let us unite, let us love one another,
Union and love
Reveal to the peoples
The ways of the Lord.
Let us swear to set free
The land of our birth:
United, by God,
Who can overcome us? 𝄇[N 19]


𝄆 From the Alps to Sicily,
Legnano is everywhere;
Every man hath the heart
and hand of Ferruccio
The children of Italy
Are all called Balilla;
Every trumpet blast
soundeth the Vespers. 𝄇


𝄆 The mercenary swords
Are feeble reeds.
Already the Eagle of Austria
Hath lost its plumes.
The blood of Italy,
the Polish blood
It drank, along with the Cossack,
But it burned its heart. 𝄇


𝄆 Long live Italy,
She has awoken from slumber,
bound Scipio’s helmet
Upon her head.
Where is Victory?
Let her bow down,
Because as a slave of Rome
God created her. 𝄇


History: Origins

The anthem’s lyrics were penned by Goffredo Mameli, a passionate Genoese patriot, during the era preceding the revolutions of 1848. The exact date of the anthem’s creation is debated, with some sources indicating September 10, 1847, and others suggesting September 8. Mameli sent the lyrics to Genoese composer Michele Novaro, who quickly composed the music. This collaboration birthed an anthem that captured the essence of Italy’s nationalistic fervor.

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Goffredo Mameli: Patriot and Lyricist

Goffredo Mameli was a young Genoese student deeply entrenched in the patriotic sentiment of his time. With a historical context hinting at upcoming revolutions, Mameli’s republican ideals and admiration for the French Revolution played a pivotal role in shaping the anthem’s lyrics. Inspired by the French national anthem “La Marseillaise,” Mameli infused his own words with a similar spirit of defiance and unity. His initial version included a stanza dedicated to Italian women, symbolizing their role in the nation’s struggle.

Michele Novaro: Composer of the Anthem’s Melody

Michele Novaro, the composer behind the anthem’s melody, was profoundly moved by Mameli’s lyrics. After an initial struggle to find a suitable tune, Novaro finally created a melody that resonated with the anthem’s patriotic fervor. Interestingly, Novaro added a spirited “Yes!” to the anthem’s refrain after the last strophe, further emphasizing the anthem’s rebellious undertone.

Relevance to Italian Unification

“Il Canto degli Italiani” emerged as a symbol of hope and unity during Italy’s unification movement. Its passionate call for brothers to come together and form a united front against adversity resonated deeply with the Italian people. The anthem’s impact was so profound that even after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, it maintained its relevance, despite the official adoption of the “Marcia Reale” as the national anthem.

Transition to Republic and Anthem’s Role

Following World War II, Italy became a republic, leading to the anthem’s official adoption on October 12, 1946, as a provisional national anthem. It continued to hold this position as the de facto anthem of the Italian Republic. The anthem’s deep-seated connection to Italy’s history, its themes of unity and freedom, made it a natural choice for the nation’s anthem during this transition.

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Longing for Official Status

Despite its significance, “Il Canto degli Italiani” struggled to gain official status as the national anthem. Over the years, various attempts were made to formalize its role, but these efforts were met with challenges. It wasn’t until December 4, 2017, that the anthem finally attained the official status it deserved, solidifying its place as a treasured emblem of Italy’s identity.


Q: What does “Il Canto degli Italiani” mean in English?
A: Translated as “The Song of the Italians,” it’s the Italian national anthem, expressing unity and patriotism.

Q: Who wrote the Italian national anthem?
A: The lyrics were penned by Goffredo Mameli, with music composed by Michele Novaro.

Q: How did “Il Canto degli Italiani” influence Italian unification?
A: The anthem became a rallying cry, uniting Italians in their pursuit of a unified nation.

Q: Why was the anthem chosen after WWII?
A: With Italy becoming a republic, the anthem’s themes of unity and freedom aligned perfectly with the nation’s new identity.

Q: How did “Il Canto degli Italiani” gain official status?
A: Despite challenges, the anthem’s profound historical significance eventually led to its official adoption in 2017.


“Il Canto degli Italiani” stands as an enduring testament to Italy’s indomitable spirit and struggle for unity. Penned by Goffredo Mameli and set to stirring music by Michele Novaro, this anthem captures the essence of patriotism and camaraderie that fueled Italy’s journey towards unification.

From its inception during a time of revolutionary fervor to its eventual recognition as the official national anthem, the song remains a source of pride and inspiration for Italians, reminding them of their shared history and identity.

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