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The 73rd edition of Festa della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo is February 7-11, 2023, broadcast live on RAI.  Once again this year, I have put together a viewing guide to the annual 5 day song competition held in the town of Sanremo, Liguria. The Festival di Sanremo is the world’s longest running national televised music competition.

In 1950. Piero Bussetti of the Sanremo Casino and Giulio Razzi, conductor of the RAI orchestra launched 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 artists performing 20 songs.  Since 1955 it is broadcast live on television.

From 1951-1977 the festival was held at the Sanremo Casino.  Since 1977 it has been at the iconic Teatro Ariston. The Festival di Sanremo is a massive media event in Italia and has launched many careers, including Domenico Modugno, Zucchero, Mina, 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 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.  2021 Sanremo winners, Måneskin won Eurovision with their brilliant song ‘Zitti e Buoni’.  As the reigning country, Italia hosted Eurovision 2022- in Torino. Mahmood and Blanco represented Italia with the 2022 winner ‘Brividi.

The 73rd edition of the Festival di Sanremo is February 7-11, 2023, broadcast live on RAI (RAI International for the rest of us).  It will be hosted for the fourth time by Amedeus, with cohost Gianni Morandi. Chiara Ferragni will also cohost the first and final nights. Former winners, Italian and international guest artists will perform.

Feb 7th, Mahmoud and Blanco will perform ‘Brividi‘, and 1990 winners I Pooh will sing together for the first time in 6 years.  Al Bano and Massimo Ranieri perform with Gianni Morandi Feb 8th, as well as the Black Eyed Peas.  Måneskin performs on Thursday Feb 9th.  Other performers include Salmo, Fedez, Takagi, Piero Pelù, Nik, Francesco Renga, Achille Lauro, Annalisa and La Rappresentante di Lista. There are rumours Lady Gaga and Britney Spears will perform, but there is no confirmation at this point.

The award goes to the winning song, although in most cases the performers are involved in the songwriting.  This year, there are 28 contestants, including the top 6 winners from the junior contest, ‘Sanremo Giovani’.  Judging is complex and contestants perform with the full RAI orchestra-complete with maestro.

A summary of what happens each night:

Night #1 and #2 February 7 and 8.  14 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 9.  All 28 contestants perform, with no eliminations.  Voting is 50% demoscopic jury* and 50% televoting.

Night #4 February 10 is ‘Covers night’.  Each artist/group performs a cover song of their choice from 1960-1999  They can perform solo or invite an Italian or international artist as a guest.  Voting is 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

Final night #5 February 11th.  There are 2 rounds the final night.  In round 1 all 28 acts perform.  Voting is 100% from televoting.  The top 5 proceed to round 2, the Superfinale.  Voting is reset and all 5 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 concorrenti /contestants includes 3 former Sanremo winners, 2 who have represented Italia at Eurovision, many former contestants, and some first time acts.  Below is a list of the 28 performers, the song titles and a few other details to help you watch and enjoy the festival:

