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One of the most famous Italian songs
Throughout history, Italian music has produced songs that have remained unforgettable in the memory of the whole nation. One of the most famous and patriotic is the Canzone del Piave, written during the last days of the First World War. Italian Traditions will lead you to the discovery of this song, also telling about its story. We will also talk about the author and his life. Finally we will analyze the meaning of the text and the main passages, and give some details of the original manuscript containing the original text and where it is kept.
What is it?
La Canzone del Piave is also known as La Leggenda del Piave. The piece was created by Ermete Giovanni Gaeta in 1918. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous Italian songs in history. After the armistice following the Second World War it became the Italian national anthem for a while. On 12th October 1946 it was then replaced with the current anthem: Mameli’s Il canto degli italiani. To learn more about this song, we recommend reading this article.
The Legend of the Piave recounts the historical events that took place in June 1918. On that occasion, the Austro-Hungarian Empire launched an attack on the Piave river in an attempt to definitively overcome the Italian army. Previously the Italian military forces had lost the battle of Caporetto.
During the attack, the Austrian army was pushed back and, also due to the flood of the river, forced to surrender. The third troop of the Italian army occupied the whole area of the Piave on 4 July 1918.
La Canzone del Piave was written by Ermete Giovanni Gaeta, a lyricist and Neapolitan composer who lived from May 5, 1884 to June 24, 1961. Throughout his career he produced many successful songs but this was undoubtedly the most famous. He is considered one of the greatest exponents of the Neapolitan song and of the Italian song from the first post-war period to the 50s. He is remembered both for his great production and for his poetic art.
The meaning of the text
The text was published only at the end of the war. Its success was immediate also thanks to the interpretation of Enrico Demma. The main meaning of the text is to exhort soldiers to defend their country. It was sung by soldiers in the trenches during battle. In particular it commemorates Italy entering the war between 23rd and 24th May 1915.
The song tells the story of defending the homeland to complete the unity of Italy.
The song consists of four verses that all end with the word “foreigner”. Each of these is characterized by a specific topic. These are:
- the march of soldiers towards the front
- The withdrawal of Caporetto
- the defense of the front on the banks of the Piave
- the final attack and victory.
The first verse narrates the beginning of the war in an attempt to complete the process of national unification. The goal was in fact to free Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giulia from Austrian domination. The army marched towards the river Piave in the night between 23rd and 24th May 1915. The second verse tells the story of the defeat of Caporetto on October 24th , 1917. On this occasion the Italian army was surrounded by the enemy and suffered heavy losses.
The third verse speaks of the Italian resistance of June 1918 against the Austrian offensive. These were forced to retreat together with their German allies. The battle cost the loss of many men of the Austrian army and is still remembered today as one of the most glorious victories in the history of Italy. The last verse finally refers to the breakthrough of enemy lines by the Italian military forces on October 24th , 1918. This allowed Italy to win.
The four verses of the song were written on the service forms that were used in the past by the post office administrators. They are now kept in Rome at the Historical Museum of Communication. This is a property of the Ministry of Economic Development and preserves documents and objects of Italian history. Among these to be remembered is certainly the cigar box used by Guglielmo Marconi to make the first magnetic detector in history in 1902. The Piave song is one of the most important in the history of Italian music