Why learn Italian through songs
If you’re learning Italian and want to understand Italian culture, it helps to know a bit of Italian popular music. In this post, you’ll learn Italian through songs.
These kinds of songs are such a big part of Italian culture that it’s not rare to make reference to popular songs in the middle of conversations.
Italians love singing. In the 90s, we had a very popular TV show called Karaoke where the host Fiorello used to travel around Italy hosting massive karaoke parties in the main Italian cities. A huge crowd of people would gather to sing along and everything would be broadcasted on TV. Because Italians are not embarrassed about showcasing our singing skills!
So, today I’d like to invite you to an Italian Karaoke Party and introduce you to some popular Italian songs. Learning Italian with songs is fun!
From picking up new vocabulary to perfecting the perfect pronunciation, listening to foreign language music can help learners go from complete novice to accomplished conversationalist – and those who sing along as well find it even easier to remember new words and phrases.
So, for those learning Italian – with complicated conjugations and verb tenses that just don’t exist in English, you need all the help they can get – here’s a list of catchy pop songs to help perfect the lingo.
Italian songs are a great way to learn a language by yourself. You can improve your language skills in a fun way and, at the same time, get to grips with some elements of Italian culture.
Listening to songs exposes you to all sorts of grammatical structures such as verbs and conjugations, and these are much easier to memorize with a melody attached.
It’s also a convenient way to learn Italian in the car.
I selected some of the most popular and useful Italian songs that will help you to master your Italian language grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary in context. Some also happen to be my favorite Italian songs.
The best Italian songs to learn Italian
The most important thing you must do when trying to improve your listening skills in a foreign language is to choose materials that are interesting and enjoyable for you. You can choose to listen to podcasts, watch movies in the original language or… Listen to Italian songs!
In fact, songs are an excellent resource for dealing with the study of languages in general, and Italian language in particular: they are a source of everyday language, they are catchy, easy to memorize and you can use the music in order to learn in a fun way, without too much effort… And you can even take advantage of improving your singing skills!
Contemporary Italian music is not very popular in other countries. When I ask my students which songs they know or singers, they always say Ricchi e Poveri, Albano e Romina or Toto Cutugno. These are songs that were famous in Italy when my father was 20 years old. Even though there are few contemporary songs that cross the borders, there are plenty that students would enjoy and could be great material to use in class.
Check my list of easy Italian songs for beginners that will be useful to improve your skills! I will give you the link of the lyric videos and explanations of the meaning of the song, the grammar rules and vocabulary that you will find in them!
One big misconception about learning a new language is that songs come later in the process and that they only play a minor role, if any at all. When you’ve got the grammar rules down and have a decent storehouse of vocabulary memorized, that’s when you can employ songs and take those language skills to a whole new level. Attempting to use songs without grammar and vocabulary already on your side would be a disaster, right?
Well, that all couldn’t be further from the truth!
While selecting a good Italian textbook and checking out a wide variety of books for Italian learners in general is important, it can be just as important to consider more interactive options in the early stages of learning: Games that teach you Italian, for example, or other online options for learning the language. And along with these comes music.
The earlier you take up songs in your Italian language journey, the better. Think about the songs of your childhood, when you were learning your first language. You didn’t have a decent grasp of grammar or vocabulary before you started singing your ABC’s or your nursery rhymes out of tune. In fact, you used these songs to bone up on your language skills.
So instead of waiting ’til later to use songs, which is really putting the cart before the horse, use them on the very first day of learning the language.
Songs are memorable and stick in the mind. We never forget the songs we used to sing as kids in school, even when it’s been 20 years since those days. Songs are the perfect vehicle to learn grammar and vocabulary because they provide a context for the language.
And language is context. It’s really through context that language derives its meaning. And songs are language used to communicate a coherent thought and context, creating memories in the process.
Furthermore, with songs, we’re not talking just any context. Songs have a melody, rhythm and rhymes that always beat memorizing a dry list of words from a sheet of paper.
So if you want to really learn Italian and learn it fast, consider Italian songs to be one of the most efficient and effective tools in the shed.
Darling! Delighted to lean together until the dawn is livid with mist!
Wait, wait! Come back!
I guess it sounded better in Italian.
