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What are the Italian National Anthem Lyrics and What do They Mean?

This is the untold story behind Italy's accidental national anthem plus the lyrics and translation so you can sing along

by Michele
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Italian National Anthem Lyrics and English Translation
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Whether you’re watching Italy win the World Cup, you’re celebrating Italy’s national holiday (La Festa della Repubblica), or learning Italian and just curious, learning the lyrics of the Italian national anthem is a must. Not only is Italy’s national anthem one of the most recognisable and moving hymns in the world, but it also has an interesting origin story too! So, what are the lyrics of the Italian national anthem and what exactly do they mean? Vediamo! (that’s Italian for ‘Let’s take a look!’)

The untold story behind the origins of the Italian national anthem

What’s interesting is that even though the Italian national anthem was written in 1847, it wasn’t until December 2017 that it was officially recognised as Italy’s national anthem! The anthem’s lyrics were written by Goffredo Mameli in 1847 who was just 20 years old at the time. Mameli was then a young student and a fervent patriot. Two months later, Domenico Goffredo Mameli sent his hymn to Turin where composer Michele Novaro set it to music.

Italian National Anthem Lyrics-Portrait of Domenico Goffredo Mameli

Portrait of Domenico Goffredo Mameli (Credit: Domenico Induno, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Italy’s national anthem goes by three different names:

  1. Il Canto degli Italiani (Meaning: The Song of Italians) – This is the official name
  2. Inno di Mameli (Meaning: Mameli’s Hymn) – Named after the anthem’s lyricist Goffredo Mameli 
  3. Fratelli d’Italia (Meaning: Brothers of Italy) – A name taken from the first line of lyrics in the Italian national anthem and perhaps the most used name.

Il Canto degli Italiani became popular during the turbulent time of Italy’s Risorgimento (Italian: “Rising Again”) – a 19th-century movement for Italian unification that led to the establishment of the unification and Kingdom of Italy in 1861. 

After Italy was unified, Il Canto degli Italiani was considered too republican, and Jacobin and was disliked by the socialist and anarchist circles. Deemed inappropriate, the national anthem was replaced by ‘Marcia Reale’ (Royal March) which was composed in 1831 for the Royal House of Savoia.

It wasn’t until October 12th 1946 that Il Canto degli Italiani made a comeback and was chosen as a provisional anthem. It remained the de facto anthem until 2017 when it was it was officially made Italy’s national anthem.

Italian National Anthem Lyrics - Italian flag on window

The story behind the lyrics of the Italian national anthem 

The Italian national anthem is made up of 6 groups of verses, the last of which is almost never performed. The only verse that you’ll hear at any given celebration or ceremony is the first one.

The opening line of the anthem is ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ (Meaning: Brothers of Italy) but in Mameli’s original hymn it was, ‘Hurray Italy’. Mameli almost certainly changed this to ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ following a suggestion by Michele Novaro himself. Novaro also added a rebellious ‘!’ (Meaning: Yes!) which is yelled at the end of the chorus.

Italian National Anthem Lyrics - Italian flag

It’s worth mentioning is that Mameli was a Republican, Jacobin and a supporter of the French Revolution motto Liberté, égalité, fraternité. His lyrics for Il Canto degli Italiani were thus inspired by the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise” and includes similar references. For example, the first line of the choros us ‘Stringiamci a coorte‘ (Meaning: Let us join in a cohort) recalls a verse in ‘La Marseillaise’, ‘Formez vos bataillon‘ (Meaning: Form your battalions).

Here is a propagandist poster from 1910 showing anthems lyrics and the score of Il Canto degli Italiani.

Propagandist poster from 1910 showing anthems lyrics and score of il Canto degli italiani

Credit: Unknown (not declared and picture not signed), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Italian National Anthem Lyrics with English Translation

Now let’s take a look at the lyrics of the Italian national anthem in its entirety. I’ve also included the English translation so you can understand the meaning behind this moving and patriotic hymn. Just after the lyrics, I’ve included additional explanations for each of the verses to help create more context. 

Italian Lyrics 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,
ché schiava di Roma
Iddio la creò.Coro
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! 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,
Bound Scipio’s helmet
Upon her head.
Where is Victory?
Let her bow down,
For God created her
Slave of Rome.Chorus
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! 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,
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?


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.


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.


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.

Listen to and read the lyrics to the Italian national anthem

The meaning behind the lyrics

The first verse presents us with the personification of Italy which is ready to go to war and fight for freedom just like Ancient Rome was. It also makes reference to ‘wearing’ Scipio Africanus’s helmet who defeated Hannibal at the last battle of the Second Punic War in Zama (now in Tunisia).

The verse also recalls the ancient Roman custom of slaves who cut their hair short as a sign of servitude and therefore, the Goddess of Victory must also cut her hair in order so Italy will be victorious.

In the second verse, Mameli complains that Italy has been divided for too long and calls for unity. It’s here that he adopts three words taken from the poetic and archaic Italian language: calpesti (modern Italian: calpestati), speme (modern Italian: speranza), and raccolgaci (modern Italian: ci raccolga).

The third verse invokes God to protect all Italians who are struggling to unify their nation once and for all. 

The fourth verse references well-known heroic figures and key moments during the fight for Italy’s independence. These include the battle of Legnano, the defence of Florence led by Ferruccio during the Italian Wars, the riot started in Genoa by Balilla, and the Sicilian Vespers. 

The fifth verse refers to the part played by Habsburg Austria and Czarist Russia in the partitions of Poland and links its quest for independence to Italy’s.

In Mameli’s original draft, the sixth and final verse was missing but appears in his second manuscript. As such, it was omitted in the first printed editions. The sixth verse cheerfully announces Italy’s unification and concludes the hymns with the same six lines from the first verse, creating a lyrical loop.

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