Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Marymount - International School Rome

Sanremo Music Festival: Italy’s most famous song contest

A quick guide to the 2023 Sanremo Music Festival.

Italy's most popular song contest returns to its usual venue at the Teatro Ariston in Sanremo, a seaside town on the northwest Ligurian coast, with 28 artists battling it out over five nights from 7-11 February 2023.

The event, whose official title is the Festival della canzone italiana di Sanremo, has been held every year since 1951, making it the world's longest-running annual televised music competition at a national level.

Now in its 73rd edition, Sanremo was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest and the winner often represents Italy in the European competition, which last year was held in Turin on 14 May and was won by Ukraine.

Claim to fame

Over the years Sanremo has launched the careers of numerous Italian acts, notably Andrea Bocelli, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti and Zucchero, as well as the 2021 winners, global sensation Mäneskin.

However the festival's biggest claim to fame internationally is perhaps Nel blu, dipinto di blu, popularly known as "Volare", a song performed by Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno at the 1958 Sanremo before it took the world by storm.

Love it or hate it

Surrounded by hype, the annual extravaganza tends to divide Italy into the "love it or hate it" camps, along with Italians who profess to never watch it but in reality are among the millions glued to their television screens.

Who hosts Sanremo?

The 2023 host and artistic director, for the fourth year in a row, is TV presenter Amedeo Sebastiani, better known as Amadeus.

Amadeus will be joined on stage by "super-guests" including veteran singers Gianni Morandi, Massimo Ranieri and Al Bano, as well as influencer Chiara Ferragni, volleyball champion Paola Egonu, and the popular comedian Fiorello

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky is set to make an appearance at Sanremo via a pre-recorded video message, sparking a debate in Italy. Depeche Mode will perform on the final night of the festival.

Amadeus hosts Sanremo for third year

Notable hosts of Sanremo over the years include veteran TV presenters Pippo Baudo and Mike Bongiorno, who each hosted about a dozen editions of the festival.

In 2001 Sanremo was presented by pop icon Raffaella Carrà who died in 2021 aged 78.

2023 performers

The following are the artists and acts in competition this year: Giorgia, Articolo 31, Elodie, Colapesce Dimartino, Ariete, Modà, Mara Sattei, Leo Gassmann, I Cugini di Campagna, Mr. Rain, Marco Mengoni, Anna Oxa, Lazza, Tananai, Paola & Chiara, LDA, Madame, Gianluca Grignani, Rosa Chemical, Coma_Cose, Levante, Ultimo, Shari, Gianmaria, Colla Zio, Sethu, Will, and Olly.

Sanremo origins

The origins of Sanremo go back to post-war Italy when the festival was established to revitalise the battered economy and forge a new cultural identity.

Between 1953 and 1971 the festival welcomed guest artists from abroad who launched their songs to a new Italian audience.

Among the many international acts who performed at Sanremo during this era were Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, Cher, Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey.

Festival format

Each act performs a new, original song, which has never been released, with the winner selected by a jury and an online public vote.

The artists, divided into two groups, perform their songs over the first two nights of the festival.

The singers then return to the stage to perform again, while the Friday night will see the acts perform covers of Italian or international songs recorded between the 1960s and 2000s.

On the last night the singers will perform their songs again before the winner is announced.

Where to watch Sanremo

The festival will be screened by state broadcaster RAI 1 every evening, starting from 20.35, and in streaming on Rai Play, from 7-11 February.

How to follow Sanremo

The festival can be followed on its official website as well as its social media channels.

Cover image: Teatro Ariston during the opening night of the 70th Sanremo Music Festival on 3 February 2020. Photo credit: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com.

General Info

Address Via Giacomo Matteotti, 212, 18038 Sanremo IM, Italy

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Sanremo Music Festival: Italy’s most famous song contest

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