Three favorite Italian songs


When an Italian classmate asked about the lyrics to a Bob Marley song, it was a lightbulb moment for me. We were on a field trip from Milan to Assisi, and the song was playing on the bus. Even though I’d heard it many times, beyond the refrain I had no idea what Bob Marley was singing. More significantly, I knew that just listening to it again would not help. And yet my Italian classmate thought his English must be terrible because he couldn’t understand the lyrics. 

So English-speakers-learning-Italian rejoice: you can (eventually) understand the lyrics to most Italian songs just by listening. Below are three of my favorite songs, each picked not only for the music and the lyrics but for a language-learning milestone. And coming soon: a few posts on my friend Guido’s picks for the best Italian songs, ever.


1) Il Gatto e La Volpe, Edoardo Bennato

I learned this song my very first week in Italy – when I spoke absolutely no Italian – as an AFS exchange student during orientation week. Our Italian hosts played the guitar, and we sang this over and over, sitting around a campfire on Lake Como. We foreigners could only sing a few words from the refrain, but I’ll never forget them.

2) Non l’hai mica capito, by Vasco Rossi

Apart from the fact that I just like this song (and Vasco Rossi is just, well, Vasco), at the time I heard it, I was trying to figure out how the Italian expressions “ti voglio bene” and “ti amo” were different. In English they both translate as “I love you”, though the former is used for family and friends, and the latter is what we’d associate with “in love”. As a linguist, I find it fascinating that certain cultures and languages express this nuance with different words, while others, like English, rely on context. 

3) Le Cose in Comune by Daniele Silvestri

I don’t remember where I first heard this song, but I’d already learned Italian, and the tongue-in-cheek lyrics about relationships made me smile. The lyrics are about everything the two people have in “common”, including both being born in the ’60s, ordering the same potatoes at the same restaurant, and even having the same bones. And not only that. Silvestri sings: “when I sleep, you sleep. When I cry, you cry. When I laugh, you laugh….”. And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear my favorite line: “when I cry, you laugh….”

While I was writing this post, I found out about a brand new website dedicated to learning Italian through music, and submitted my 3 songs. So if you’re interested in the full lyrics in Italian or their English translation, head over to Italyrics!

Are there any Italian songs that have helped you learn the language? Write them in the comments, or go submit them to Italyrics!

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  1. Barbara
    August 24, 2010

    Learning a language through music, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to learn all the nuances and phrasing of the language! Even though my parents spoke Italian to me ever since I was born, I improved it tremendously after beginning to listen to artists such as Andrea Bocelli and Eros Ramazzotti, whose lyrics are extremely clear! Thanks for the post and I agree wholeheartedly!

  2. Madeline
    August 24, 2010

    Thanks Barbara! I love Ramazzotti and Bocelli too – and they both feature in my friend Guido’s upcoming list of best Italian music…

  3. Giulia
    August 30, 2010

    I agree with you, music improve listening skills and makes learning fun! When I was teaching italian, I often suggested the songs of Fabrizio de André – I love them and I think they’re easy to understand because of his way of singing. La Guerra di Piero is one of my favourite. (

  4. Madeline
    August 30, 2010

    Giulia I love that song! Thanks for including the link – hadn’t listened to it in years. Also Bocca di Rosa…

  5. Giulia
    August 31, 2010

    Mi fa davvero piacere 🙂 Bocca di Rosa, of course, is also beutiful!

  6. Andy
    September 17, 2010

    Since decades, the station is no longer serving the Genova-La Spezia line, so you’ll never get on a train “alla stazione di Sant’Ilario”!
    You can almost “streetview” it, however:
    Should be at the end of the narrow “no exit” road running to the left of the building on the right.

  7. Madeline
    September 19, 2010

    Thanks Andy! I didn’t know that detail about Bocca di Rosa…


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