Top 13 most popular Italian songs that everybody sings
In this article you will discover the list of the most popular Italian songs ever.
You would agree that throughout the history of music, there are certain songs that convey such emotion that they become well-known songs around the world.
Besides, as you know, music is a great gateway to understand and learn about the culture of a place and it’s no different from Italian.
They even serve you to improve your Italian language skills as they might be more familiar to you to start with, therefore, easier to learn the lyrics and sing along with them.
Italians love singing their hearts out. So, we don’t see a better way to give your Italian cultural and fluency skills a musical boost!
Let’s dive into the music.
#1 Funiculì funiculà (Funicular up, funicular down) – 1880
I’m sure you’ll recognise this one from popular Italian songs but just never knew its name!
It’s a humorous Neapolitan song composed by Luigi Denza inspired by the inauguration of a funicular to the summit of Vesuvius.
Since its publication, it has been widely adapted and recorded. It has appeared in films, series, shows, videogames, animes, commercials…
Maybe the most famous version it’s the one sung by Luciano Pavarotti.
#2 O sole mio (My own sunshine) – 1898
It might well be the most popular Neapolitan song in the world.
Being the sun an integral part of Naples.
Has been performed and covered by many artists being Luciano Pavarotti’s the one that won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for his rendition of « ’O sole mio ».
And also Elvis got a clear inspiration for his It’s now or never.
It went beyond the boundaries of music as writer Proust quoted it in one of the volumes of his In search of lost time.
#3 Tu vuò fa’ l’Americano (You Want to Be American) – 1956
Combining swing and jazz it became a worldwide success.
Nicola « Nisa » Salerno wrote and brought three texts to be set to music to Renato Carosone to entering a radio contest.
It took Carosone just 15 minutes to create one of the most popular Italian songs after seeing the lyrics of Nicola.
It’s generally considered a satire of the rural and traditional Italian’s Americanization that took place in the first years after World War II.
Talks about a boy who tries to imitate the American lifestyle of the time, drinking whisky and soda, dancing to rock ‘n roll, playing baseball and smoking Camel cigarettes, but he’s still dependent on his parents for money.
#4 Volare, nel blu dipinto di blu (To fly, in the blue-painted blue [sky]) – 1958
Who doesn’t know this hit?
It’s estimated that has been covered at least 100 times. Among others by Barry White, Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong…
Written by singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno and Franco Migliacci when the latter was waiting for Domenico to show up to go to the sea.
Franco started drinking wine and eventually fell asleep and had vivid dreams. He woke up and looked at two paintings on the wall: Le coq rouge with a yellow man suspended in midair and Le peintre et la modelle in which the painter’s face was coloured blue.
That’s how he started writing about a man who dreams of painting himself blue and being able to fly.
#5 Quando, quando, quando (When, when, when) – 1962
This song became a massive international hit that year.
It has been translated into Vietnamese, German, Portuguese, Spanish and English.
It has been used in a number of films such as The Blues Brothers, After Hours, and Superman Returns. Also in the episode of The Simpsons titled The Real Housewives of Fat Tony.
It’s a bossa nova/samba style song with original lyrics written by Alberto Testa and music written by Tony Renis who wrote and produced many memorable songs for artists like Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Julio Iglesias, Andrea Bocelli…
#6 Parole, parole (Words, Words) – 1972
At least one hit interpreted by a couple!
Originally interpreted by Mina and Alberto Lupo, in 1973 the song was translated into French and performed by the duet Alain Delon and Dalida and became a worldwide hit, being even performed by Céline Dion!
This song intertwines the female singer’s lamentation of the end of love and the lies she has to hear from the male singer who compliments her over and over. She scoffs at those compliments he gives her, calling them merely words (parole).
There are versions in English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Croatian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, and even Vietnamese!
#7 Gloria – 1979
In the original lyrics, Umberto Tozzi, tells that he is dreaming about an imaginary woman named Gloria.
The cover version by American singer Laura Branigan made it number two on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The song describes a man living his days in misery, but when dreaming of Gloria, he becomes free.
Gloria is described as a queen of imagination that comes from fascination, not from fantasy. He further elaborates that he has always set Gloria free from him, just as he has been set free from reality.
His friends think he is crazy, but he argues that they have never met Gloria (having no proof of her existence).
The man sets all his life to search for Gloria to accomplish the goal of realizing his dreams despite everyone else’s protests.
#8 Felicità (Happiness) – 1982
Firstly performed by one of the most famous duos in Italian music, Al Bano and Romina Power, on the stage of the San Remo music festival in which the duo took second place.
The song became very popular and ranked high in the charts not only in Italy but in the whole of Europe receiving the Golden Globe music award for its commercial success.
It talks about the infinite, happiness, summer, peace around the world, love, dreams, music…
Ecco la felicità!
#9 Senza una donna (Without a woman) – 1987
A smooth and rhythmic rock ballad written by Zucchero when he was almost divorcing and living in a small house by himself, trying to save his marriage.
He didn’t want to include it in his album at the moment because he thought it was too simple, but his manager and producer convinced him to do it.
Thank goodness he listened to them!
After re-recording it in English with Paul Young, the song became a massive hit.
#10 La solitudine (The Loneliness) – 1993
Sung by Laura Pausini, the song conveys the emotional pain and loneliness a girl feels after her boyfriend, Marco, is separated and sent to live far away from her at the urging of his family.
It reached #1 on the Italian music charts and became a big hit in Italy.
And given the success, it was released in the rest of Europe, reaching top positions in French, Dutch and Belgian music charts.
With the Spanish version, the song charted in top positions in Spain and in the United States in the Billboard Latin Songs Lists.
It has also an English version and covers recorded in Greek, Dutch, Portuguese, English, and Filipino!
#11 Con te partirò (With You I Shall Leave) – 1995
Performed or the first time by Andrea Bocelli at the Sanremo Music Festival, it was not commercially successful in Italy and received little radio airplay there.
Elsewhere, however, it was a massive hit.
In France and Switzerland, the single topped the charts for six weeks, earning a triple Gold sales award. In Belgium, it became the biggest hit of all-time, spending 12 weeks at No. 1.
With a second version, sung partially in English with Sarah Brightman, the song achieved even greater success, topping charts all across Europe.
After making several other versions mixing Italian, Spanish, English and German, it sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.
#12 Vivo per lei (I live for her) – 1995
The lyrics of this song were rewritten with the characteristic that in the new lyrics lei (her) refers to music whereas in the original song lei refers to a girl.
The new version by Gatto Panceri and Andrea Bocelli clearly represents the importance of music for Bocelli as the pillar and love of his life: « I live for her ».
Thus, this moving song became a tribute to music being translated and interpreted in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek.
#13 Piu bella cosa che c’è (The Most Beautiful Thing) – 1996
There’s nothing much to say about this song that hasn’t just said in the lyrics.
Written by Eros Ramazzotti and dedicated to his girlfriend at the time, the Swiss model Michelle Hunziker.
It won the « Best Song » award and the MTV Europe Gold Awards in 1997 and its Spanish version peaked to number two in the United States Latin Songs’ chart.
These popular Italian songs will get you started
Here you have quite a selection of music to get started with Italian musical culture.
But be careful.
After writing the article, we’ve got massive earworms for a whole week!
Now tell us, how many of them did you already know?
You might be also interested in how to boost your Italian pronunciation, getting to know the most common Italian false friends, or take your Italian to the next level with our Italian Live Courses.