41 Famous Italian Songs

Contents

32. Bella Ciao by Manu Pilas

Song Year:  2018

“Bella Ciao” started as an Italian folksong. During World War II people sang it to protest Mussolini’s control of the country.

The combination of its catchy melody, enduring popularity, and historic significance combined to make it one of the most famous Italian songs ever performed.

Ostensibly it's about the impending death of the speaker. But it remains a revolutionary anthem for people around the world.

33. Casta Diva by Maria Callas

Song Year: 1949

Bellini’s opera Norma is full of contradictory emotions, and nowhere more prominently than in “Casta Diva.”

The title means “Chaste Goddess,” apt since Norma is a druid priestess. She’s also passionately in love with a Roman soldier and the mother of his children.

Part of what made “Casta Diva” and Maria Callas famous was the use of the bel canto technique. This is a famous Italian approach to singing designed to sound like the singer doesn’t need to breathe.

Callas comes as close as anyone to making that the reality. She spins out long sustained phrases effortlessly.

34. “Solo Noi” by Toto Cugno

Song Year: 198o

“Solo Noi” is another famous Italian song by musician Toto Cugno.

Its success wasn’t limited to Italy. It was also popular in Europe and North America, so much so that it was covered by:

  • Roy Orbison
  •  Nino de Angelo

The lyrics track the decline of a relationship. As the song progresses it shifts from scenes of domesticity to heartbreak and loneliness.

 35. Laura Non C’E by Nek

Song Year: 1996

“Laura Non C’e” or “Laura Isn’t Here” is a well-known Italian pop-rock song. Nek released it as part of their 1996 album to tremendous success.

In addition to being popular in Italy, it achieved musical notoriety in Latin America and Europe.

Versions also appeared in English, French, and Spanish though none of them enjoyed the same success as Nek’s original composition.

36. Via Con Me by Paolo Conte

Song Year: 1984

Paolo Conte is a famous Italian singer and composer with a love of jazz and swing music.

His most famous Italian song is “Via Con Me” better known to Americans as “Come Away With Me.”

It’s a jazzy number itself and tells the story of a doomed romance. One of its most obvious homages to the jazz tradition is its blend of words like “S’Wonderful” with scat singing.

But don’t be fooled. It’s interspersed with Italian lyrics that are half-spoken half-sung in keeping with some of the older blues conventions.

Not only was “Via Con Me” a runaway success, but it’s also Conte’s favorite song. He’s recorded it many times live and in the studio since its debut.

 37. Città Vuota by Mina

Song Year: 1963

“Citta Vuota” or “It’s A Lonely Town” was the song that gave Mina’s career its start. It’s an arrangement of an equally popular American song. But for Mina, the strings and orchestration slowed down.

That allowed Mina to make the most of the lavish phrasing. Her warm vocals give this story of lost love a nostalgic feel. It’s never indulgent, though in lesser hands it could be.

Mina sings with a combination of gusto and reminiscence that fits her voice beautifully.

38. E Amore un Ladroncello’ by Kathryn Rudge

Song Year: 2015

The title of this famous Italian song means “Love Is a Little Thief.” In Mozart’s confection of the opera Cosi Fan Tutte that’s exactly what it is. Here it sneaks in to steal the heart of Dorebella, who succumbs to the charms of a foreign stranger despite being engaged already.

It alternates between playful, upbeat sections and agonizing over Dorebella’s former sweetheart. It’s Mozart at his wittiest and features excellent word painting throughout.

Today the plot, which hinges on the assumption that women are inherently fickle, is a controversial one. But that doesn’t stop the music used to tell the story from being some of the best Italian songs in the repertoire.

 39. Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano by Renato Carosone

Song Year: 1956

Renato Carsone wrote “Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano ” with Nicola Salerno. The famous Italian song blends traditional jazz and swing music.

It was also Carsone’s most successful song. It featured in several films, including:

  • Totò, Peppino e le Fanatiche
  •  It Started In Naples
  •  The Talented Mr. Ripley

The song playfully satirizes a lifestyle particular to post-war Italy, where many Italians strove to emulate the American way of life. However, the subject of the song does all this while depending on his parents for money, so he’s less carefree and independent than he imagines.

Despite its enduring success, Carsone retired in 1960, four years after composing “Tu Vuo Fà L’Americano.”

 40. Ch’Il Bel Sogno Di Doretta by Kiri Te Kanawa

Song Year: 1990

“Chi Bel Sogno Di Doretta” is a song from Puccini’s late opera La Rondine. Interestingly, it’s a song within the context of the opera. Fickle-hearted Magda sings it for her guests at a dinner party.

It was always a famous Italian song, but it became double so when it appeared in the 1985 adaptation of A Room With a View.

Throughout the opera, the heroine Magda is repeatedly compared to a swallow. Te Kanawa demonstrates why as she makes her high notes float into the stratosphere.

 41. Nessun Dorma by Luciano Pavarotti

Song Year: 1994

Finally, no list of famous Italian songs would be complete without Pavarotti’s signature song, “Nessun Dorma.”

It comes from Puccini’s final, unfinished opera Turandot. The hero Calaf sings it while madly struggling to find the answer to Turandot’s final riddle. If he gets the answer wrong, he will lose his head.

Calaf’s not worried; He’s confident he can answer the riddle and get the girl.

The song was already famous for its challenging tenor range. Pavarotti made it even more famous by making it accessible to the layperson. His performance was so astonishing that you didn’t have to like opera to be impressed.

It proved opera wasn’t the preserve of the upper classes and helped put a technically demanding classic on the musical map.

Best Italian Songs, Final Thoughts

Famous Italian songs span an amazing range of genres. Some people hear Italian music and immediately associate it with the tradition of grand opera.

But there’s a wealth of jazz, folk, and pop music from Italy. Some of it is even more famous than the more classical music.

Their themes are as varied as their styles and range from romance to patriotism. What unites them is the long history of music in Italy.

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