Italian Songs

One fun way to learn Italian is to learn songs written in Italian; not only is it an effective way of learning, but it also gives you a window on Italian culture.

Opera and Classical Music

For many years, Italian was the standard language of opera, so even Germans wrote operas in Italian. The language is sometimes old-fashioned/stilted/poetic (for example, they tend to use Voi as a singular "you" and leave off the final "e" in verbs so that cantare ("to sing") becomes cantar) but it is nevertheless quite similar to the modern language. Here are some classic, popular songs from opera and other classical music:

Traditional and Folk

The following are older, "classic" Italian songs. See this Italian folk music page for more lyrics.

Rock and Pop Music

The following are more popular songs you might hear on the radio, especially on Kiss Kiss Italia; you can check out which songs are popular in Italy at the Italy Top 20 listing, MTV's Hitlist Italia, or Euro200's Italy Top 50 list. Many lyrics are translated on

    • Various Artists - Domani 21 Aprile - a benefit song with an all-star lineup produced to aid victims of the 2009 earthquake in Abruzzo. It's like the Italian version of "We are the World". See Deirdre Straughan's great website for lyrics and translation (alternate version here).
    • Giorgia - Di sole e d'azzurro - "the sun and blue sky," a beautiful song with a beautiful performance at the 2001 Sanremo festival
    • Gianna Nannini - Salvami - a cry for help ("Save me"), this song ranges from low and gravel-y to high and soaring.
    • Giusy Ferreri - was the first winner of the Italian version of X Factor (like American Idol), with a low Amy Winehouse-like voice; she has had several hits:
    • Noemi - famous for calling Berslusconi her "daddy," leading to speculation that she was his illegitimate daughter
    • Luciano Ligabue - a rock guitarist and singer who has some cool tunes
    • Zero Assoluto - this duet ("absolute zero"--perhaps they studied physics?) has had a few hits:
    • Per dimenticare
    • Cos'è Normale
    • Jovanotti - Lorenzo Cherubini is a rapper/singer with various world influences
    • Alessandra Amoroso - Senza Nuvole, a little whiny but catchy
    • Alex Britti - Buona Fortuna - a song with a Jazzy beat Lyrics and translation.
    • Eros Ramazzotti - Parla Con Me - many of Ramazzotti's songs sound whiny but this one is catchy
    • Raf - Per Tutto Il Tempo - fun song with a driving beat, talks about love "for all time"
    • Gemelli Diversi - Vivi per un miracolo - the biggest hit from these Italian rappers, with the refrain "c'e l'hai un attimo per me?" ("Do you have a moment for me?")
    • Fabrizio Moro - Pensa - an inspiring anti-Mafia song
    • Marco Carta - won the 2009 San Remo Festival with the song "La Forza Mia"; he followed that up with the catchy "Dentro ad ogni brivido"
    • Marco Mengoni - Dove si vola - another X Factor winner (sounds like a girl!)
    • Fiorella Mannoia - Ho Imparato a Sognare - a 2009 cover of a 1997 song by Negrita; an inspirational song, it talks about how "I learned to dream" early in life. (Partial) lyrics and translation.
    • Sal da Vinci - Il Mercante di Stelle is a love song with hokey lyrics about a guy giving "the most beautiful stars in the heavens to she who opens her heart to me"...but it will stick in your head forever!
    • Ron e Tosca - Vorrei Incontrarti Fra Cent’Anni - a song that reminds me of Extreme's "More than Words"
    • Toto Cutugno - L'italiano - a song that won the Sanremo music festival in the 80s, which references various Italian stereotypes

Neapolitan Songs

Many of the songs Americans consider to be "Italian" are actually Neapolitan songs, in the distinct Neapolitan language. The following are some of the most famous Neapolitan songs (Canzoni Napoletane):

Probably the best-known Neapolitan song, whose lyrics are functionally equivalent to the American folk classic, "You are my Sunshine". Check out a Mario Lanza version from the movie "For the first time" (on the left). Elvis sang a version of 'O Sole Mio with English lyrics, "It's Now or Never."

This haunting song (lyrics and translation) exhorts one to "Come Back to Sorrento." Elvis did a version of this one, too, called "Surrender."

Usually sung in "standard" Italian (for example in the recording by Enrico Caruso on the left; the original Neapolitan version [text with translation] is less well known), this song is about the waterfront near the Castello dell'Ovo, and was actually sung by Elvis in Italian!

A catchy song about the funicular that used to run up Mount Vesuvius; a classic version is sung by Mario Lanza (on the left). Vesuvioinrete has good lyrics and translation.

This song about how "you want to be American" was originally performed by Renato Carosone (on the left), known to Americans after its appearance in The Talented Mr Ripley. More recently, it was sampled in the 2010 hit by Australians Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP, "We No Speak Americano" (music video). Lyrics and translation. This song is also a funny example of the "mammone" (roughly "mamma's boy") stereotype of Italian men who stay dependent on their mothers well into adulthood.

This song about a "soldier in love" was popularized by Massimo Ranieri (on the left). Lyrics and translation. (Also at Sound of Thunder) This song also is traditionally associated with the Napoli soccer (football) team, whose fans often sing the refrain ("Oje vita, oje vita mia...") after games.


A song about a "little staircase" leading to the water near Posillipo, where a man waits for his lover; Massimo Ranieri sings a haunting version (on the left), and Johnny Mathis did an English version called "Stairway to the Sea." Lyrics and translation (halfway down).

"Soul and Heart," another wistful Neapolitan song in which the singer begs his now-distant lover to come close again, explains the joke behind Anema e Cono (a gelateria in Pozzuoli) and Anema e Cozze (a restaurant near Castel dell'Ovo in the Santa Lucia district). Beautiful version by Roberto Murolo (on the left). Lyrics and translation.

Tammuriata Nera

"Black Tambourine Dance," tells the story of a half-Black, half-Italian boy growing up in Naples, whose father was an American GI. The tammuriata is a traditional Southern Italian dance, much like the tarantella ("tarantula dance"). Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare plays this song with a lot of energy (on the left). What is that farting noise in the background?! It's a traditional Neapolitan instrument called a putipù!

See to learn about more Neapolitan songs.

Fake Neapolitan/Italian

There are a handful of songs that Americans think of being "Italian" but were actually written by Americans; still, they are still fun (and popular with Italians and Italian Americans alike):

Jeff Matthews' Naples: Life, Death & Miracles has an article explaining the phenomenom of the "pseudo-Neapolitan song"