Francesco Gabbani - Italia 21 (translation and explanation)
So, this song was deleted from YT last week and I was very upset, since it’s one of those older songs from Francesco that made me instantly like him.
I knew that it needed both a translation and a ‘paraphrase’ (like you would with a Latin version in high school LOL) to fully understand it and that took me SO LONG. It was very hard and I believe it’s still not complete yet: there’s something I still don’t get.
But! The most is done and I hope you’ll like it!
This is “Italia 21″ (Italy 21).
I’m not sure if this song was already traslated, I’m just gonna post my version :D
I’m not a professional translator so there might be some mistakes. I just hope to convey the message of the song to non-Italian speakers.
Uno. Pane e vino certo non ci manca
Due. Neanche il sole in quest’Italia santa
Tre. Una penisola col tacco a spillo
Quattro. Tutti parlano, ci manca solamente il grillo
One. We surely don’t lack bread and wine
Two. Nor we lack the sun, in this holy Italy
Three. A peninsula wearing an high heel
Four. Everybody talks, last thing we need is the cricket
- Bread, wine and sun are what Italy is known for in the entire world. So it’s religion, that’s why the ‘holy’ adjective.
- Italy is said to be shaped like a boot. We also call the southern regions in Apulia “tacco” (heel). I believe the “high heel” reference is related to fashion, another thing we are known for worldwide.
- We have a common saying: “Il paese è piccolo, la gente mormora” (it’s a small town, people talk) which means that basically in small communities everyone knows everything and always voices their opinions. Italy is pretty much like a big “small town” and everyone always likes to talk. We’re very good at talking and having all kind of opinions.
- The “grillo” (cricket) reference is what made me instantly fall in love with this song right during the first listening. It’s pure genius.
It has a double meaning: the first is related to the Jiminy Cricket (or Talking Cricket), a character from famous Italian author Carlo Collodi’s book “Pinocchio”. It basically says that since everybody likes to talk already, we really don’t need to hear from the Talking Cricket, known for being Pinocchio’s conscience and dispenser of good advices, but never listened to. The second reference I believe it’s about Beppe Grillo, infamous ex-comedian and now leader of political movement “Movimento Cinque Stelle” (the links lead to Wikipedia, if you’re curious about them).
The most interesting thing is noticing how Francesco made a subtle criticism of this (known for being loud and obnoxious) politician by using a word play and a very ironic and cultured reference.
Cinque. San Gennaro, grazie che ci Sei!
Sette. Senza di te che numeri giocherei?
Otto. La nazione piscia controvento
Nove. Ma noi siamo tutti fieri del Risorgimento
Five. St. Januarius, thanks for exSIXting!
Seven. Without you, which numbers would I bet?
Eight. The nation pisses upwind
Nine. But we are all proud of our Risorgimento
- St. Januarius is a very important saint in the Italian culture, especially in the Neapolitan area. The “number betting” thing is related to another popular tradition (mainly in Naples, I believe) consisting in praying the Saint to suggestions about which numbers to play at the Lottery.
- Number six of this list is the “sei” at the end of the first line. Once again a word play: the word “six” is written and pronounced exactly like the second person singular of the “be” (essere) verb.
- Another saying: “Chi piscia controvento si bagna i pantaloni” (who pisses upwind wets his own pants), which means “never take challenges too big for you”. Related to Italy I believe it may mean that we consider our nation much bigger and more influential than how it actually is and we take challenges way bigger than our real potential. Why is that?
- Because we are conditioned by our long, rich history and heroical past. One example above all might have been Ancient Rome or the Reinaissance period, but Francesco wisely chose the Risorgimento: when Italy was reunited under the same flag and monarchy after a series of wars, battles and campaigns against foreign occupation. Why is that? Maybe once again to be very ironical about Italians being actually proud of being united in one country, since there are still a lot of differences and fights between North and South.
Dieci. Chi svolta il mese con il contagocce
Undici. A chi la polpa e a chi le bucce
Dodici. Per fortuna arriva il 1° maggio
Tredici. Abbiamo tante, tante fave ma non c’è il formaggio
Ten. Those who turn the month in dribs and drabs
Eleven. Some get the pulp and some the peels
Twelve. Luckily, the 1st of May always arrives
Thirteen. We’ve got lots and lots of beans but we haven’t got the cheese
- “Svoltare il mese con il contagocce” (turning the month with the tear dropper) and “a chi la polpa e a chi le bucce” are there to express how the economy has a lot of flaws in Italy, especially in the relation between riches (who has got the “pulp”, the money and wellness) and poors (the ones having difficulties gaining enough to live by, month after month).
