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13 Iconic Italian Songs for Learning Italian Faster (with Lyrics and Playlist)

Learn Italian faster and improve your pronunciation and accent with the help of these iconic Italian songs

by Michele
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Italian Songs to Learn Italian Faster (with Lyrics)
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Italian music has become famous all over the world thanks to Italian songs such as Con te partirò (by Andrea Bocelli), Nel blu, dipinto di blu (by Domenico Modugno), Felicità (by Al Bano and Romina) and artists such as Adriano Celentano, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini or, more recently, the rock band Måneskin (if any of these names or titles don’t sound familiar to you, I’m sure the melodies will!).

Whether you’re approaching the sounds of the Italian language for the first time or you’ve been learning Italian for a while but still struggle with aspects like pronunciation, vocabulary or sentence structure, this guide is for you! 

What better way to learn about Italian culture while also picking up new words, phrases and grammar features, than by listening to Italian songs? In this guide, I am going to lead you through some of the main canzoni (songs) that have made history in Italian music and have enchanted millions of people and different generations, becoming true masterpieces of Italian culture.

For each song, you will find a brief explanation of what the song is about and the YouTube video, as well as the link to lyrics for you to read along while also listening and singing (and why it’s important to do both!) I’ve also created a playlist for you that you can save and listen to.

Cominciamo! Let’s get started!

Why is music important for language learning?

While it’s true that traveling to Italy and immersing yourself in the culture is the most effective way to develop your language skills, it is also true that, sometimes, you just don’t have the time, financial resources, or the means to do it. If that’s the case, don’t worry! You can also rely on other methods to become more fluent in Italian. Listening to music is one of them!

As a matter of fact, music can play a decisive role in second language exposure. Neurosciences have demonstrated how songs and melodies have a positive impact on the brain on several levels: creativity, attention span, executive functions, language skills and so on.

Recent research has shown that the assimilation of grammar structures and vocabulary is stimulated and acquired earlier through music. Not only is language acquisition easier thanks to music stimulus, but also your memory benefits from it. 

I bet you’ve never forgotten the “London Bridge is falling down”. Am I right? This is especially true when we learn new concepts and words through music as young learners (and also as adults), we find it surprising how fast we manage to memorize things just by singing them.

Language and music have many elements in common: rhythm, pauses, tone, and melody. Not only that, singing activates the vocal system by imitating sounds, thus improving your pronunciation and accent.

I’m sure you struggled a bit the first time you saw the Italian alphabet and letter combinations such as chi, ce, gn, gli, sci, sche, and asked yourself, how on earth are they pronounced?

Not quite convinced yet? Here are five good reasons why you should rely on music to learn Italian faster:

  • It will broaden your vocabulary: most songs often include idiomatic expressions and phrases commonly used in everyday life. That is why it’s essential to read along while listening (and maybe having a translation on the side too); it will help you memorize new words!
  • It will boost your pronunciation skills: when we sing, we tend to imitate sounds and intonation we hear. This softens our accent when we speak in a foreign language, although it requires a little effort in the beginning.
  • You can see grammar in context: Italian grammar can be tricky. All of those verbal tenses and rules, they just seem so complicated! While it’s true that it will definitely get easier with time and (lots of) practice, it is also true that grammar rules and examples do not stick in the memory by themselves, but it will be much more useful to see the same structures or tenses in real contexts, like songs.
  • It’s versatile and affordable: nowadays, we can easily get access to music platforms and we can read and download texts and look their translation up in no time. The Internet has made music inexpensive and gives us the flexibility to listen to it whenever and wherever we want.
  •  It gives you an insight into Italian culture: songs are much more than just a combination of sounds and words; they’re a mirror of times, they carry deep meanings and tell beautiful stories that also help you understand a country and its people better.

 Let’s now get into it and have a look at 13 Italian songs that have made millions of Italians dream with their lyrics and melodies.

13 Italian songs that will help you learn Italian faster

A necessary premise before we begin our music journey: it would be ridiculous to think that we can reduce the Italian music scene to just 13 Italian songs; but for reasons of space, time and simplicity, I thought I would include those that I consider among the best known and appreciated by Italian learners and Italians as well (along with a few personal preferences). So, enjoy!

1. La canzone del sole (by Lucio Battisti)

For the lyrics, click here

When learning to play the guitar, this is usually the first song your music teacher will make you play, given its extreme simplicity of chords. Its meaning, however, is much deeper. The “song of the sun”, released in 1971, recalls the theme of the complexity of human beings, by describing how they grow up, how they love and ultimately, change.

It all begins with the recollection of the games of two children, a boy, the protagonist, and a girl. After a few years from that holiday where they met and played together, the author describes the changes the girl has gone through, becoming una donna, a woman.

The text is full of metaphors, including this mare nero (black sea), which probably refers to the lack of innocence that goes with growing up, while as kids the sea was cristallino, crystal clear.