That line, “s’appoggi pure volentieri fino all’alba livida di bruma,” is from a song by Vinicio Capossela (see below), and I’m holding onto it for an evening in Rome, when I’m walking hand in hand with some future Italian sweetheart after a long, heavy dinner.
You can use it too, and learn lots more lovely—and overwrought—phrases by listening to Italian music. This post is here to launch you into that bewildering world.
Not only can you learn romantic phrases, but you can get tons of practice with the Italian language just by tuning in.
Music is great for acquiring more than just melodramatic bluster (although let’s face it, that’s a large reason that many of us want to learn Italian). Italian songs can expose you to all sorts of grammatical structures—phrasal verbs and conjugations, for example—and these are much easier to commit to memory with a melody attached.
The essential conflict for most learners in approaching Italian popular music is that the more interesting stuff tends to be too complex lyrically to follow when you’re starting out. On the other hand, the easier music tends to be what Italians call canzonacce (trashy pop songs—which are nevertheless culturally important). The playlist below tries to give you a bit of both worlds.
I put the following playlist together with musically-savvy Italian friends; it covers some of the great performers who are considered essential to the Italian pop world, and a few really cool up-and-comers.
We’ll start with the easiest tunes, so intermediate and advanced learners who are looking for a challenge might want to skip down towards the second half of this post. However, all of these songs are worth knowing!
Children’s songs for total beginners
Children’s songs just have to be easy. That’s why they make the best Italian songs to learn Italian.
Take it easy! turn back into a child with these 3 easy Italian Songs for stress-free language learning.
By the way, these are much more interesting than a dull alphabet song.
If you were a little Italian boy or girl, this would be one of the very first songs you’d learn in school. It’s the equivalent of the English playground song “Ring Around the Rosie,” which many speculate to be a song about the Black Plague. (Which is ironic since the song has fun connotations for today’s children.)
This song is easy as it gets. The melody is charming and the structure of the lines simple. Actually, there are many versions of this song. There’s the standard one with the hen, another involving a wolf at the door and even one talking about Mussolini’s grandchildren.
The variety of versions can only mean good news for your vocabulary, as you’ll be able to sing the same tune and have many different words accompany it. In fact, you can make your own Italian version and just use the standard melody as a template!
“Ci vuole un fiore” talks about flowers, seeds, wood and trees and is perfect for Italian beginners because of the vocabulary mining potential in the lines, not to mention the catchy melody that stays with you long after the song is done. The structure is simple, regular and repetitive. You can easily get the hang of the words because they have been artfully arranged into a progression. Kudos to the lyricist, Gianni Rodari!
If the English song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” adeptly teaches children different parts of the body, this one does the same, but with words related to nature.
This is one of those songs that crams plenty of vocabulary into a few lines and is an example of how to creatively learn new words by embedding them in a meaningful context.
Remember when you were a kid and adults would ask you what certain animals sounded like, and then they would laugh with delight when you went “woof! woof!” or “meow”?
As it turns out, this is a universal phenomenon and Italian kids have a tune that helps them remember animal names as well as the sounds they make.
“Il coccodrillo come fa?” is a song asking a very important question: “What sound does the crocodile make?” And along the way, it will definitely teach you a vocabulary word or two.
Actually, this song teaches you a little of everything: Useful interrogatives, nouns, pronouns and verbs are peppered throughout it. And if you want to milk it for all its worth, it would be worthwhile to do a line-by-line study.
(A word of warning, though: By the end, you will still have no idea what sound the crocodile makes.)
Easy Italian songs for beginners
If you’re a beginner, you want to start with easy Italian songs like these.
This is probably one of the biggest international hits in the history of Italian music.
Con te partirò (“With You I Will Leave”) talks about a journey.
The theme of the journey is presented in a romantic and poetic way. The artist dreams of rediscovering lost and new places thanks to the love of his partner in the journey of life.
If we take into account that Bocelli is blind, the meaning of the song acquire an extra value: he can see the light thanks to the sincerity of a true, intense feeling.
This is one of the greatest international successes of Italian music. The emotion of this song has no time, but it is worth listening to it (and learning it) not only for purely artistic reasons but also for linguistic ones.
Bocelli marks the words slowly, the music has a slow rhythm, so it is easy to understand the vocabulary and learn it. This is what makes this song perfect for a beginner learner of Italian.
We’ll bet you already know at least one of the many verbs in the infinitive featured in this 1958 classic: volare. The famous song has some catchy examples of them for beginners to memorize (as well as some juicy uses of the imperfect tense for those a bit further ahead).