  • Anna Oxa – ‘Sale (Canto dell’anima)‘.  Anna released her first album in 1978 and was runner up at the Festival di Sanremo.  She is a 2 time winner; in 1989 with duet ‘Ti Lascerò’ and in 1999 with ‘Senza Pietà’. She and Fausto Leali represented Italia at Eurovision 1989 in Lausanne with ‘Avrei voluto‘, placing 9th.  This will be Anna’s 14th time at Sanremo across 5 decades!
  • Ariete – ‘Mare di Guai’.  Roman singer Arianna Del Giaccio was an X Factor Italia contestant in 2019.  In 2022 she released the album ‘Specchio‘ which 1,000,000 streams in 24 hours. For covers night she will perform with Sangiovanni
  • Articolo 31– ‘Un bel Viaggio’. This hip hop duo from Milano formed in 1990 consists of Alessandro Aleotti (aka rapper J-Ax) and Vito Luca Perrini (DJ Jad). They are together again to compete in Sanremo for the first time and are working on their 8th album.  For covers night, Fedez will join them for a medley.
  • Colapesce e Dimartini – ‘Splash’ Sicilian duo Lorenzo Urciullo and Antonio Dimartino competed in 2021 with the hit song ‘Musica Leggerissima‘. This is their second time at Sanremo. For covers night, they perform Adriano Celentano’s ‘Azzurro‘ with Carla Bruni.
  • Colla Zio – ‘Non mi va’. This quintet of 21-25 years olds from Milano released ‘Zafferano’ in 2021.  They place in the top 6 in Sanremo Giovani.
  • Coma-cose – ‘L’addio’. Milanese indie duo consisting of life and music partners since 2016 Fausto Zanardelli (aka Fausto Lama) and Francesca Mesiano (aka California).  They participated in Sanremo 2021 with the song ‘Fiamme negli occhi’ which went gold in 3 weeks.  This is their second time at Sanremo.
  • Elodie – ‘Due’.  The Roman singer participated in Amici* in 2016, and Sanremo in 2017 with ‘Tutta colpa mia‘ and in 2020 with ‘Andromeda‘.  In 2020 Elodie was the most listened to female artist on Spotify Italia.  In 2021 she was the cohost for night #2 of Sanremo.  She is competing for the 3rd time and has an album due out February 10th.
  • Gianluca Grignani – ‘Quando ti manca il fiato’.  This is Gianluca’s 7th time competing at Sanremo.  The first time was in 1994 for Sanremo Giovani.  He was also a guest in 2022 on covers night, singing with Irama. For covers night he will be singing with Arisa.
  • gIANMARIA – ‘Mostro’. The singer from Vicenza is the winner of Sanremo Giovani. On covers night he will sing with Manuel Agnelli who sang with Måneskin in 2021.
  • Giorgia- ‘Parole dette male’. Giorgia Todrani has 12 top 10 albums, 24 top 10 singles, and a vocal range that spans 4 octaves.  In 1994 she placed second in the Nuovi Proposti (newcomers category), losing to Andrea Bocelli!  Giorgia won Sanremo 1995 with ‘Come Saprei’, came in 3rd place in 1996, and 2nd in 2001. She even won a Davide di Donatello (the Italian version of an Oscar) in 2004 for original movie song. She has performed with Pavarotti, Mina, Eros Ramazzotti, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Jovanotti, Ray Charles, and Andrea Bocelli (‘Vivo per Lei‘). Giorgia was a musical guest at Sanremo 2017. She has a new album ‘Blu’ coming out on February 27th.  This is her 4th time in the competion. She duets with Elisa on covers night.
  • I Cugini di Campagna – ‘Lettera 22’. This quartet of Silvano and Ivano Michetti, Tiziano Leonardi and Nick Luciani formed in 1970 and started by busking near the Fontana di Trevi.  This is their first time at Sanremo and their song was written by La Rapresentante di Lista, of 2022’s ‘Ciao Ciao‘.
  • Lazza – ‘Cenere’.  This is Jacopo Lazzarini’s first time competing at Sanremo.
  • LDA – ‘Se poi domani’. 19 year old rapper Luca D’Alessio, is an Amici 2021 participant and son of Napoletano singer Gigi D’Alessio. He started doing covers on YouTube at age 13.  This is his first Sanremo competition. He performs with Alex Britti on covers night.
  • Leo Gassmann – ‘Terzo Cuore’. The son of Alessandro Gassman and grandson of Vittorio Gassman was a semi-finalist in the 2018 edition of X factor.  in 2020 he won the ‘newcomers’ category of Sanremo with ‘Vai bene cost‘ and this is his first time as a regular contestant.
  • Levante– ‘Vivo’.  Sicilian singer Claudia Lagona released her first album in 2014 and competed in Sanremo in 2019 with ‘Tikibombom’. She was an X Factor judge in 2017 and has collaborated with Max Gazzè, Negramaro, J-Ax and Fedez.  She has also published 3 romance novels.  This is her second time at Sanremo.
  • Madame – ‘Il Bene nel male’. 18 year old rapper from Vicenza Francesca Calearo known as Madame participated in Sanremo 2021 with the song ‘Voce’. She recently collaborated with Negramaro on ‘Non è vero niente‘.  This is her second time competing in Sanremo and she is once again the youngest contestant.