2. Il cielo in una stanza

For the lyrics, click here 

This one is a love song and it can be found in several versions: the original one was sung by Gino Paoli, who is also the author of the lyrics of the song, but the most famous version is probably the one sung by Mina. A nice reinterpretation is the one given by Franco Battiato. So, which one is your favorite?

As recounted by Paoli himself, the lyrics describe an encounter with a prostitute that took place in a brothel in Genoa, recognisable by the soffitto viola, purple ceiling.

The refined melody, initially soft and intimate, gradually leads towards infinite and dreamy spaces, reaching the peak of musical and poetic intensity, only to return in the finale to the initial intimacy.

3. La cura (by Franco Battiato)

For the lyrics, click here 

This song, released in 1968, is probably one of the most beautiful songs that has ever been written. La cura, the cure, is a true masterpiece of Italian music, a hymn to absolute, universal love written by Franco Battiato, a much-loved Sicilian singer-songwriter, composer and director.

What Battiato sings in this song is love in its highest form. The lyrical self, turning to an undefined “you” promises to dedicate his life to him/her, to protect him/her from the paure delle ipocondrie, fears of hypochondria, from life’s obstacles, injustices, downfalls and obsessions. He will take care of him/her, helping him/her to face the dangers that come from outside and the anxieties that come from within, which are more dangerous than weapons.

Do I really need to say more? 🙂 

4. La guerra di Piero (by Fabrizio De André)

For the lyrics, click here 

Another masterpiece of Italian music culture is “Piero’s war”, written by Fabrizio De André in 1964. The song is a folk ballad telling the story of an ordinary soldier in an ordinary war.

The soldier in the song does not lose his humanity and for this reason, fails to shoot a soldier in a different uniform, towards whom he feels compassion and pity. A gesture, however, that costs him his life, as the other does not “return the courtesy” and shoots him, killing him.

The lyrics, therefore, act as a condemnation of the horrors of war, which the singer-songwriter himself experienced through the stories of his uncle, his mother’s brother, who survived a concentration camp during the Second World War.

5. L’italiano (by Toto Cutugno)

For the lyrics, click here 

This song, released in 1983, is an authentic manifesto of the Bel Paese, where the author Toto Cutugno tells the stereotype of the “real” Italian, showing its characteristics and peculiarities.

“Let me sing with my guitar in my hand, let me sing, I am an Italian man”, this is the line that opens the song. The artist states that he is proud of being Italian, despite the countless faults and problems typical of this country.

The lyrics go on with more pictures of true italianness: spaghetti al dente, a partisan as president (reference to Sandro Pertini, who was President of the Italian Republic from 1978 to 1985), a canary above the window, ristretto coffee, new socks in the top drawer, the flag at the dry cleaners, and many more.

6. Nel blu, dipinto di blu (by Domenico Modugno)

For the lyrics, click here

This 1958 classic is better known with the name “volare” (flying) and it is probably the most famous and reinterpreted Italian song in history.

“Nel blu, dipinto di blu” is the story of un sogno, a dream, as clearly stated by the first sentence of the song: “I think that a dream like this will never come back”, introducing the dreamlike vision of a man taking off in a flight of freedom, towards infinity, blending in with the color of the sky and the eyes of the woman he loves.

In addition to the greatness of the meaning, the song has become famous for Modugno’s almost “revolutionary” interpretation. When he first sang it at the Sanremo Festival (I’ll give you more information on this at the end) he surprised everyone for breaking the static canons that were typical at that time, by accompanying the lyrics with carefree gestures, as if he were reciting them.

It was from this moment that the myth of “Mister Volare” as Modugno was called to the United States, and spread and inspired other singers from the 1950s onwards.

7. L’appuntamento (by Ornella Vanoni)

For the lyrics, click here

“L’appuntamento” is a classic of Italian music that originated from the Italian translation of a Brazilian song entitled “Sentado à Beira do Caminho”. It was interpreted by Ornella Vanoni, who made it her breakthrough song in 1970, when she presented it at the International Festival of Light Music in Venice, winning the prize “Gondola d’oro”.

The song, which immediately achieved huge popularity, is about a date (appuntamento), the expectations that go with it, the waiting, and the disappointment of not meeting. The lyrics, in Italian as in the original version, speak of a vain wait for a woman who is waiting for a man that, however, will never come. The conclusion of the song: “Now, forever, I don’t exist, I don’t exist…” also hints at a further tragic ending. Not quite the happy ending we might expect.

8. Tanti auguri & A far l’amore comincia tu (by Raffaella Carrà)

For the lyrics, click here

For the lyrics, click here

My next recommendation is actually a combination of two songs, both by the unforgettable Raffaela Carrà. Dancer, singer, actress and much more, Raffaella Carrà was an icon of Italian music and television, receiving great acclaim abroad as well, especially in Spain and Latin America. With her songs and above all her irony, she brought a breath of freedom and lightness to Italian culture in the 1970s, earning the title of “queen of Italian television”.

Among her most famous songs are “Tanti auguri”, and “Com è bello far l’amore…”, a hymn to sexual freedom. Not surprisingly, the song has become a symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement.