Would you believe that this song was the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest of 1958, and won third place?
The song is a party of verbs, and you can find them in almost every line. So if you decide to give this song a go and actually sing it, don’t forget to move around and gesture away. Incidentally, Modugno’s interpretation, with his arms flailing and open wide, changed the way Italian singers performed. Gone were the days when they just stood still.
“Nel blu dipinto di blu” literal means in “The Blue Painted Blue”. This is a very classic Italian song, which is super popular abroad too. You may have heard it in its English version (with the title of “Volare” or “Fly” too.). The singer, Domenico Modugno, born in the Italian region of Puglia, was inspired to write this song to celebrate his land, its sea and blue sky. Personally, I love this song because its lyrics conjure up a feeling of freedom and light heartedness.
Learn how to use the infinitives with this renowned Italian song! You will spot some infinitive verbs like “volare” (to fly/flying) or “cantare” (to sing/singing) as well as the imperfect tense. This famous song also gives some catchy examples of Italian vocabulary and it is perfect for beginners but also for those a bit further ahead.
Domenico Modugno is considered one of the fathers of Italian music. He was born in Polignano a Mare, in Puglia, one of the most beautiful Italian towns, today Unesco world heritage. I travelled a few weeks ago to his birthpace (and I took a photo under Domenico’s statue) and if you get the chance I’d advice you to visit his town too as it’s stunning and one of the most perfect places to speak Italian (I wrote about it in this article)
Prepositions, those pesky little words like di and del and dei that have to agree with the word that follows them, are in abundance in this 1960s summer hit. Listen carefully and you’ll hear just about every variation – hopefully, the right one will be “sulle labbra” (on your lips) in no time.
If you don’t know him yet, you have to listen to our beloved Italian singer Lorenzo Jovanotti. First, we suggest to listen to this fun ballad in which he tells us about his complicated relationship with his girlfriend using a lot of past tenses. Here you can hear the difference between the perfect (“ha fatto”) and the imperfect (“faceva”).
Once you get to know this song, discover all the other popular Jovanotti songs, you will love his sound and his energy!
Get an introduction to one of Italy’s most famous living singers and a tutorial in describing the past all in one go. Spot the difference between the perfect (“ha fatto”) and the imperfect (“faceva”) as Jovanotti sings the story of a relationship that is far from – ahem – perfect.
Ready for the future? Mina the diva will help you learn it (at least the second-person singular) as she warns her lover that he’ll miss her when she’s gone. Give the chorus a few listens and we promise you “ricorderai” (will remember) and “capirai” (will understand) just fine.
Mina is definitely the most talented Italian singer of all time. With this song you get to know the diva and her style, while listening to a lot of future simple verbs in the second-person singular like “ricorderai” (will remember) and “capirai” (will understand). In this song, she warns her lover that he’ll miss her when she’s gone.
Almeno tu nell’universo (“At least you in the Universe”) is undoubtedly one of Mia Martini’s most beloved songs.
The song is about people’s inconsistencies. In a world full of “strange people”, there is no more space for feelings and love. But a woman is madly in love with a man who is unique in this strange world that is constantly changing.
This song is extremely useful to learn the use of “si” pronoun with reflexive and reciprocal verbs. It is a perfect Italian song for beginners. You can even enrich your vocabulary, getting to know more adjectives and adverbs.
L’emozione non ha voce (“Emotion has no voice”) is a beautiful hit by Adriano Celentano.
It is contained in the album io non so parlar d’amore (“I can’t talk about Love”) whose title is nothing but the opening sentence of the song.
The text is a confession of a man in love. He declares his difficulty in opening his heart and giving voice to his feelings. However, he hopes that their love will last for life and this can only happen if both the feelings are based on love, sincerity and trust. A great text, then, described by beautiful sounds and by the unique and suggestive voice of Adriano Celentano.
The rhythm and music are very slow, as well as the pronunciation of the singer, so this is an easy Italian song for beginners.
Solo noi (“Only us”) is the song with which Toto Cutugno won the 1980 Sanremo Festival. The single remained in the Italian top ten for several months.
The song is about a pair of lovers, their love and the end of their passion.
Felicità (“Happiness”) is an album published in 1982 by Albano Carrisi and Romina Power. It is known all over the world.