  • Mara Sattei – ‘Duemilaminuti’ Roman singer Sara Mattei was a previous contestant on Amici and guest on X factor.  She became known for making YouTube videos with her brother Davide (known as thasup) starting in 2017 and released her first album in 2022.  Her catchy quadruple platinum single with Fedez and Tananai ‘La Dolce Vita‘ was the song most played last summer. In this competition, she is singing a song written by Damiano David of Måneskin!!!  Mara performs with Noemi on covers night.
  • Marco Mengoni – ‘Due vite’. Marco is back competing at Sanremo on the 10 year anniversary of his 2013 win with ‘L’essenziale‘.  He also represented Italia at Eurovision that year in Sweden, coming in 7th.  Marco is also the winner of 2009 season 3 of X factor, a 2 time winner of the MTV Europe Music Award for Best European act and an ambassador for National Geographic’s international campaign ‘Planet or plastic?’.
  • Modà – ‘Lasciami’. One of my favourite bands, Modà was started in Milano in 2000 by Francesco ‘Kekko’ Silvestre.  This is their 3rd time competing at Sanremo.  In 2011 their song ‘Arriverà’ with Emma Marrone came in 2nd place and in 2013 ‘Se si potesse non morire’ came in 3rd place. 2023 is the 20th anniversary of the release of their first album. On covers night they perform with Le Vibrazioni.
  • Mr Rain-‘Supereroi‘.  Rapper and ex Amici participant Mattia Balardi from Brescia is known as ‘Mr Rain’.  He will be duetting with 2022 contestants Highsnob & Hu for covers night.
  • Olly  – ‘Polvere’. The Genovese rapper has collaborated with singer Arisa and earned a spot in the competition via Sanremo Giovani
  • Paola e Chiara – ‘Furore’.  The sisters from Milano were in Sanremo Giovani in 1996 and 1997.  They competed in 1998 and in 2005 with the international hit of the summer ‘Vamos a Bailar’.  In 2013, they each went solo, Chiara Iezzi to acting and Paola Iezzi dj, producing and singing.  Last year they joined Jovanotti’s Beach party 2022 and they are back to Sanremo for the 3rd time.
  • Rosa Chemical – ‘Made in ItalyRosa Chemical is 24 year old rapper Manuel Franco from Torino, who has also been a Gucci Italia model since 2018.  He was a guest performer at Sanremo 2022 covers night with Tananai.
  • Sethu – ‘Cause perse’. Marco De Lauri released his first EP in 2018.  In 2020 he had 3 singles on Spotify’s Raptopia, Gen Z, and Novità Rap Italiano playlists.  Sethu has opened for Pinguini Tattici Nucleari and was named MTV artist of the month September 2022.  He is a top 6 finalist in Sanremo Giovani.  Sethu claims to be ‘fundamentally an incurable doomer’.  His song is dedicated to inseparable twin Jiz.
  • Shari-‘Egoista‘.  Shari was in Sanremo Giovani in 2019.  She recently released her first EP, ‘Fake Music‘ and is one of the top 6 Sanremo Giovani finalists.
  • Tananai – ‘Tango’.  27 year old Alberto Ramusino from Brescia participated last year with his single ‘Sesso Occasionale’ and placed second in Sanremo Giovani. Last summer he collaborated with Fedez and Mara Sattei on the catchy quadruple platinum hit ‘La Dolce Vita‘. He performs with Biagio Antonacci on covers night.
  • Ultimo – ‘Alba’. Niccolò Moriconi’s first album in 2017 was 3X platinum and his second album in 2018 5X platinum.  He won the ‘newcomers’ category in 2018 and came in second place at Sanremo 2019 with ‘I tuoi particulari’.  That same year, Ultimo became the youngest Italian artist to play stadium tours.  In 2021 he had a record 4 simultaneous albums in the annual chart-according to the Italian music federation.  He also collaborated with Ed Sheeran on ‘2Step‘. On covers night, he performs a medley with Eros Ramazzotti.
  • Will– ‘Stupido‘.  William Busetti released his first music on YouTube in 2019.  In 2020 ‘Estate’ had over 40 million streams on Spotify and went platinum.  He released his first EP in June and is one of the Sanremo Giovani top 6 finalists.

*Amici is an Italian talent show on television since 2001.  20 ‘students’ aged 16-30 years who are interested in being professional singers, songwriters and dancers participate.  Nuovi proposti was a previous ‘newcomers’ category.  Now there is Sanremo Giovani, the junior category and the top 6 go on to the regular competition.

Read the contestants’ full bios on the Festival di Sanremo website.  RAI International usually airs the shows twice-once live at 1900 -0100ish 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!

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