How sport and music have put a smile back on Italy's face

From Eurovision to Euro 2020: Italy is enjoying a welcome boost from music, tennis and - of course - football.

A country's darkest days are often summed up by a single image that remains imprinted on the collective psyche long after the event.

In Italy's case, this image is arguably a convoy of army trucks driving coffins out of Bergamo when the city's morgues could no longer cope with the number of coronavirus deaths.

Fast-forward 16 months later and a triumphant convoy of beeping cars, celebrating the crowning of the Azzurri as Euro 2020 champions, was seen parading down the same road last night.

Many Italians trace the new sense of optimism back to the arrival of Mario Draghi as prime minister of Italy in February of this year.

The former ECB boss helped to restore Italy's credibility in the European markets, in what has become known as the 'Draghi effect,' as well as unveiling major investments and ambitious reforms.

Draghi's arrival came after a year in which the country's spirit was shaken by the covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, its people deflated by a wave of psychological and economic turmoil.

Måneskin win the Eurovision for Italy

In May, Italy received an unexpected boost when Måneskin, a young glam-rock band from Rome, clinched the nation's first Eurovision victory in more than three decades.

The international media lauded the leather-clad rockers who just a couple of years earlier were busking on the streets of the capital.

The band's success story captured the hearts of Italians, as did the rise of Roman tennis champion Matteo Berrettini who last week became the first Italian to reach the men's single finals in Wimbledon.

In the end the 25-year-old Berrettini was beaten by world number 1 Novak Djokovic, a few hours before the Euro final in Wembley. "Rome is proud of you" - wrote the city's mayor Virginia Raggi - "You were a lion on the court."

Berrettini made it across London just in time to witness the Azzurri defeat the England team on their home turf.

The tennis star was met in Wembley by Italian president Sergio Mattarella whose joyous celebration of Bonucci's goal became an internet sensation back home.

Matteo Berrettini makes tennis history for Italy

The success of the Azzurri is attributed largely to manager Roberto Mancini who steered the team to Euro victory after Italy's disappointment of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Last night, a young guitarist played 'We Are The Champions' on an electric guitar from a roof terrace high over Piazza Navona in central Rome, as crowds of ecstatic fans celebrated wildly in the square below.

The guitarist was Jacopo Mastrangelo, who moved Romans to tears at the height of lockdown when he performed a stirring rendition of Deborah's Theme by Ennio Morricone over the same piazza, then empty and grass-covered.

Last night Mastrangelo provided another metaphor for a resurgent Italy - bruised but ready to bounce back - to the sound of music and stadium cheers.