The Italian song explains the condition of joy, satisfaction, serenity and excitement that occur in people in a wave of optimism. It tries to express what this condition is, making comparisons and describing what do you feel in that particular moment.
It’s practically impossible not to be happy after listening to this song, not just for its fun and catchy rhythm, but also for the condition of Happiness that you will experience after having learned the numerous new words of the Italian vocabulary that are present in this text!
Baciami ancora (“Kiss Me Again”) is an Italian song by Jovanotti, made as the main theme of the “Baciami ancora” Italian movie by Gabriele Muccino, which won a David of Donatello as Best Original Song.
The song is about the crazy and very deep love that a man feels towards a woman he fell in love with a simple kiss… He is a man who would desperately want to try again the splendid sensations that the kiss gave himAfter listening to this song, you will be able to ask your Italian partner for more kisses and you will definitely learn how to express your love with a very poetic vocabulary.
Solo ieri (“Only yesterday”) by Eros Ramazzotti is an Italian song about loss.
A man is destroyed by the end of a great love that he thought it would last forever, but it all ended. He feels like there is nothing left to do and no purpose, that he can no longer believe in anything.
But then he makes a pass and decides that he wants to start again and build a new life.
Last but not least, I propose to you a Lucio Dalla song… The choice was really hard, because perhaps every Italian has a favorite Lucio Dalla song, although choosing one is a very difficult thing.
But surely everyone will agree that L’anno che verrà (“The incoming year”) has become over time one of the most characteristic songs of the bolognese singer, and certainly one of the most famous and beloved.
“Caro amico ti scrivo” (“Dear friend I write to you”) is probably one of the most famous incipits in the history of Italian music and immediately gives the idea of what we’re going to listen to: a letter to a friend.
This is a cover of the original song of Equipe 84, a famous Italian group of the 80’s and the 90’s. We suggest Giuliano Palma’s version because it sounds a bit more contemporary, but it’s worth listening to the original version also! With this song, you can improve your listening comprehension of present, simple future and also conditional tenses.
Written and performed by one of the greatest Italian songwriters, this song is considered almost like an Italian hymn.
Paolo Conte is very easy to understand as he speaks slowly, with a very clear Italian accent. This song is perfect to listen to indicative verbs and for the use of prepositions. His style is timeless, so even if this song was written in 1981 it is still current for the younger generation.
“Buonanotte Fiorellino” (Good Night Little Flower)
This catchy lullaby could be sung to a baby, a lover or just, as the name suggests, a flower.
This serenade is great to learn from because you listen to a lot of very simple vocabulary, though sometimes in the diminutive form like “fiorellino” (little flower) or “monetina” (little coin). Improving the Italian diminutive will help you in Italian conversation, when you want to be sweet and kind, or just want to talk about something small.
The lyrics are great to learn from because you get a lot of very simple vocabulary, though sometimes in diminutive form—fiorellino instead of fiore (flower), monetina instead of moneta (coin). The Italian diminutive comes into play frequently when you want to be cutesy, or of course just to talk about something being small or less consequential.
This song is about a short-lived love affair of an English girl and an Italian man, with the Trevi Fountain and Italian sunsets for a backdrop. It’s a change of pace from the previous three songs we just talked about. This one is nostalgic in tone. Nevertheless, it can lift the spirits of Italian learners everywhere with the wealth of linguistic lessons it has to offer.
You can mine the song for language points after wiping your tears away.
It’s replete with sentence structures, phrases, connectives and conjunctions that you can borrow to add nuance and richness to your Italian conversations. Examples include ma (but), mentre (while) and sempre (always).
This song is part of the soundtrack of a musical movie of the same name.
You’ve probably heard the melody to this one, but maybe with different lyrics.
The place referred to in the title is the charming waterfront district Borgo Santa Lucia in the Bay of Naples.
The song is a boatman’s invitation to passengers to ride his boat so they can enjoy that perfect night in the waters of Santa Lucia, where the waves are peaceful, the wind is favorable and the stars shimmer on the sea.
There are plenty of declarative sentences in the song, especially when the boatman describes the evening’s setting, like “placida è l’onda” (the wave is peaceful). The pace of the song is just right. And because of its ubiquitous tune and some well-placed repetition of lines, like the one above, you can very easily commit this song’s lyrics to memory.
