Italian Language Blog

Giovinezza Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Looking through some family photos the other day, I came across one of my father taken in 1930 in which he is proudly wearing the uniform of the Balilla (Opera Nazionale Balilla or ONB, Mussolini’s paramilitary fascist youth group). For more info see this link: Opera Nazionale Balilla

My father, who is now 89, remembers those innocent days of his youth with a tinge of nostalgia. One of his most enduring memories is of the time that he was taken to Rome with other Balilla cadets to be led into the huge imposing office of ‘Il Duce’ (Mussolini), in order to be presented to the great man himself!

My father’s photo seems to sum up perfectly the song Giovinezza (Youth), which was the unofficial inno dalla patria (national anthem) of Italy from 1924 to 1943 during the years of the fascist regime.

The original Giovinezza, however, was actually a student song entitled Il Commiato (The Farewell) or Inno dei Laureandi (The Graduates Hymn), with lyrics by Nino Oxilia and music composed by Giuseppe Blanc. Very popular at the beginning of the last century, Giovinezza was sung by graduates at the university of Torino both as a nostalgic farewell to their carefree student life, and as a celebration of their vigor, youth and boldness.

Here are the original lyrics:

Son finiti i giorni lieti
degli studi e degli amori
o compagni, in alto i cuori
e il passato salutiam

The pleasant days are finished
of studies and of loves
oh companions lift up your hearts
and let’s say farewell to the past

È la vita una battaglia,
è il cammino irto d’inganni,
ma siam forti, abbiam vent’anni,
l’avvenire non temiam

Life is a battle,
the road is paved with tricks,
but we are strong, we’re twenty years old, we don’t fear the future

Giovinezza, giovinezza,
primavera di bellezza!
Della vita nell’asprezza,
il tuo canto squilla e va!

Youth, youth,
spring of beauty!
In the hardship of life,
your song rings and goes!

Over the years, the lyrics were rewritten several times, becoming increasingly patriotic until in 1924 Mussolini commissioned a new set of lyrics from Salvator Gotta. If you’re feeling brave, you may wish to read them!:

Salve o popolo d’eroi
Salve o patria immortale
Son rinati i figli tuoi
Con la fe’ nell’ideale

Hail, people of heroes,
Hail, immortal Fatherland,
Your sons were born again
With faith in the Ideal.

Il valor dei tuoi guerrieri,
La virtù dei pionieri
La vision dell’Alighieri
Oggi brilla in tutti i cuor

Your warriors’ valour,
Your pioneers’ virtue,
Alighieri’s vision,
Today shines in every heart

Giovinezza, Giovinezza,
Primavera di bellezza
Della vita nell’asprezza
Il tuo canto squilla e va!

Youth, Youth,
Spring of beauty,
In the hardship of life
Your song rings and goes!

E per Benito Mussolini,
Eja eja alalà
E per la nostra Patria bella,
Eja eja alalà

And for Benito Mussolini,
Hip hip hooray
And for our beautiful Fatherland,
Hip hip hooray

Dell’Italia nei confini
Son rifatti gli italiani;
Li ha rifatti Mussolini
Per la guerra di domani

In the Italian borders,
Italians have been remade
Mussolini has remade them
For tomorrow’s war

Per la gloria del lavoro
Per la pace e per l’alloro,
Per la gogna di coloro
Che la patria rinnegan

For labor’s glory,
For peace and for the laurel,
For the shame of those
Who repudiated our Fatherland

I Poeti e gli artigiani
I signori e i contadini
Con orgoglio d’italiani
Giuran fede a Mussolini.

The poets and the artisans,
The lords and the countrymen,
With an Italian’s pride
Swear fealty to Mussolini

Non v’è povero quartiere
Che non mandi le sue schiere
Che non spieghi le bandiere
Del fascismo redentor.

There’s no poor suburb
That doesn’t send its ranks,
That doesn’t unfurl the flags
Of the redeeming Fascism

During the fascist years Giovinezza was played at public gatherings, sporting

events, in cinemas, and so on, and there were often unpleasant consequences for those who didn’t remove their hats and join in. In fact, Mussolini’s Blackshirts were always ready to ‘rough up’ those, including foreigners, who didn’t show the proper respect.

In the 1930s, Giovinezza became the official inno of the Italian army, and the school day was required to begin with either Giovinezza, or Balilla, which was the official song of the ONB.

The metamorphosis of Giovinezza gives us a fascinating insight into the social and political development of Italy in the first half of the 20th century.

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Italian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. A Miksak:

    vorrei ascoltare la melodia. e’ possibile?

  2. Jeannet:

    Salve Serena,

    Thank you very much for this interesting bloc.
    The picture of your father was taken in 1940?
    That carefree student life of those days nowadays
    isn’t so carefree any more. (?)

    What remains is:
    Spring of beauty! (not to forget) in the hardship of life.

    Friendly greetings,

    • serena:

      @Jeannet Ciao Jeannet, my father was born in 1921 and the photo that I found was taken in 1930 when he was 9 years old.

      A presto, Serena

  3. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    Reading this post gave me — for the first time — an appreciation for why Plato wanted to ban poets from the Republic.

    How could anyone sing these lines with any joy:

    Li ha rifatti Mussolini
    Per la guerra di domain

    Does ‘la guerra’ mean more than real war? Does it mean something like ‘the battles we will face in the future’?

    Also, can’t ‘i figli’ in the below line

    Son rinati i figli tuoi

    Mean ‘sons and daughters’ or ‘children’? Is it custom to use ‘sons’ or do you just know it means sons in this context?

    I just love your posts. I never know what to expect except that each post will be interesting in a different way.



    • serena:

      @Vince Mooney Salve Vince, I agree that it’s difficult to read certain lyrics without feeling a bit queasy, however they are interesting as they illustrate the mentality of a particular period in history.

      As for ‘guerra’, yes, it can mean more than just ‘war’, it can mean battle, or the tribulations that we have to face, etc.

      The masculine plural word ‘figli’ is normally used to mean ‘children’. In fact, the traditional question for ‘how many children do you have?’ is: ‘Quanti figli ha?’

      Grazie per i complimenti!


  4. William Auge:

    Salve Serena, Grazie per il blog molto interessante. Buona comprensione dei giorni bui del secolo scorso. Ho visto una chiesa moderna fuori dei muri di Lucca. Davanti della chiesa e’ una lista dei parrocchiani chi sono morto nella seconda querro mondiale. Mi ha recordato della sufferenza terribile quelli tutti lati si sentono in guerro.

    auguri da William

    • serena:

      @William Auge Salve william, le guerre, di qualunque natura siano, portano sempre sofferenze, specialmente per la popolazione civile, ma continuiamo a farle!

      Saluti da Serena

  5. Barbara:

    Dear Serena,

    Thank you for this and all you articles.
    They are very interesting always!

    • serena:

      @Barbara Grazie Barbara per i complimenti.

      A presto, Serena

  6. Jeannet:

    Ciao Serena,

    I placed my question “your father was born in 1940?” because he was wearing the uniform
    of the Balilla Mussolini’s paramilitary fascist youth group, in service 19 years old) But seemingly he was only very proud -9 years young- wearing the uniform.

    Saluti di Jeannet

    • serena:

      @Jeannet Ciao Jeanett, have a look at the link I gave at the top of my blog to a wiki page about the Balilla. There you will see:
      ‘Balilla (boys) and Piccole Italiane (girls) – ages 8 to 14
      Avanguardisti and Giovani Italiane – 14 to 18’

      A presto, Serena

Leave a comment: