Debut – 1956
Current Broadcaster – RAI
National Final – Sanremo Music Festival
Best Result – Winner (1964, 1990)
Highest Score – 292 points (2015)
Worst Result – 17th, last (1966 – 0 points)
Italy are one of the founding nations from the inaugural 1956 Contest. Since then, the country has competed on and off throughout the years with absences in 1981-82, 1986, 1994-1996, and 1998-2010. They have won Eurovision twice and hosted it twice.
They had traditionally sent their entries in Italian, although their entries since returning in 2011 have been bilingual Italian/English songs.
Upon their return in 2011, the EBU expanded the “Big Four” to include Italy, and are now part of the “Big Five” nations in Eurovision, meaning that they have an automatic place in the Final every year.
Italy’s two songs in the inaugural 1956 Contest were “Aprite le finestre” (performed by Franca Raimondi), and “Amami se vuoi” (performed by Tonina Torrielli).
In 1958, Italy finished 3rd with Domenico Modugno performing the song “Nel blu, dipinto di blu”, which is now better known as “Volare”. Although it didn’t win that year, it has since been translated to English and covered by many famous singers including Dean Martin, and is one of the most commercially successful Eurovision entries of all time; in fact many people are unaware that it was a Eurovision entry at all!
This decade saw Italy with a mixed bag of results. In 1963 they scored another 3rd place result with the song “Uno per tutte” (performed by Emilio Pericoli). Then the following year in 1964, Italy stormed to their first Eurovision victory with 16 year-old Gigliola Cinquetti performing the song “Non ho l’età”.
In the opposite extreme, they suffered their only last place result in 1966, which also had the ignominy of scoring the infamous Nul Points.
The first half of the 1970’s gave Italy a decent set of results, before 1974 when Gigliola Cinquetti was invited to represent the country again with the song “Si”. She finished 2nd in the end behind ABBA, which was no mean feat. An interesting fact is that RAI didn’t show the 1974 Contest for several weeks as they feared that the song “Si” (meaning “yes”) could possibly influence the result of a national referendum on divorce being held the next month.
The following year they finished 3rd with the song “Era” (performed by Wess and Dori Ghezzi). However for the rest of the decade, Italy slumped to a run of midtable results.
1981 saw Italy withdraw from the Contest for the first time, with RAI claiming a decline in interest in Eurovision with the Italian public, and did not return until 1983. They also didn’t participate in the 1986 Contest for no apparent reason.
Despite the withdrawals, they went through a middling run of results, including two top 5 results in 1984 with “I treni di Tozeur” (performed by Alice & Battiato) finishing 5th, and in 1987 with “Gente di mare” (performed by Umberto Tozzi and Raf) finishing 3rd.
Italy started the decade by scoring their second Eurovision victory with established singer Toto Cutugno performing “Insieme: 1992”, a song like most of the other entries that year featured a unity theme in a post-Iron Curtain climate. RAI originally planned to host the 1991 Contest in Sanremo, the home of the national competition that inspired the Eurovision Song Contest, however it was relocated to Rome due to security concerns. The 1991 Contest became infamous for its car-crash presentation.
Italy only participated 5 times during the 1990’s. They first pulled out in 1994 claiming a lack of interest, and its only appearance for the rest of the decade was in 1997, where they earned a top 5 result with “Fiumi di parole” (performed by Jalisse) finishing 4th.
After a 14 year-long absence, Italy finally returned to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011. They sent a jazz song “Madness of Love” (performed by Raphael Gualazzi), and unexpectedly stormed up the table to finish 2nd. When the split votes where released shortly after the Contest, it was revealed that Italy had in fact won the jury vote by a landslide, but had not secured enough televotes to win in the overall vote.
Their good run of results post-return has since continued when Nina Zilli finished 9th with the song “L’amore è femmina (Out of Love)” in 2012, and Marco Mengoni finishing 7th with “L’essenziale” in 2013. Italy returned to the podium places in 2015, after Il Volo finished 3rd with “Grande amore”, despite winning the televote in the grand final.