A Christmas tune!
This one was written by Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori and is one of the most popular Christmas songs in Italy. If in the U.S. you hear “Jingle Bells” as you join the Christmas shopping rush in department stores, “Tu scendi dalle stelle” is the equivalent in Italy.
This song is about the Baby Jesus leaving glory and descending into a simple and poor existence (one without the warmth of fire on a cold winter’s night). It’s often sung by a children’s choir. You can be sure to hear it during a Christmas Eve mass at the Vatican.
This song is a good pick for the language learner because, as a lullaby for the Baby Jesus, it’s not too brisk for the absolute beginner. The verses are simply composed and there’s enough repetition in the lines so that you can pick up new Italian vocabulary in no time. And in terms of context, there’s nothing like the story of Christmas to make the message, thought and content of a song clear. In short, the whole thing is very sticky for the mind.
Italian songs for Intermediate level
At an intermediate level, these Italian songs can capture a language learner’s heart
If you already understand some words and want to expand your vocabulary, learn Italian with songs at an intermediate level.
Let’s listen to this song by Rino Gaetano. The title means the sky is always bluer. Once again, this is a controversial song. At a first glance, this song seems to be optimistic and lighthearted. At a deeper level, this songs actually highlights the issues and problems of Italian society in the 70s, such as corruption or social injustice – and some of the issues mentioned are unfortunately still true today.
Rino Gaetano was a popular singer of the 70s in Italy, famous for his socially and politically committed lyrics. This song tells about the contradictions within Italian society, looking at the fact that even if we all have different troubles and ambitions, the sky will always be blue for everyone. Here you will find many present verbs and a lot of vocabulary.
This Italian singer famous for his rough voice and he used his songs as a way to report social and political issues. He also wrote a book with the same title of this song, “Il cielo è sempre più blu”, in which he collected some of his songs; some of these songs were dedicated to important historical personalities like Louis Armstrong, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Martin Luther King e Mao Tse-tung. A pretty cool guy, Rino, who used his art as a means to serve society and so many Italian singers went down that path after him (see Jovanotti, above)
Rino Gaetano was a popular singer of the 70s in Italy, famous for his socially and politically astute lyrics. Ma Il Cielo è Sempre Più Blu looks at contradictions within society while pointing out that everyone lives under the same sky. Simple phrases like chi ruba, chi lotta, chi ha fatto la spia (who steals, who fights, who snitched) demonstrate straightforward verbs and sentence structure to beginners.
One of the greatest Italian songwriters, actors and directors, Adriano Celentano was the first who introduced rock’n’roll music in the country. This song is very popular also abroad and it is very representative of the Italian summer melancholy.
Azzurro is perfect to improve your listening comprehension and learn many Italian phrases and verbal structures like the present and the past perfect.
Tiziano Ferro, one of the most appreciated Italian singers abroad, is famous for his romantic songs, as they are all about love, feelings and complicated relationships. This song is particularly interesting if you want to deepen your knowledge of idiomatic expressions and Italian common phrases like “non me lo so spiegare” (I can’t explain it) or “l’aria che tirava” (the atmosphere).
The lyrics to this song are pretty approachable.
Love is tricky; Lucio Battisti compares it to flying. “Per diventare noi, veramente noi, uniti, indivisibili, vicini, ma irraggiungibili.” (In order to become us, truly us, united, indivisible, close, but unattainable.)
You can use all of the song’s great adjectives to talk about your own life and loves. “È bella perché è irraggiungibile” (she’s beautiful because she’s unattainable) is something I found myself saying last week, recalling this song. I had a special Italian someone in mind, but I’m pretty sure that the phrase could apply to a lot of Italian someones.
From Battisti’s song you can learn lots of great plural adjectives to talk about love and feelings, such as “uniti” (close), “indivisibili” (indivisible) or “irraggiungibili” (unattainable). He also uses some simple phrases to make comparisons, like “amarsi un po’ è come bere” (loving each other is like drinking). Moreover, you will understand the use of many Italian reflexive verbs like “guardarsi” (look at yourself) “avvicinarsi” (get closer) or “lasciarsi” (leave each other).
The lyrics of this Bob Dylan-esque tune seem resigned to a capitalist world where everything can and will be sold.
