Celebrating Italy’s Eurovision winning songs for Festa della Repubblica
Today marks the 75th anniversary of Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) in Italy. On this day in 1946 a referendum was held to decide the form of government at the end of Fascism after World War II.
To mark the day, we take a look at Italy's previous Eurovision winning entries before their third big win this year with Måneskin's ‘Zitti E Buoni’.
We will look at the history behind each song and interesting facts and stats on Italy’s previous two Eurovision winning entires.
Before Italy's first win
It took Italy eight years to be hailed as Eurovision winners since the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956.
Over that time they finished in the top 5 three times with two entries finishing in third place. They were Domenico Modugno’s ‘Nel blu, dipinto di blu’ in 1958 which went on to be know as ‘Volare’, becoming a worldwide hit which even reached No. 1 in the United States and winning the first Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
Their second third placed entry was Emilio Pericoli’s ‘Uno per tutte’ in 1963. It was only a matter of time until the stars aligned for Italy to garner a win.
Italy’s first Eurovision title - Gigliola Cinquetti’s BIG win
Gigliola Cinquetti won Italy's most popular song contest Sanremo (which predates Eurovision) in 1964 and got the honour to perform her Sanremo winning entry ‘Non Ho I’Eta (per amarti)’ at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Cinquetti secured Italy's first Eurovision win at just 16-years-old with her ballad ‘Non Ho I’Eta (per amarti)’. The song translates to ‘I'm not old enough (to love you)’ and is written by Nicola Salerno and Mario Panzeri. The song has Cinquetti asking to be allowed to start playing in the game of love in her own time. Rather controversial given her age, but her performance was eloquent and convincing.
Cinquetti’s performance received an enthusiastic reaction from the audience in the concert hall, she got such a reception that she was allowed to return to the stage for a second bow. It was so well received that in the United Kingdom her performance was given an unscheduled repeat on British television the following day after the Contest.
She won the Contest with 49 points, the most points awarded to a Eurovision winning song at the time. 32 points ahead of the runner up Matt Monro from the United Kingdom.
Interestingly in the first year that Italy won there were four zero points awarded to Germany, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Switzerland. We saw a repeat of this with Italy’s win this year when four countries received zero points in the televote. Four countries were again awarded to zero points the following year when the Contest was hosted in Naples in 1965.
‘Non Ho I’Eta (per amarti)’ was so popular that Cinquetti recorded ‘Non Ho I’Eta (per amarti)’ in multiple languages, including ‘This is My Prayer’ in English, 'No Tengo Edad’ in Spanish, ‘Je suis à toi’ in French, ‘Luna nel blu’ in German and ‘Yumemiru Omoi’ in Japanese. The song reached No. 1 in Belgium and France and hit the top 20 in the United Kingdom peaking at No. 17.
10 years later Cinquetti went on to represent Italy yet again at Eurovision with the song ‘Si’ just losing out to ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’. Interestingly that year Italy refused to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest on RAI because Cinquetti's song coincided with the intense political campaigning for the 1974 Italian referendum on divorce which was held a month later in May. ‘Si’ went on to chart in the top 10 in the United Kingdom peaking at No. 8.
Interesting facts and stats about the Eurovision 1964 winning entry
Cinquetti was the youngest winner to win the contest at just 16-years-old, a record she held for 22 years until 1986 when Sandra Kim won for Belgium with ‘J'aime la vie’ when she was just 13 years old.
‘Non Ho I’Eta’ was the first Italian language song to win Eurovision
First Eurovision win for a country in Southern Europe
‘Non Ho I’Eta (per amarti)’ received eight set of the full 5 points available from jury from the following countries Austria, Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.
She won with 49 points the most in Eurovision history at the time up until 1971.
Italy’s second Eurovision title - Toto “unites unites” Europe
26 years after Italy’s first Eurovision win, Toto Cutugno went on to take the Eurovision trophy for Italy yet again with the song, ‘Insieme: 1992’. In 1990 RAI internally selected the Eurovision artist and song instead of using the winner of Sanremo. Though Cutugno did finish as the runner up in the 1990 Sanremo with the song ‘Gli amori’. He did win Sanremo 10 years earlier in 1980 with ‘Solo noi’.
The anthemic ‘Insieme: 1992’ translates to 'Together: 1992' and was written by Cutugno himself. The song is about wanting a united Europe. A lot was happening in Europe, change was coming and Cutugno captured it.
In November 1989 the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany came down. This event inspired Eurovision 1990 where three songs were about the wall being torn down, but it was Italy’s song of a unified Europe that captured the zeitgeist of 1990. Though we did see the reunification of Germany occurring on 3 October 1990 five months after Eurovision.
The song resonated as it was seen to be about the upcoming uniting of Western Europe via the Single Market in 1992 and the formal beginnings of the European Union.
‘Insieme: 1992’ won with 149 points, 17 points ahead of France, despite France receiving an impressive six set of douze points. Italy collected with three sets of douze points, and points from every country bar from the United Kingdom and Norway.
The song reached the top 10 across the European music charts including in Austria, Belgium, France and peaking at No. 2 in Switzerland.
Interesting facts and stats about the Eurovision 1990 winning entry
Cutugno became the oldest Eurovision winner at the time, aged 46 years and 302 days. He held this record up until 2001 when Dave Benton won for Estonia with Tanel Padar and 2XL at the age of 50 years with the song ‘Everybody’.
He was also the first Eurovision winner aged in his forties since 1958 when André Claveau won for France with ‘Dors, mon amour’.
Italy’s win in 1990 saw France come second, a feat repeated this year with an Italian winner, Måneskin winning the contest with a French runner up in Barbara Pravi. France came second again in 1991 in Rome their best result up until 2021, which was France's their fifth runner up place.
Cutugno sang ‘Insieme: 1992’ with a backing group of five singers from Slovenia. The five singers were part of the group Pepel In Kri, who represented Yugoslavia at Eurovision in 1975.
Gigliola and Toto unite
The Eurovision Song Contest 1991 would see Italy’s two Eurovision winners unite as hosts for the Rome Contest, which was initially meant to take place at Sanremo but was relocated to a more secure city due to the Gulf War and tensions in Yugoslavia. Both artists performed their Eurovision songs in the show.
Cinquetti was gracious in her role as host, Cutugno not so much, I’ll let you watch it for yourself here and be the judge.
Hopefully we get to see Cinquetti and Cutugno reunite on the Eurovision stage in Italy 2022, maybe even with this years winners Måneskin.