‘Il Canto degli Italiani’: What the Italian national anthem means – and how to sing it

The Italian football team and its fans are known for belting out rousing renditions of the country’s national anthem before matches. But what exactly are they singing? Here’s how you can join in.

‘Il Canto degli Italiani’: What the Italian national anthem means - and how to sing it
Italy fans sing the national anthem before the EURO 2020 match between Italy and Austria on June 26th. Photo: Ben STANSALL/POOL/AFP

Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians), is better known as Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) after its opening line, or Inno di Mameli (Mameli’s Hymn) after its lyricist.

Whatever they call it, Italians have been singing this anthem for almost 75 years after the post-war government picked it in October 1946 for the new Republic.

However, since they didn’t actually write it into law at the time, the song was only made Italy’s official national anthem four years ago.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Italy’s Unity Day

Usually only the first stanza is sung – twice – followed by the chorus.

All five stanzas of Mameli’s Hymn have been taught in schools since 2012, meaning most younger Italians at least will know the words.

Once you understand the lyrics you’ll see that it’s not the most lighthearted or family-friendly of songs, being almost entirely about war and death.

But at least it’s not as controversial as France’s La Marseillaise – and it has words, unlike Spain’s La Marcha Real.

So if you didn’t learn the Italian anthem at school, here’s a demonstration from the national team. The lyrics (for the short version) are translated below.

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,

ché schiava di Roma, Iddio la creò.

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò.

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò! Sì!

In English:

Brothers of Italy,

Italy has awoken,

Bound Scipio’s helmet upon her head.

Where is Victory? Let her bow down,

For God has made her a slave of Rome.

Let us join in a cohort,

we are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called.

Let us join in a cohort,

We are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called! Yes!

The longer version is translated in this video:

For members


Buongiorno, buonasera, buonanotte: How to greet people like a local in Italian

Many Italian greetings are popular even outside of Italy. But do you know the unwritten social rules on when and how to use them?

Buongiorno, buonasera, buonanotte: How to greet people like a local in Italian

Each language has its own unique set of greetings and Italian is no exception.

From the popular buongiorno and buonasera to salve and a presto, Italian has plenty of salutation forms, which span virtually all types of social context and occasion, both formal and informal. 

Rather confusingly though, their use is for the most part regulated by unwritten rules and custom, which can make it hard for foreign speakers to master even some of the most basic forms, sometimes leading to embarrassing faux pas and slightly perplexed looks from locals.


Unlike English speakers, Italians don’t greet one another with ‘good morning’ but with ‘good day’. 

The Italian buongiorno is suitable for nearly any social occasion where you meet someone, whether that be your new boss at work or your Italian aunties.

The time window in which the greeting is generally used goes from early morning to noon, though some speakers choose to extend it well into the afternoon (see later).

People chatting in countryside

Rules regulating the use of Italian greetings are largely unwritten and may vary from region to region. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

If you’re looking to add a native-like twist to the greeting, you can omit buon and just say giorno.

READ ALSO: Eight Italian exclamations that will make you sound like a local

Remember: buongiorno shouldn’t be confused with buona giornata, which is the equivalent of the English ‘have a good day’ and is used when ending a conversation.

Buon pomeriggio

While ‘good afternoon’ is a popular greeting in the English-speaking world, the Italian buon pomeriggio, which would generally apply from noon to 5pm, is often avoided by native speakers. 

In fact, for reasons that remain unclear (some point to it being too lengthy or too formal), most prefer buongiorno to buon pomeriggio when greeting someone in the afternoon. 

All in all, you can freely choose and use whichever form you’re most comfortable with.


There is no precise rule for when you can switch from buongiorno (or buon pomeriggio) to buonasera (‘good evening’), with local habits often varying greatly from region to region.

Many native speakers in the north start using buonasera when daylight starts to wane. This means that the buonasera time window shifts forward and backwards depending on the time of the season.

But people in some parts of the south may use buonasera as early as 3pm or 4pm, something that would certainly raise a few eyebrows elsewhere in the peninsula.

Aperitivo in Rome

‘Buonasera’ is arguably one of the most confusing Italian greetings as people around the country often use it at different times. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

In most cases then, the best way to get the buonasera greeting right is to pay attention to local customs and stick with those. 

READ ALSO: Ten Italian words stolen into English and reinvented

Much like buongiorno, you can use it with people you know and people you don’t know. And again, in some parts of the country, many drop buona and just say sera.

Buonasera is not the same as buona serata, as the latter translates to ‘have a good evening’.


Unlike all of the above forms, buonanotte (‘good night’) shouldn’t be used when meeting someone, but rather when you’re about to end a conversation or leave a place.

As a rule of thumb, you can safely use it after dinnertime and when you’re sure you won’t be seeing or hearing from someone until the following morning.

For instance, you could use it when leaving a friend’s place after you had an evening spaghettata with them or to wrap up a message conversation before you go to bed.

Other common greetings


Ciao is the most informal of Italian greetings and can be used to start a conversation or end it at any time of the day. 

It’s generally advisable to avoid using ciao with people you don’t know, especially if they’re older than you, hold public roles or are your superior at work. But you can use it with the local panettiere (baker) or other shop owners. 


Salve is arguably the most formal Italian greeting and comes straight from Latin, where it means ‘be in good health’. Like ciao, it can be used both to greet someone and as a way to sign off.

READ ALSO: The Italian versions of 11 famous English sayings

Many Italians tend to avoid it as they consider it too ceremonious.

Arrivederci / a risentirci

Arrivederci is the closest equivalent of the English ‘goodbye’, though its literal translation is ‘until we meet again’. 

It’s more formal than ciao but less pompous than salve.

When ending a conversation over the phone, it can be replaced by a risentirci (‘until we speak again’).