Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians) is the Italian national anthem. It is best known among Italians as L'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn) and often referred to as Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), from its opening line.
The words were written in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli, in a climate of popular struggle for unification and independence of Italy which foreshadowed the war against Austria.
Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades.
After unification (1861) the adopted national anthem was the Marcia Reale, the Royal March (or Fanfara Reale), official hymn of the royal house of Savoy composed in 1831 to order of Carlo Alberto di Savoia. The Marcia Reale remained the Italian national anthem until the Italy became a republic in 1946.
Giuseppe Verdi, in his Inno delle Nazioni (Hymn of the Nations), composed for the London International Exhibition of 1862, chose Il Canto degli Italiani – and not the Marcia Reale – to represent Italy, putting it beside God Save the Queen and the Marseillaise.
In 1946 Italy became a republic, and on October 12, 1946, Il Canto degli Italiani was provisionally chosen as the country's new national anthem. This choice was made official in law only on November 17, 2005, almost 60 years later.
The first manuscript of the poem , preserved at the Istituto Mazziniano in Genoa, appears in a personal copybook of the poet, where he collected notes, thoughts and other writings. Of uncertain dating, the manuscript reveals anxiety and inspiration at the same time. The poet begins with È sorta dal feretro (It's risen from the bier) then seems to change his mind: leaves some room, begins a new paragraph and writes "Evviva l'Italia, l'Italia s'è desta" (Hurray Italy, Italy has awakened). Handwriting appears nervy and frenetic, with the numerous spelling errors, among which "Ilia" for "Italia" and "Ballilla" for "Balilla".
The last strophe is deleted by the author, to the point of being barely readable. It was dedicated to Italian women:
The second manuscript is the copy that Mameli sent to Novaro for setting it to music. It shows a much steadier handwriting, fixes misspellings and has a significant modification: the incipit is "Fratelli d'Italia". This copy is in Museo del Risorgimento in Turin.
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