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February is almost here, and so is the Festival di Sanremo, an annual 5 day song competition held in the Ligurian seaside town of Sanremo.  The full name is Festa della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo, and it is the longest running national televised music competition in the world.

In 1950. Piero Bussetti of the Sanremo Casino and Giulio Razzi, conductor of the RAI orchestra decided to launch a competition for previously unreleased songs to boost the local economy.  The first edition was broadcast live on RAI radio in January 1951 with 3 participants performing 20 songs.  Since 1955 it has been broadcast live on television.

From 1951-1977 it was held at the Sanremo Casino.  Since 1977 it has been at the iconic Teatro Ariston. The Festival di Sanremo is a huge media event in Italia and has launched many careers, including Domenico Modugno, Mina, Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, Il Volo, Giorgia, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Mahmood and most recently Måneskin. I love to watch Sanremo every year with mamma!  The winner has the first option to represent Italia at the annual Eurovision Song Contest.  Eurovision is huge in Europe with 39 countries participating, but hardly known at all in North America.  Last year’s Sanremo winners, Måneskin also won Eurovision with their brilliant song ‘Zitti e Buoni’.  As the reigning country, Italia hosts Eurovision in 2022- May 10-14 in Torino.

The 72nd edition of the Festival di Sanremo is February 1-5, 2022, broadcast live on RAI (RAI International for the rest of us).  It will be hosted for the third time by Amedeus, with different cohosts. There will be performances by former winners, Italian, international guest artists and the hilarious comic Fiorello.  Superospite (superguests) include Mäneskin February 1 and Golden Globe winner/Oscar nominee Laura Pausini February 2! The rest are a surprise! It is not confirmed yet, but there will likely be a decreased capacity audience.

The award goes to the winning song, although in most cases the performers are also the songwriters and/ or composers.  This year, there are 25 contestants, including  the top 3 winners from the junior contest, ‘Sanremo Giovani’.  Judging is complex and contestants perform with the backing of the full RAI orchestra-complete with maestro.

Here is a summary of what happens each night:

Night #1 and #2 February 1 and 2 -12-13 of the contestants perform each night and there are no eliminations.  Voting is 33% TV and print media jury, 33% web media jury and 33% radio jury.

Night #3 February 3 – All 25 contestants perform, no eliminations.  Voting is 50% demoscopic jury* and 50% televoting.

Night #4 February 4 ‘Covers night’.  Each artist/group performs a song from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  They can perform solo or invite an acclaimed Italian or international artist as a guest.  Voting is 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

Final night #5 February 5.  There are 2 rounds the final night.  In round 1 all 25 acts perform.  Voting is 100% from televoting.  The top 3 proceed to round 2, the Superfinale.  Voting is reset and all 3 superfinalists perform again.  The winner is decided by 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

*Demoscopic jury=made up of a sample of the population.  Jurors are selected by statistical criteria to represent the country at large.

The lineup of contestants includes 3 icons, 7 former winners and many former contestants, 6 who have represented Italia at Eurovision and a few debut acts.  Here is a list of the 25 performers, the song titles and a few other details to help you watch and enjoy the festival:

