Italy was represented by Gigliola Cinquetti, with the song '"Sì", at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place on 6 April in Brighton, England. As usual, broadcaster RAI chose both song and performer internally. Cinquetti was well-known to Eurovision audiences, having won the 1964 contest by a landslide at the age of 16, and subsequently gone on to enjoy a successful recording career.
"Sì" is noted for finding itself at the centre of a domestic political storm prior to the contest. Italy was due to hold a referendum on 12 May in which the electorate were asked to vote on whether the country should repeal a law passed in 1971 which made divorce legal for the first time in modern Italian history. Although the song's lyrics clearly had nothing to do with the issue, such was the concern that a song which included the word "sì" ("yes") so many times could be seen as containing a subliminal message that RAI took the unprecedented step of effectively banning their own Eurovision entry from the airwaves until after the referendum. RAI did not broadcast the 1974 contest live in Italy, and it was not shown at all until after the referendum had taken place.
On the night of the contest Cinquetti performed last in the running order, following Portugal. "Sì" was a dramatic, atmospheric ballad and although Cinquetti appeared surprisingly nervous, given her previous experience, she gave a flawless vocal performance. At the close of voting "Sì" had received 18 points (half of which came from the United Kingdom and Monaco), placing Italy second of the 17 entries, behind Sweden's soon-to-be global superstars ABBA. Cinquetti is one of five artists – the others being Lys Assia, Linda Martin, Elisabeth Andreassen and Dima Bilan – who have finished first and second at Eurovision.
The censorship of "Sì" and its resultant lack of domestic exposure meant that the song never became a sizeable hit in Italy. However, just as the United Kingdom jury had been the most appreciative on the night, so British record buyers showed their liking for the song, as an English version ("Go (Before You Break My Heart)") recorded by Cinquetti reached the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart, one of only three non-British / non-winning Eurovision songs ever to do so. The song has a very high reputation and often features in polls of the best Eurovision entries of all time.