The revolution she brought at that time was even more disruptive, because it was done by a woman. A free, empowered, sensual woman, a woman who was the main character of her time, who with her disruptive force established herself on the Italian and international scene with charisma and talent.

9. Roma Nun Fà La Stupida Stasera (by Nino Manfredi)

For the lyrics, click here 

Roma Nun Fà La Stupida Stasera (literally, “Rome don’t be stupid tonight”) can be described as one of the most representative songs of the capital city. The song recalls popular culture and is reminiscent of an ode, an invocation to the bella Roma (beautiful Rome) to pull out all the stops and so his love interest will fall in love with him. It was written for the musical comedy “Rugantino”, which features a scenario of 19th century Rome and picturesque characters, and it was first performed at the Sistina Theatre in Rome in 1962 and interpreted by Nino Manfredi.

It has become a symbol of the song in romanesco, that is, the Roman dialect and it’s also well-known in the version performed by Lando Fiorini, a roman actor and singer whose repertoire is rich in references to his Rome.

In addition, Roma nun fa’ la stupida stasera was chosen by the stylist Laura Biagiotti to accompany the ad for her perfume, called “Roma”.

10. Un raggio di sole (by Jovanotti)

For the lyrics, click here

Un raggio di sole, “a sunray”, is a song published in 1999 by Jovanotti, stage name for Lorenzo Cherubini, one of the most famous Italian living singers.

The song is a sweet declaration of love to a somewhat moody woman. Jovanotti, in a light rhythm, tells us about this beautiful love story, describing a relationship that is far from perfect but for this reason authentic and real.

From a grammatical point of view, this song is great for Italian learners who wants to practice and revise the use of the past tense (imperfetto and passato prossimo), but also because it shows many antonyms: attacchi (attack) / difendi (defend), andare (to go) / tornare (to come back), mare (sea) / montagna (mountain), città (city) / campagna (countryside).

11. Con te partirò (by Andrea Bocelli)

For the lyrics, click here

Con te partirò (1995) is one of the biggest international hits of Italian music. The original one was sung by Andrea Bocelli, but throughout the years many different versions have been made. In the UK, the song was released by Bocelli together with soprano Sarah Brightman, under the title Time to Say Goodbye, the year after.

With a highly poetic tone and a very catchy rhythm, the song is in between light music and opera, and represents the concept of the journey in an almost pictorial manner: an imaginary journey to discover lost places through the eyes of love, able to overcome all kinds of barriers and express any kind of emotion. 

12. Notte prima degli esami (by Antonello Venditti)

For the lyrics, click here

This 1984 song by the Roman singer-songwriter Antonello Venditti has been very successful since its release (especially after the 2006 film of the same name) and has managed to cross generations, becoming the anthem of “maturità”, the final exams that Italian students have to take after high school.

The song tells of a summer night, the night that no one will ever forget, the one before the “maturità” exams. A night of anxiety, memories, reflection and happiness for reaching one of the first important milestones, but also a night of change and the desire to start a new life path, letting go of old friendships and finding new ones.

In the song, the singer-songwriter makes many references to his own past as well as to the socio-political situation in those years, such as the planes flying “between New York and Moscow”, a clear reference to the Cold War.

13. Torna a casa (by Måneskin)

For the lyrics, click here 

One of the most representative groups of the Italian music scene of the last couple of years is without a doubt Måneskin. If you’re into the Eurovision Song Contest, you’ve probably heard of the band, as they won representing Italy in the 2021 edition with the song ‘Zitti e buoni”.

In their first album “Il ballo della vita” released in 2018, there’s a character that can be found as a fil rouge in all of their songs, including the ballad “Torna a casa”, meaning “come home”: we’re talking about Marlena, the muse of the group, and a personification of freedom, creativity and life.

The band itself has explained the meaning of this song (a piece “to be listened to with closed eyes and an open mind”) as the outburst of a man who has lost his muse, but she will listen to his prayer and will eventually return to him. This is not the usual and sometimes predictable love story, it’s the story of a rebirth.

With this iconic ballad, the message Måneskin want to give is that if you don’t follow your inclinations, your character and what you think might be your path, if you let Marlena go and opt for tranquility and the comfort zone, you risk living an imperfect life, wrapped in an inner coldness, with the paura di sparire, “fear of disappearing”, of being nobody.

Final thoughts

I hope this little taster of Italian songs has made you more curious to discover go deeper into Italian music culture! In which case, let me conclude by mentioning the most important music event in Italy, the Sanremo festival. Since 1951, this singing competition, which takes place the first week of February, has brought together an entire nation, glueing Italians to their radios first and television screens later for five days (Tuesday to Saturday). For artists, competing in the Sanremo festival often means making a huge career leap and being in the European spotlight, since the winner of this competition will take part in the Eurovision Song Contest that same year.

I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that you can save and listen to as you go about your day.

Have fun with listening and learning, and… alla prossima (see you next time)!

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