- The 1st of May is International Work Day and it’s an holiday. It’s also sometimes used as a “middle point” during the working year.
- Fave e pecorino (broad beans and sheep cheese) is a typical dish of Central Italy and Rome in particular. It’s a 1st of May tradition to eat them together, especially because since it’s an holiday and it’s Spring, people used to go have trips and pic-nics in the countryside, where they bought beans and cheese directly from the farmers. Francesco is using the dish as another way of saying we’ve got the side dish (vegetable or beans), the theories and good words, but we haven’t got the main course (the cheese), what matters.
Quattordici. C’è chi magna e non fa una piega
Quindici. Ma alla fine cosa ce ne frega?
Sedici. Tutti fermi, inizia la partita
Diciassette porta sfiga. Il corno in terra, cazzo! E’ già finita
Fourteen. There’s who eats and doesn’t bat an eye
Fifteen. But in the end who cares?
Sixteen. Everyone stay still, the game is on
Seventeen brings bad luck. The lucky horn on the floor, fuck! It’s already over
- I am having some difficulties pin-pointing where the first sentence is from. It looks like another saying (”magna” is generally the dialect version of “mangia” and it’s mostly associated with Roman dialect) but I’ve never heard anything similar (it might be because I am from Northern Italy, tho). Anyway “non fare una piega” litterally translates to “don’t make a wrinkle” and it’s used both to say that something makes complete sense or that someone has absolute no reaction to something. So basically who eats (presumably those rich people from the previous verse?) doesn’t care about anything/anyone else and/or no one questions it.
- “Cosa ce ne frega” is, imho, the best way to describe the Italian attitude toward problems. It basically means “what do WE care?” with a very personal connotation. How do you solve unsolvable (or very hard) problems? Whatever, who cares anyway… not our business.
- Italians love football and that’s common knowledge. To quote Winston Churchill: “Italians lose wars as if they were football matches, and football matches as if they were wars.” So true, Winston.
- We are also very supertitious. The cornetto is one of the many objects believed to be lucky charms. I have no idea why you have to put it on the ground, tho? (Neapolitans, explain please!). The number 17 is also believed to be very unlucky (that’s why you need a corno to nullify its powers. But while you complete the rituals, you get distracted and the match ends!)
Diciotto. Viva l’Italia col microfono in mano
Diciannove. Canto anch’io che sono un italiano
Venti. Un bel bicchiere di rosso e due pennette
Ventuno. Due cazzeggi all’osteria e un Tressette
(Osteria numero sette! *paraponzi ponzi pò*
Il salame piace a fette
dammela a me, biondina
dammela a me, biondà!)
Eighteen. Long live Italy with a microphone in the hand
Nineteen. I sing I’m an Italian as well
Twenty. One fine glass of red (wine) and some penne
Twentyone. Some messing around at the pub and a round of Tressette
(Pub number seven! *paraponzi ponzi pò*
Salami is good cut in slices
give it to me, pretty blonde girl
give it to me, blondie!)
- Pretty sure the “Italia con il microfono in mano” is a reference to Sanremo, the most famous singing competition in Italy. It may also mean in general everything that has to do with Italian music, tho. Something along the line of “long live Italian music!”, even though his relationship with the industry at the time wasn’t the best and he had struggles surfacing as an artist. Would he ever imagine, at the time, that he would win Sanremo two years in a row? Bless you, Francesco.
- A quote from the famous “L’italiano” song by Toto Cutugno. Just like “Italia 21″ that song too was an attempt to describe Italy and the Italians from within.
Another fun fact: Toto is the last Italian singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest. Is this a lot of foreshadowing or not? (Maybe too much!)
- A glass of wine and pasta. What’s better? Here’s a quick and easy prescription to happiness, by every Italian ever.
- “Cazzeggio” is litterally “a thing done with one’s dick” and means messing around, having fun with friends by basically doing nothing. Tressette is a popular card game in Italy.
- What follows is something we call stornello, a type of folk song which basically has a standard melody and ever changing lyrics. They are usually very funny, irreverent and sexual. “La canzone delle osterie” is famous everywhere and Francesco used it to end the song in the most carefree way.
- He rhymed “sette” with “fette” but I really don’t know how to explain if “salami is good cut in slices” is a sexual reference. Salami can definitely be associated with something sexual (c’mon…) but I have no clue about the rest. I’m an innocent soul XD
- “Give it to me” is DEFINITELY sexual. Especially referred to a pretty blonde girl XD That too is usually part of the standard stornello lyrics ;)
Wow, this took SO LONG.
I hope it helped understand this song in depth, even though something is still obscure even to me, after translating and spending a lot of time looking things up on the internet.
Have fun find other interpretations, maybe? ;)