The Italian future tense is in play (venderò is the first-person future of vendere, to sell), so at least this hasn’t happened yet. But a lot of things are headed for the auction block, from my shoes (le mie scarpe) to my craziness (la mia pazzia) to my defeat (la mia sconfitta).
In a world where everything has its price, at the end the singer says no one knows quanto costa la mia libertà (how much my freedom costs). Or, it’s possible to interpret this line as “my freedom is really exhausting/a drag” because mi costa can be used to talk about things that are wearing on you.
While the vocabulary remains pretty simple throughout, there’s a lot more to enjoy and to take apart in this song. Here’s a few hints on the trickier points:
The first stanza calls up an image à la Pinocchio of a shop mannequin coming to life. The word manichino can also mean any inanimate figure, like “dummy.”
An automa on the other hand is animate, but still lifeless: a robot. There are a lot of non-thinking entities in this capitalist universe, aren’t there?
Raffaele is a Neapolitan version of “John Doe,” a blank whoever. The term throughout the rest of Italy is Mario Rossi.
The line “non ha fatto il soldato ma ha girato” (he didn’t serve as a soldier but he traveled) had confused me until it was explained that, a number of decades back, the only way that many Italian men left their home city was through their military service. This was such a part of common culture that fare il soldato was almost synonymous with getting out to see the world (or at least other parts of Italy). This idea no longer applies.
And we’re back to the song I mentioned in the introduction, whose lyrics ask what love is, then suggest we might as well ask the wind (il vento), the wardrobe (la guardarobiera) or the door (la porta).
It all seems rather hopeless, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the night and dawn (livid with mist!) together.
You’ll see the title (an abbreviated form of the standard che cosa è l’amore? — literally, what thing is love?) spelled a number of ways on the Internet, particularly with a double ss, as in the video title above. This isn’t surprising, as Capossela pronounces it with a hissed s instead of a z sound; this happens in some parts of Italy, and among some speakers.
The refrain “sono il re della cantina” translates as “I am the king of the wine cellar.” This can mean either that I really know my wines, or that I am a drunk.
As unbelievably sappy as this song can seem to foreigners, my Italians love it.
And, in any case, Franco Battiato is a musical hero in Italy, so if you want to speak the language you must at least be able to recognize the name when he comes up in conversations. “È un mito soltanto italiano,” I have been told, meaning that he’s a hero only to Italians.
The lyrics deal with how devoted the singer is to the objects of his affections. He will relieve her from pain, her mood swings, her obsessions and her delusions. How sweet.
Singer-songwriter, composer, filmmaker and painter Franco Battiato is known for his eclectic approach to music. As well as trying out many musical styles, Battiato often features philosophical and esoteric themes in his lyrics. Not for beginners, La Cura is a masterclass in poetic devices with plenty of complex vocabulary to study.
This song by the lush-voiced Irene Conti doesn’t have too much tricky vocabulary, but knowing the themes involved can make it easier to get a handle on. The lyrics are on-screen in the video, and you can also get the full lyrics in the notes if you click over to YouTube.
It certainly seems at first that she’s singing about a woman holding her dying child (una madre sta gridando perché il figlio sta morendo — a mother is screaming because her son is dying).
And things get worse: people are complicity watching and the sacrificato (sacrificed one) is eaten as meat.
It turns out that we’re dealing with everyday meat-eating as seen from a rather vegetarian perspective here.
This message becomes clear in the last line, “vivere l’uomo come tale/come ogni altro animale.” (Man living like this/Like any other animal.) I’ve always found the irony in vegetarianism to be exactly there; we think we’re peers with other animals, therefore we can’t eat bear to eat them, but then if we remove ourselves from this natural process to become vegetarian, we think we in fact do have a moral superiority to animals.
Whatever the case, this song clearly wants to mesh our feelings about humans and animals.
The lyrics for this rock ballad could be interpreted in a few ways, but it’s definitely not an ode to moisturizers.
The key line to me is “voglio un pensiero superficiale/che renda la pelle splendida” (I want a superficial thought/that makes the skin beautiful).
There’s something beautiful in the superficial, the skin-deep, isn’t there? Or at least, such thoughts are much less terrifying and painful than those of deep, true love. After all, “l’amore [è] un rogo” (love [is] a bonfire/pyre), as the song tells us.
This one is one of my all time favourite songs. If you go to an Italian karaoke night you can be sure you’ll hear (and sing!) this song.
