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The Italian National Anthem

L'Inno Nazionale

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L'Inno di Mameli

L'Inno di Mameli

The Italian national anthem was written in the autumn of 1847 in Genova, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli. A couple of months later, the words were set to music in Torino by another Genovese, Michele Novaro. The song is known variously as L'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn, after the author of the lyrics), Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians), or Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), from its opening line.

The anthem was born in a climate of patriotic fervor and the ongoing struggle for the unification and independence of Italy, a period of time that foreshadowed the First Italian War of Independence against Austria. The hymn also enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades.

The immediacy of the verses and the rush of melody made it the most beloved song of unification, not only during the Risorgimento, but also in subsequent decades. Not by chance Giuseppe Verdi, in his Hymn of the Nations in 1862, entrusted Il Canto degli Italiani—and not the Marcia Reale—to symbolize Italy, placing it next to God Save the Queen and the Marseillaise.

After unification in 1861 the adopted national anthem was the Marcia Reale, (Royal March), official hymn of the royal house of Savoy composed in 1831 by order of Carlo Alberto di Savoia. The Marcia Reale remained the Italian national anthem until Italy became a republic in 1946, when 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.

Origins of the Italian National Anthem
The most notable account of the origins of the Italian national anthem is the testimony given, many years later, by Anton Giulio Barrili, patriot and poet, friend and biographer of Mameli.

Siamo a Torino: "Colà, in una sera di mezzo settembre, in casa di Lorenzo Valerio, fior di patriota e scrittore di buon nome, si faceva musica e politica insieme. Infatti, per mandarle d'accordo, si leggevano al pianoforte parecchi inni sbocciati appunto in quell'anno per ogni terra d'Italia, da quello del Meucci, di Roma, musicato dal Magazzari - Del nuovo anno già l'alba primiera - al recentissimo del piemontese Bertoldi - Coll'azzurra coccarda sul petto - musicata dal Rossi.
In quel mezzo entra nel salotto un nuovo ospite, Ulisse Borzino, l'egregio pittore che tutti i miei genovesi rammentano. Giungeva egli appunto da Genova; e voltosi al Novaro, con un foglietto che aveva cavato di tasca in quel punto: - To' gli disse; te lo manda Goffredo. - Il Novaro apre il foglietto, legge, si commuove. Gli chiedono tutti cos'è; gli fan ressa d'attorno. - Una cosa stupenda! - esclama il maestro; e legge ad alta voce, e solleva ad entusiasmo tutto il suo uditorio. - Io sentii - mi diceva il Maestro nell'aprile del '75, avendogli io chiesto notizie dell'Inno, per una commemorazione che dovevo tenere del Mameli - io sentii dentro di me qualche cosa di straordinario, che non saprei definire adesso, con tutti i ventisette anni trascorsi. So che piansi, che ero agitato, e non potevo star fermo.
Mi posi al cembalo, coi versi di Goffredo sul leggio, e strimpellavo, assassinavo colle dita convulse quel povero strumento, sempre cogli occhi all'inno, mettendo giù frasi melodiche, l'un sull'altra, ma lungi le mille miglia dall'idea che potessero adattarsi a quelle parole. Mi alzai scontento di me; mi trattenni ancora un po' in casa Valerio, ma sempre con quei versi davanti agli occhi della mente. Vidi che non c'era rimedio, presi congedo e corsi a casa. Là, senza neppure levarmi il cappello, mi buttai al pianoforte.
Mi tornò alla memoria il motivo strimpellato in casa Valerio: lo scrissi su d'un foglio di carta, il primo che mi venne alle mani: nella mia agitazione rovesciai la lucerna sul cembalo e, per conseguenza, anche sul povero foglio; fu questo l'originale dell'inno Fratelli d'Italia."

The Poet: Goffredo Mameli
Goffredo Mameli was born in Genoa on September 5, 1827. A precocious student and poet who sided with liberal Republicans, he was an adherent of Giuseppe Mazzini, an activist for the unification of Italy. In 1847 he actively participated in major events for reforms in Genoa and composed The Song of the Italians. From then on, the poet-soldier dedicated himself to the Italian cause; in March 1848, as captain of a company of 300 volunteers, he reached Milan, and fought the Austrians near the Mincio river.

After the Salasco armistice, he returned to Genoa, collaborated with Garibaldi and, in November, reached Rome, where on February 9, 1849, the nation was proclaimed a Republic. Despite a fever, Mameli was always at the forefront of the defense of the city when it was besieged by the French. On June 3 he injured his left leg, which later had to be amputated due to gangrene.

Mameli died of infection on July 6 at the age of twenty-two. He was buried in the Mausoleum Ossuary of the Janiculum.

The Musician: Michele Novaro
Michele Novaro was born October 23, 1818 in Genoa, where he studied composition and singing. In 1847 he was in Turin, with a contract for the second tenor and chorus master of the Theatre Royal and Carignan.

A staunch liberal, Novaro offered his songwriting talents to the cause, writing music for dozens of patriotic songs and organizing events to raise funds for Garibaldi's troops.

Modest-tempered, he derived no benefit from his most famous anthem, even after unification. Novaro returned to Genoa, between 1864 and 1865, and established a Scuola Corale Popolare, to which he dedicated all his efforts.

He died in poverty on October 21, 1885, in a life marked by financial difficulties and health problems. At the instigation of his former pupils, a monument was erected in the cemetery of Staglieno, where he now rests near the tomb of Mazzini.

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