Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy)

The national anthem of Italy is quite particular in its brashness: most Italians love to say it is «undignified, just a little song». This notwithstanding, it has a rather interesting story and reading it leads to uncover many interesting facts about the country – or what it was at the time it was written, anyway.

The lyrics were written in 1847 by the poet Goffredo Mameli (hence the popular name of ‘Mameli’s anthem’)  and put to music by composer Michele Novaro. Its original aim was to celebrate the union of many independent territories into a single country and to criticize both the king of Italy and the Austrian allies and former invaders. In the following years it became the unofficial symbol of the fight against Austria and of the annexion of the southern part of Italy, and in 1862 the famous maestro Giuseppe Verdi decided to use Fratelli d’Italia to represent the country at the Universal Expo of London, preferring it to the official Royal March. The anthem was technically adopted only in 1946, after the end of the monarchy, but the formal adoption of Fratelli d’Italia as the national hymn had to wait no less than the year 2008 – and its inclusion in the Constitution is still pending! The ‘Legnano’ in the lyrics is a northern town where different communities had joined forces in 1176 to repel together the German empire invasion. Similarly, ‘Ferruccio’ is the name of a captain who defended Firenze from a French invasion in 1530. Again ‘Balilla’ was the surname of a heroic kid who in 1746 had fought to free Genova from the Austrian army. Finally, the ‘mercenary swords’ refers to the private armies hired by France against Italy.

 

Italian lyrics

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:
Chè schiava di Roma Iddio la creò.

Stringiamoci a coorte, siam pronti alla morte,
Siam pronti alla morte, l’Italia chiamò.
Stringiamoci a coorte, siam pronti alla morte,
Siam pronti alla morte l’Italia chiamò.

Dall’alpe a Sicilia, dovunque è Legnano;
Ogni uom di ferruccio ha il core, ha la mano.
I bimbi d’Italia si chiaman Balilla
Il suon d’ogni squilla i vespri sonò.

Noi fummo da secoli, calpesti e derisi,
Perchè non siam popolo, perchè siam divisi.
Raccolgaci un’unica bandiera, una speme:
Di fonderci insieme già l’ora suonò.

Son giunchi che piegano le spade vedute,
Già l’aquila d’Austria le penne ha perdute
Il sangue d’Italia il sangue polacco
Bevè col Cosacco, ma il sen le bruciò.

Uniamoci, uniamoci l’unione e l’amore
Rivelano ai popoli le vie del Signore.
Giuriamo far libero il suolo natìo.
Uniti per Dio, chi vincer ci può?

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:
Chè schiava di Roma Iddio la creò.

Stringiamoci a corte, siam pronti alla morte,
Siam pronti alla morte, l’Italia chiamò.
Stringiamoci a coorte, siam pronti alla morte,
Siam pronti alla morte, l’Italia chiamò.