Names of the Italian anthem
The Italian National Anthem has three different names. The formal name is “Mameli’s hymn”, named after the man who wrote the words. It is also known as “Song of the Italians”. But the most well-known name of the anthem is “Brothers of Italy”.
Like all great national anthems, Italy’s was written in the shadow of war and is a patriotic call to arms with music to match. Its composer was a twenty year-old poet Goffredo Mameli, who tragically died only two years after it was written. He wasn’t well known and this was really his only masterpiece.
Written in 1847, during the first battles for Italian unification (“Il Risorgimento”) it was provisionally adopted as the Italian national anthem only in 1946. Even more surprisingly, it was made the official anthem by law as recently as November 2005.
Five verses and a chorus
The complete anthem has a total of five verses and a chorus which is sung between each. However in Italian culture, traditions dictate that at every official occasion only the first verse and the chorus are sung – although they are repeated and followed by an – always very loud – “Sì!”
The words of the Mameli’s hymn were meant to memorialize past battles for freedom waged throughout Italy: by the Lombard towns, the Florentine republic, the Genoese, following the example of the young Balilla (who had thrown the first stone at an Austrian officer), and the Sicilians against the French in the so-called Sicilian Vespers. The focus of all aspirations to freedom was Rome, which, in another poem, Mameli called “City of memories, city of hope”.
By most accounts, Mameli took the lyric to Michele Novaro, a musician friend who lived in Turin on November 23, 1847. Overnight Novaro composed the music, and the next day Mameli brought back words and music to his companions in Genoa. A few days later, on December 1, Fratelli D’Italia was played for the first time at a popular assembly. The tune quickly spread throughout the peninsula and was on everyone’s lips, in defiance of the Austrian, Bourbon and Papal police.