If you’re coming to live in Italy, you’d best acquaint yourself with this legendary event.

It’s sacrilege if you don’t. The annual Sanremo Music Festival began in 1951, and it is an integral part of Italian culture. It is the launchpad for never-before-heard songs. The rules require that artists and groups keep their songs 100% under wraps before the competition. The winners can be established Italian icons or newbies on the music scene. Either way, the winner enters a turbo-charged stratosphere of fame.

“The Sanremo Music Festival has often been used as a method for choosing the Italian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. It has launched the careers of some of Italy’s most successful musical acts, including Gigliola Cinquetti, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Andrea Bocelli, Giorgia, Il Volo, and Måneskin.”


This contest is held in the Ariston Theater.

Before 1977 it was held in the Sanremo Casino.

The production values of this five-day-long event are top-notch. Artists perform with a full orchestra. The presenters are some of Italy’s finest media talents.

Each artist performs their song three times leading up to the vote for the five finalists. Then the rankings are scrapped, and the five finalists perform again. THEN there is a final vote which comes from a combination of media votes, critic votes, and general population votes. Each regular person can phone in up to five votes.

There are twenty-eight acts, and watching them ALL perform makes for really long evenings. For the final this year, the event wrapped two-ish in the morning.

Italy's 2023 Sanremo Music Festival

Marco Mengoni took top honors at Italy’s 2023 Sanremo Music Festival.

Talk about a voice that can scale the heavens! Marco Mengoni is thirty-four years old. He rose to fame in 2009 after winning the third season of X-Factor. This is his second Sanremo win (his first win was in 2013).

Mengoni’s winning song is “Due Vite” (Two Lives). The score and the lyrics (read them here with an English translation) dive right into one’s heart. At least they did for me. The meaning of “Due Vite” remains enigmatic. At first glance, you might think he’s singing about a relationship with another person and the ups and downs. Other people theorize that this song instead is about a relationship, but one with himself.

Mengoni revealed in previous interviews that he suffers from dysmorphism, a malady shared by other family members. “Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized by anxiety about a perceived defect in appearance that is not obvious or seems easy to other people.” When you watch the official video of his song (below), you will see that Mengoni is a very handsome man and the last person you can imagine having self-image issues.

One painful hiccup (in my opinion) in the 2023 Sanremo Music Festival…

And that is the lack of female talent in the final five. I remain incredulous that performers like Elodie and Giorgia did not nudge out a couple of the guys who were less impressive in my opinion. Even Marco Mengoni called this out as a disappointment when accepting the grand prize. I hope this doesn’t happen again.

This year’s Sanremo music is a golden opportunity to learn Italian.

Like watching Italian TV shows and movies, Italian music can be a fun and engaging way to learn important words and phrases. Already, I am repeatedly studying the lyrics to “Due Vite” and reading them while watching the above video. Soon I hope to be able to listen to the song while fully understanding the lyrics.

As I close this post, I will leave you two additional videos from my favorite performers this year. The first is “Due” (Two) by Elodie (see the lyrics and translation here). The second is “Cenere” (Ashes) by Lazza (see the lyrics and translation here).