41 Famous Italian Songs

While there are many modern Italian musicians who make great hits, some of the best-known Italian songs are the ones that have had time to sink in. They’ve been used in commercials and on stages around the world, and many non-Italians have heard them, even if they can’t remember where.

Here are some of the most famous Italian songs of all time and what made them successful. 

1. Va Pensiero by K&K Opera Choir

Song Year: 2009

One of the most famous Italian songs is “Va Pensiero.”

English-speaking listeners know it better as “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.”

Guisippe Verdi wrote the famous chorus for his opera Nabucco. He was an expert at composing for large ensembles, so it’s unsurprising that “Va Pensiero” with its strong nationalistic themes took Italy by storm.

It remains the country’s unofficial national anthem.

 2. Funiculi Funicula by Joseph Schmidt

Song Year: 1936

 “Funiculi Funicula” is a nonsensical Neapolitan song by Luigi Denza. Despite its silliness, several famous composers mistook it for a Neapolitan folksong and integrated it into compositions without permission, including:

  • Strauss
  •  Rimsky-Korsekov

 It’s one of the best-known Italian songs in America because it features in everything from movies to video games. But North Americans know the song better as “My Tall Silk Hat.”

3. Nel Blu by Domenico Modugno

Song Year: 1958

The story goes that Franco Migliacci wrote “Nel Blu” while waiting for his colleague Modugno to join him on a sea excursion.

Modugno was late, so Migliacci passed the time by drinking wine. When he drifted off to sleep, he dreamed vividly and awoke to find himself face-to-face with several luridly blue paintings.

It’s an unlikely genesis for a song as popular as this one. Its success was such that many prominent artists recorded versions, including:

  • Frank Sinatra
  •  Louis Armstrong
  •  Luciano Pavarotti

4. O Sole Mio by Brian Adams and Luciano Pavarotti

Song Year: 1998

The title of this famous Italian song translates as “My Own Sunshine.” Here Bryan Adams sings it as a tribute to the great Italian music icon Pavarotti.

It’s another Neapolitan song, and like “Funiculi, Funicula,” it’s a staple of Neapolitan culture.

Crucially, it provided Elvis with the musical inspiration for “It’s Now or Never.” But Elivs wasn’t the only person struck by the melody. Proust made this song even more famous by memorializing it in his book A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, or Remembrance of Things Past.

5. Ombra mai Fu by Cecilia Bartoli

Song Year: 2012

The previous song was about sunshine. In “Ombra Mai Fu,” the speaker confesses their love under the sheltering shade of the plane trees. It stands out because it's intended for a counter-tenor, the highest male vocal part. But even by their standards, the vocal range is challenging.

Despite being one of the best Italian songs in the operatic repertoire, the German-born composer Handel wrote it for his opera Serse. The opera isn’t set in Italy, either. It’s all about Xerxes and his conquest of Persia.

6. Azzurro by Adriano Celanto

Song Year: 1968

“Azzurro” breaks every Italian musical convention of its time. It’s faster-paced than normal, and its rhythm swings creatively from off-beat to off-beat. That didn’t stop it being one of the best Italian songs of the century.

The off-beat rhythm was catchy and made it an immediate and recognizable success.

7. Felicita by Al Bano and Romina Power

Song Year: 1982

In 1982, Al Bano and Romina Power took second place singing this famous Italian song at the San Remo music festival.

Many consider “Felicita” a secular hymn about enjoying life to its fullest. Espousing sentiments like that, it's no surprise it took Europe by storm.

Eventually, it won a Golden Globe on the strength of its commercial success, proving it wasn’t only Europe that loved “Felicita.”

8. Caruso by Lucio Dalla

Song Year: 1986

Enrico Caruso was one of classical music’s most famous Italian Tenors. He’s remembered as a prominent part of The Three Tenors and a propensity for doomed love affairs with married women.

Written and performed by Lucio Dalla in 1986, “Caruso” commemorates both these aspects of the famous singer. Its lyrics recount a love affair as doomed as any of Caruso’s.

Additionally, it’s a song written for a tenor. Its musical range requires the singer to land several difficult high notes. Even if it hadn’t achieved the commercial success it ultimately enjoyed, “Caruso” would be a worthy tribute to the man who inspired it.

9. “Ti Amo” by Umberto Tozzi

Song Year: 1977

Umberto Tozzi won Festivalbar singing “Ti Amo.” This famous Italian song quickly spread beyond Italy. So much so that its English lyrics are almost as ubiquitous as the original Italian ones.

Other successful foreign language arrangements included translations into:

  • Spanish
  •  French
  • German

10. A far L’Amore Comincia Tu by Rafaella Carrà

Song Year: 1977

“A far L’Amore Comincia” was Rafaella Carrà’s most famous Italian song. It was extremely popular in France and Germany.

One reason the song caught listeners; attention and held it was that it told a story as unconventional as that of the woman singing it. In it, the female speaker encourages her husband to take the lead in their sexual escapades. It was unapologetically erotic and fostered Carrà’s reputation as someone who campaigned for sexual freedom and eroticism. 

11. Con Te Partiro by Andrea Boccelli

Song Year: 1997

Despite being a famous Italian song these days, “Con Te Partiro” wasn’t an initial success. Bocelli debuted it at the San Remo Music Festival to minimal interest.

The song didn't garner much attention until several radio stations picked it up. However, it never had that problem outside of Europe. France and Switzerland fell instantly in love with the song and were responsible for helping it land a Golden Globe.

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