  • Achille Lauro – ‘Domenica’. Achille gave 4 stunning ‘shock glam’ performances as a guest last year.  This is his 3rd time as a participant. He will be teaming up with Loredana Bertè for covers night.
  • Aka7even – ‘Perfetta cosi’ Luca Marzano won Best Italian act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2021. He released his first album in May.
  • Ana Mena – ‘Duecentomila ore’. Ana is a Spanish singer and actress and was a guest for cover night in 2020.
  • Dargen D’Amico – ‘Dove si balla’
  • Elisa – ‘O forse sei tu’. 2001 Sanremo winner for ‘Luce’ and 4 guest appearances. She performed at the closing ceremonies of the Torino Olympics.
  • Emma – ‘Ogni volta è cosi’. Emma Marrone is the 2012 Sanremo winner for ‘Non è l’inferno’. She has made guest appearances, co-hosted, and is now back performing 10 years later. Emma represented Italia at Eurovision 2014. For covers night, she is performing Britney Spears’ ‘Baby hit me one more time’ with Francesca Michielin.
  • Fabrizio Moro – ‘Sei tu’. 2018 Sanremo winner with Ermal Meta for ‘Non mi avete fatto niente’ and represented Italia at Eurovision.  This is Fabrizio’s 6th time performing. He also won the Giovani category in 2007.
  • Gianni Morandi – ‘Apri tutte le porte’. An Italian legend, 77 year old Gianni is a former host, 5 time participant and 1987 winner with Enrico Ruggeri and Umberto Tozzi for ‘Si puo dare di più’.  He represented Italia at Eurovision in 1970.
  • Giovanni Truppi – ‘Tuo padre, mia madre, Lucia’
  • Giusy Ferreri – ‘Miele’. Giusy placed 2nd in the 1st edition of X Factor Italia in 2008.  She is the most successful Italian artist to emerge from a talent show. This is her 4th time at Sanremo.
  • Highsnob & Hu – ‘Abbi cura di te’
  • Irama – ‘Ovunque sarai’ Irama was not able to perform live last year due one of his staff testing COVID positive. He placed 5th based on his pre-recorded rehearsal performance!
  • Iva Zanicchi – ‘Voglio amarti’. The 82 year old singer and politician won Sanremo 3 times (1967, 1969, 1974) during her 60 year career and has been a guest and juror. She represented Italia at Eurovision in 1969.
  • La Rappresentante di Lista (LRDL) – ‘Ciao Ciao’. This is duo Veronica Lucchesi and Dario Mangiaracina’s second time at Sanremo, including a cover night guest performance.
  • Le Vibrazioni – ‘Tantissimo’ This is the group’s 4th time at Sanremo.
  • Mahmood e Blanco – ‘Brividi’. Mahmood (Alessandro Mahmoud) is the 2019 Sanremo winner and 2ndplace Eurovision winner with the catchy ‘Soldi’. He was a guest performer the past 2 years and wrote or cowrote several of the competing songs in 2021. He is performing with 18 year old Blanco Fabbriconi who recently released his first album.
  • Massimo Ranieri – ‘Lettera al di là del mare’. 1988 Sanremo winner for ‘Perdere l’amore’. This is his 6th time participating as well as guest appearances and judging Sanremo Giovani in 2016. Massimo represented Italia at Eurovision in 1971 and 1973. For Covers night, he will be performing a Pino Daniele song with Nek!
  • Matteo Romano – ‘Virale’ (Sanremo Giovani 3rd place)
  • Michele Bravi – ‘Inverno dei Fiori’. Michele is the winner of the 7th edition of X Factor Italia in 2013. This is his 2nd time at Sanremo.
  • Noemi – ‘Ti amo non lo so dire’. 4th time in competition. Noemi was on X Factor in 2009 and a judge for The Voice of Italy 2013-15.
  • Rettore e Ditonellapiaga – ‘Chimica’ Donatella Rettore is an 80’s icon best known for ‘Kobra’. This is her 5th time at Sanremo and she was a guest last year on Covers night. She is performing with first timer Ditonellapiaga.
  • Rkomi – ‘Insuperabile’ The successful Italian rapper makes his Sanremo debut.
  • Sangiovanni – ‘Farfalle’. Making his Sanremo debut, the 18 year old released his first album in May.  His song ‘Malibu’ had the most listens on Spotify Italy in 2021.
  • Tananai – ‘Sesso occasionale’ (Sanremo Giovani 2nd place)
  • Yuman – ‘Ora e qui’ (Sanremo Giovani winner)

Read the contestants’ full bios on the Festival di Sanremo website.  RAI International usually airs the shows twice-once live at 1900 Italian time, and a replay later.  Check the local listings for your country.  The RaiPlay app is another way to watch -and it will not be Geoblocked this year!

If you have not seen the winning performance of ‘Zitti e Buoni‘ and the awards presentation from Sanremo 2021 here is the video.  Zitti e buoni literally means ‘quiet and good’, but in this context means ‘shut up and behave’.  The lyrics are brilliant.  They are about being yourself and not conforming or worrying about gossip.  Read more about the lyrics here.

Will you be watching the Festival di Sanremo?  Let me know which performances you are looking forward to or which ones were your favourites!

Ciao, Cristina