As you may know already, 50 Special is a kind of Vespa, the popular Italian scooter manufactured by the Italian brand Piaggio, which has become one of the symbols of Italian culture. This super cheerful song sings about the good times you have when riding a Vespa and the singer, Cesare Cremonini also celebrates and sings about the beautiful, summery, landscape of his native Italian region, Emilia Romagna. I bet you’d love to travel around the “colli bolognesi” with a Vespa too!
50 Special is sung by the Italian group Lunapop, which split up a few years ago. But the main singer, Cesare Cremonini, is still very active on the Italian music scene. His songs have often a very relaxing rhythm, and the lyrics can be at times deep, but also inspiring, like this one:
Ragazzo fortunato means “lucky boy” (in Italian the adjective goes after the noun!). It tells the story of a young boy who feels lucky and grateful for the little things in life. A song to sing when you feel happy about life, and we Italians love celebrating life, aka the “dolce vita” (sweet life). Personally, I love this line of the song ” Se devo dirla tutta, qui non è il paradiso ma all’inferno delle veritá, io mento col sorriso,” (If I have to say it all, here’s not the heaven, but in this hell of truths, I lie with a smile.).
This song is by Lorenzo Cherubini, aka Jovanotti, who is a famous Italian rapper. Despite having a cheerful and upbeat rhythm, his songs often carry an important message to make people aware of social issues and injustice.
Certe notti means “some nights”. This song describes a seemingly lighthearted Italian night amongst friends. In a way, this song has different levels of interpretation. On the one hand, it celebrates the lightheartedness of Italian people, on the other, it draws attention to the shallowness of some people’s lives. This song is so popular that has been parodied many times.
Ligabue is one of the most famous Italian pop-rock singers, second only to Vasco Rossi (more about Vasco below). Ligabue has been on the Italian music scene since the 80s and if you love his voice and his songs, you can find quite a few of them on LyricsTraining.
“Vado al massimo” means “I go full out” and is an evergreen Italian song by Vasco Rossi which you always find at Karaoke night. This is the kind of song that you’d listen to to give yourself a boost of energy and enthusiasm. The lyrics of this song are not particularly meaningful or deep but they play a lot with word sounds and assonance of words.
A little cultural anecdote about this song: The Italian world champion racer Valentino Rossi told in a few interviews that one of his rituals prior to a race is to listen to this song to get a boost of motivation…so he could go full out!
Vasco Rossi is a real rockstar in Italy and if you like pop rock music,you should definitely listen to his songs. Some of them are also on LyricsTraining for you to get some practice too.
Perdono means “forgiveness” or “sorry” and, as you may infer from he title, this song is all about forgiveness within a love story. Most Italian popular songs are love songs because, you know, Italian people are fairly romantic and passionate. By the way, from a linguistic point of view, if you can sing this song at its real speed, you’re an Italian pronunciation master.
Tiziano Ferro is the author and singer of this song and is a worldwide famous singer, who has sung not only in Italian but also Spanish, French and Portuguese. When he first started his singing career, he was fairly innovative as he managed to bring a mix of different genres into Italian popular music, like Pop, Blues, Soul, Rhythm and blues.
Superbs Italian songs for advanced level
If you already understand Italian at an intermediate level or above, you can appreciate the subtleties of these Italian lyrics.
Learn Italian with song through their wonderfully melodramatic tunes.
Used to give orders, commands and instructions, imperatives are the most direct way to put a point across – and Bambina Impertinente is full of them. Carmen Consoli also threw in a few uses of the problematic congiuntivo as well so there’s no excuse not to get practicing.
In the lyrics of this psychedelic song you can spot some verbal construction to give orders, commands and instructions, using the imperative. Carmen Consoli has a sicilian accent, so it’s better to listen to her songs if you have an advanced level of language comprehension. Here she also uses the ever so problematic Italian subjunctive, so there’s no excuse for not practicing!
This one goes out to anyone who’s ever struggled with the subtleties of the subjunctive. The hit of this year’s Sanremo Festival, this tongue-in-cheek tutorial is a reminder that’s it’s not only foreign students who can’t get the congiuntivo quite right. Lorenzo Baglioni’s conjugation of the present, perfect, imperfect and past perfect subjunctive are a grammar teacher’s delight.
