This anthem was Italy’s first anthem in use, during its time as a kingdom. It was composed in 1831, before a unified Italy first appeared, as the hymn of the house of Savoy – at the time the rulers of the Kingdom of Sardinia, but after Italian unification became the ruling house over all of Italy. Officially there were no words, however several poets wrote words for the anthem, yet none were official.
During the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, from 1922-1943 this anthem remained official, yet was primarily played only in the presence of the King; Mussolini’s party song the “Giovinezza” was taking an increasingly prominent role as a secondary national anthem, sometimes being played instead of the “Marcia Reale”. In 1943, after Mussolini was removed from power in Italy, the country was effectively controlled by two factions; in the south the “Marcia Reale” was again the sole national anthem, but “La Canzone del Piave” (lyrics and music by Giovanni Gaeta, also known as E. A. Mario) was unofficially used as well due to the uncertain political situation in the country. (“La Canzone del Piave” is now used to commemorate fallen soldiers.) In the north, Mussolini set up a fascist government until the end of the war that was a puppet state to Nazi Germany that used “Giovinezza” as its anthem. In 1946 the Italian people voted to replace the monarchy with a republic, and “Marcia Reale” was replaced as the national anthem with the current “Il Canto degli Italiani”.
Special thanks to: Ernesto Vitetti for some of this information.