XTRA Throwback Thursday: Incredibly Italian

It’s Thursday, which means it’s finally time for another XTRA Throwback Thursday! This autumn and winter we’re enjoying taking you on a journey through Europe and beyond, a journey through the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. This week we are travelling to beautiful Italy and celebrate its return in the 2011 contest with Raphael Gualazzi!

This week’s theme: Incredibly Italian

Italy was one of the seven countries that took part in the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. Eurovision.tv even credits the Sanremo music festival as the inspiration behind the contest. In total, Italy participated 43 times in Eurovision and won it on two occasions (in 1964 and 1990). However, the country’s relationship with the contest hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshines. In fact Italy withdrew a number of times starting in the early 80s, blaming reduced interest in the contest. After withdrawing between 1994 and 1996, it returned in 1997 and withdrew again for thirteen editions. Since returning in 2011, Italy has enjoyed multiple high rankings, with five top 10 finishes, including two top 3 finishes. Hopefully, Italy will continue to grace us with its presence at the contest for many many more years.


I  didn’t pick this song because it’s my favorite Italian entry at the contest. I did it because it is the first Italian song I remember at Eurovision. When we withdrew in 1997 I was only 5 years old and so Eurovision was literally unknown to me. When I discovered it, I couldn’t understand why Italy, that takes pride in having so many talented musicians, would miss out on such an amazing show. It was a relief to see it return the very next year!
The first time I heard Madness of Love was at the grand final. I didn’t actually like it right away. Like Graham Norton said that night, I never imagined Italy would make it to the left side of the scoreboard. I was quite shocked, and obviously overjoyed, when we came second. With time and after a few listens, I started to like it more and more. I appreciate the jazzy and somewhat romantic nature of the song and the incredible talent of Raphael Gualazzi. He is a skilled performer and pianist and I love how his voice in the song ranges from low and deep to that loooong high note at the end. This isn’t the style of music I would normally listen to, but it works! While I do hope we will continue to showcase new musical talents, I wouldn’t mind seeing Raphael at the contest again at all.

What the others had to say…


Even though I’ve liked quite a few Italian entries over the years, I was never among those who desperately wanted the country back. But since they returned, three of their entries have finished in my top three (2011, 2012 and 2013)! And I LOVELOVELOVE this song!! And I’m very close to being just as enthusiastic about Raphael too! I loved Madness of Love/Follia d’Amore from the very first time I heard it, and the more I listened to it, the more I loved it. I like both versions almost equally, but if I had to pick one, I would go for all Italian. Such a magically beautiful language, and Raphael’s voice comes even more to its right in his mother tongue. I remember being sooooo worried back in 2011, that the audience wouldn’t appreciate the genious of this entry, but then they did!


In my time watching Eurovision, Italy’s second place in 2011 remains one of the most surprising things I’ve seen. While the song does have some redeeming features and nice melodies, it ultimately feels too stop-start and his vocals certainly have niche appeal. My favourite Italian entry is from as recent as last year: Francesca Michielin’s “No Degree of Separation”. It’s the most modern track Italy have sent to my ears and a track I still regularly listen to 18 months on.


Not only am I glad to see a variety of music genres at Eurovision, but I’m also happy to see them do well. I remember being surprised on the night as the votes were being announced, and thinking that the more mainstream pop songs would dominate that year. I think Riccardo is right, there is a real romance to the song. Jazz always lends itself to nostalgia and class, and in the case of Madness of Love, I’m transported to 1920’s Chicago in a glorious three-minute time tunnel.

Next week

Next week, our journey down the Eurovision memory lane continues. Our Nick will take us to beautiful Poland!  Let’s see which of the 20 Polish entries he will choose for us!
But for now, let’s remember Italy’s ‘Madness of love’. What is your favorite Italian entry? Let us know below or on Facebook!

Riccardo Maddalozzo

Born in Italy, I have lived in 5 countries in 3 continents. I discovered Eurovision by accident in 2010 and became a superfan in 2013. I attended both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision events and covered several national finals on the ground and hope to continue doing so for a long time!

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