This song is very useful to those who struggle with the Italian subjunctive. It was the hit of Sanremo Festival 2017, Italy’s most important music festival. Through the lyrics, you will learn many tenses of the subjunctive, like the present, perfect, imperfect and past perfect as if you were in an Italian grammar class but, at the same time, enjoying the music. Baglioni recounts how difficult it is also for an Italian native speaker to use the subjunctive correctly, so that you can always remember that Italians and foreigners share the same struggle!
Another masterpiece from the Italian Diva Mina. In this song the words are quite easy to understand, but to fully grasp the meaning of hypothetical phrases you should have an advanced level of Italian listening comprehension. You will also find the passive form “è già finito” (“it’s already finished” meaning “it’s already over”).
Fabrizio De Andrè was a great Italian songwriter, also known as the “poet of the losers”, as his songs are all about about poor and miserable people. What makes him stand out is that he usually wrote songs in different Italian dialects, leaving an amazing folk music heritage in Italy.
In this ballad, you will find some interesting examples of the use of the Italian past tense passato remoto, such as “disse” (he said), “andò” (he went) or “fu” (he was), as well as the correct use of the imperfect tense.
Daniele Silvestri songs are well known for their rhythm and groovy melodies. He is politically committed and there is often a message within his songs. His language is quite metaphoric, so it would be hard for an intermediate or a beginner level to fully grasp the meaning of the lyrics. In this song we find many verbal structures: the simple future “salirò” (I will go up) and the use of the conditional tense “preferirei” (I would prefer).
Max Gazzè is a pop-rock Italian musician. His song will be stuck in your head for a long time! Here you will listen to lots of hypotheticals such as “se fossi” (if I were), some verbal structure, new vocabulary and common Italian expressions like “prendere la vita com’è” (take it easy) or “ammazzare il tempo” ( killing time).
With this rap song you will learn many aspects of the Italian culture, as Caparezza is the most culturally and politically committed artist of the Italian contemporary music scene. At the beginning it will be slightly difficult to understand every single word, because of the fast rhythm, but once you get used to this song, you will be able to learn new and refined Italian vocabulary and a lot of idiomatic expressions too!
As one of Italy’s most famous and most influential musicians, Lucio Battisti is often selected by Italian teachers as a starting point for discovering the country’s rich musical heritage. La Canzone del Sole is clear, comprehensible and tells the story of two lovers meeting again after years apart.
Super 90s, incredibly cheesy and yet infectiously uplifting, Bella by Jovanotti will have even the most reluctant beginner singing along in no time. What’s more, the adjective-laden lyrics are great for developing everyday vocabulary. After mastering Bella, move on to some more Jovanotti classics like Tanto, Tanto, Tanto and Mi Fido di Te.
La differenza tra Me e Te (“The difference between Me and You”) is a very famous Italian song by the Italian singer-songwriter Tiziano Ferro. It talks about the differences between two people, making comparisons and describing two different ways to be.
Sang by the slippery smooth Tiziano Ferro, this song explores how opposites attract and two very different individuals can create the perfect match. After a few listens you’ll be better equipped to have deep and meaningful talks with your new Italian love interest.
Native Italian speakers often talk at what seems like lightning-speed to a beginner, so slow things down with this ballad by songstress Arisa. Singing about how she feels during the lonely hours of the night without that special someone, Arisa helpfully provides lots of vocabulary about the human body – ginocchia, stomaco, fegato, and testa all feature.
Which is your favorite of these top 56 Italian songs to learn Italian?
They by no means reflect the vast and varied landscape of Italian music, but I hope they’ll give you a sneak peek into the way Italians think. In popular Italian music, you’ll often find the lighthearted Italian way of looking at life but you may also find more meaningful songs with lyrics which talk about social issues or rave about the beauty of our Italian land. And, yes, we have some love stories here and there too!
Over to you! sing your way to Italian fluency.
Do you know an Italian song that you love and you’d like to share with us? What do you like about it and how did it help you learn the lovely Italian language?
Share it in the comments below as I’d love to sing it along!
By the way, if you sing Italian opera more or less professionally, there’s a website to learn how to pronounce Italian lyrics: “Italian for singers”.
Keep singing and enjoy your learning.
To expand your repertoire of expressions, check out my collection of Italian idioms, Italian sayings, Italian proverbs, Italian quotes, Italian hand gestures or even Italian swear words, just for a laugh.