Mameli’s Hymn is the national anthem known also as Fratelli d’Italia, from its opening line. Goffredo Mameli, a 20 year-old student and patriot, wrote the lyrics in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, during the struggle for unification and independence of Italy, and only two months later in Turin another Genoese, musician Michele Novaro, composed the music. The hymn became immediately popular with the “newly made Italians”, enjoying widespread popularity throughout the Risorgimento and following decades.
However, after the unification of Italy in 1861, 150 years ago, Italy’s official national anthem was the Marcia Reale, the Royal March, the official hymn commissioned by Carlo Alberto di Savoia of the royal house of Savoy in 1831.
The Marcia Reale remained the Italian national anthem until Italy became a republic in 1946. On October 12, 1946, Il Canto degli Italiani was provisionally chosen as the country’s new national anthem and only 60 years later, in 2005 a law was finally passed to turn it into the official one.
Over the past few years, however, many people expressed critical views on the Inno di Mameli, claiming that the melody is not as authoritative as the German Anthem composed by Haydn or the British “God Save the Queen”. The most common alternative indicated by Italians is “Va Pensiero”, which is a chorus from the third act of Nabucco (1842) by Giuseppe Verdi.
Few people know that great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi himeself, in his Inno delle Nazioni, composed for the London International Exhibition of 1862, chose Il Canto degli Italiani and not the Marcia Reale to represent Italy.
This topic is as dear to me as it is to all Italians because it is the anthem that represents us in all the most important events outside our national territory, from the World Cup every 4 years, to the Olympics and on many other occasions. Whenever for any reason you hear this anthem from wherever you are in Europe and even in the world, you immediately recognize from the first note that it is the anthem of Italy and this fills the entire Italian population with pride.