The Sanremo Festival – Four Evenings on the Italian Riviera

The event commonly considered to be the father of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Sanremo Festival, starts on Tuesday 18th February in the beautiful Italian town on Riviera. There will be four evenings of music, special guests, drama and no doubt some controversy along the way until the winner of the 64th festival is revealed on Saturday.

The hosts for the event are Fabio Fazio and comedian Luciana Littizzetto, who proved a very popular and funny combination when they teamed up to host the 2013 festival. Over the four evenings, they will introduce artists in two categories; the Campioni or ‘big’ section for established artists and the Nuove Proposte or ‘Novitá’ section for singers and bands looking for their big break.

There are 14 acts competing in the Campioni section, including former winners Francesco Renga and Ron, and past Eurovision singers Raphael Gualazzi and Antonella Ruggiero, formerly of Matia Bazar. The Nuove Proposte section contains eight acts, all of whom will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Laura Pausini, Andrea Bocelli and Eros Ramazzotti, who started their very successful careers by winning this part of the festival.

The first evening will see all of the Campioni perform two songs each. One will be eliminated by a public vote and the votes of a jury made up of members of the accredited press. Each remaining song will stay in contention for the big prize. On the second and third evenings, the Nuove Proposte will have the opportunity to give a good first impression before they all contest their final on the fourth evening on Friday. Half will perform on Wednesday and the other half will perform on Thursday. Also performing over those two nights will be the Campioni, with seven on Wednesday and seven on Thursday. Saturday evening will see half of all viewers in Italy tune in to watch the final evening of the festival when all 14 of the Campioni will be at the mercy of the votes of the public and two juries, the press jury and an ‘expert’ jury. At the end of the evening, the winner will be crowned and will go down in Italy’s musical history alongside the likes of Massimo Ranieri and Domenico Modugno.

The Sanremo Festival has often been used by RAI to select their singer for the Eurovision Song Contest, and this has been the case since they returned to the contest in 2011. However, this year they have already selected both the singer and the song. The lady who won the festival in 2012, 29 year old Emma Marrone will sing La Mia Cittá, a track from her current album. Below, you can listen to this song, and Non é l’inferno, the 2012 Sanremo winner.

Here are the singers and songs in the Campioni section:

Antonella Ruggiero
Quando balliamo
Da lontano


Cristiano de Andre’
Il cielo e’ vuoto

Francesco Renga
A un isolato da te
Vivendo adesso

Francesco Sarcina

Nel tuo sorriso
In questa citta’

Frankie Hi-NRG
Un uomo e’ vivo

Giuliano Palma
Cosi’ lontano
Un bacio crudele

Giusy Ferreri
L’amore possiede il bene
Ti porto a cena con me

Bagnati dal sole
Un uomo e’ un albero

L’Italia vista dal bar

Raphael Gualazzi feat. Bloody Beetroots
Liberi o no
Tanto ci sei

Renzo Rubino
Per sempre e poi basta

Ricardo Sinigallia
Prima di andare via
Una rigenerazione

Un abbraccio unico
Sing in the rain

The contenders in the Nuove Proposte section are:

Bianca – Saprai
Diodato – Babilonia
Filippo Graziani
– Le cose belle
Rocco Hunt – Nu juorno buono
The Niro – 1969
Vadim – La modernita
Veronica De Simone – Nuvole che passano
Zibba – Senza di te

It all began on the Italian Riviera in 1951 in the resort’s famous casino. It was the idea of flower seller and political activist, Amilicare Romboldi, although he needed the help of Pier Busseti (president of the company that owned the casino) and radio director Giulio Pazzi to make it happen. The festival lasted a week, a tradition which still exists today.

While its critics have grown in number, accusing the festival and its organisers of, among other things, becoming irrelevant, it seems the Italian public still love it. The last night of the festival always attracts around a 50% share of the television audience. This is lower than it used to be, but, in the era of multi-channel television, half of all viewers watching one channel is something to be proud of.

This being Italy, the story wouldn’t be complete without allegations of corruption. Pippo Baudo was the face of the festival in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He presented the festival many times and was also a major player in the organising committee. He faced charges of taking bribes, charges he predictably denied. It is worth noting, however, that a certain brand of mineral water which was very prominently advertised during the Baudo years was no longer advertised when he stopped presenting the festival. His absence was not permanent, he returned in 2002.

Long before the Eurovision Song Contest started using a combination of phone votes and juries to decide the outcome, Sanremo employed such a system. This has led to some very interesting scenes and results. In 1993, the hot favourite with the audience in the Ariston was Renato Zero and his immaculately beautiful Ave Maria. Host Pippo Baudo was announcing the results in reverse order and, horror of horrors, Renato was fifth!! This caused howls of derision and disgust from the audience. So much so, that they were still venting their anger when Grazia di Michele and Rosana Casale were brought on to the stage to accept their prize for finishing third. They were visibly shaken and Pippo had to appeal for calm. In 2000, Piccola Orchestra di Avion Travel were 11th in the public vote, but after the votes of the jury had been added, they were propelled into first place. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best selling song from the festival that year! Even the festival orchestra are not immune from showing what they think. In the 2010 festival, when Malika Ayane was eliminated from the festival by the public, they shouted their disapproval. Then when Noemi was announced as the next singer eliminated, they threw their music sheets into the air while host Antonella Clerici struggled to keep order.

The festival will be streamed from RAI’s website, so tune in to see what gets the audience and the press excited this year.

Source: RAI, EuroVisionary
Read more in the news archive

Liked what you've read? Subscribe to our Eurovision news!