La Leggenda del Piave

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La Leggenda del Piave
English: The Legend of Piave
Tricolore trieste.JPG
A woman, representing Italy, celebrates the Italian victory over Austria-Hungary

National anthem of  Italy
LyricsE. A. Mario, 1918
MusicE. A. Mario, 1918
AdoptedSeptember 1943
RelinquishedOctober 1946
Preceded byMarcia Reale
Succeeded byIl Canto degli Italiani

La Leggenda del Piave (English: The Legend of Piave), also known as La Canzone del Piave (English: The Song of Piave), is an Italian patriotic song written by E. A. Mario after the Battle of the Piave River in June 1918. In September 1943 the future king of Italy Umberto II chose it as the new national anthem replacing the Marcia Reale. It remained the official anthem of Italy until October 1946, when the new Italian Republic selected Il Canto degli Italiani in its stead. Today, the song is popular in Italy and played by a military band on National Unity and Armed Forces Day (November 4).


The song is divided in four parts and presents a brief history of the Italian front during World War I.

  1. The march of the Italian army in May 1915 from Veneto to the frontline.
  2. The Italian defeat at Caporetto.
  3. The resistance along the Piave river.
  4. The final battle at Vittorio Veneto and the victory.


Italian lyrics

Il Piave mormorava calmo e placido al passaggio
dei primi fanti il ventiquattro Maggio.
L'esercito marciava per raggiunger la frontiera,
per far contro il nemico una barriera.
Muti passaron quella notte i fanti:
tacere bisognava e andare avanti.
S'udiva intanto dalle amate sponde
sommesso e lieve il tripudiar dell'onde.
Era un presagio dolce e lusinghiero:
il Piave mormorò "Non passa lo straniero!".

Ma in una notte triste si parlò di un fosco evento[1]
e il Piave udiva l'ira e lo sgomento.
Ahi, quanta gente ha vista venir giù, lasciare il tetto
poiché il nemico irruppe a Caporetto.[2]
Profughi ovunque dai lontani monti
venivano a gremir tutti i suoi ponti!
S'udiva allor dalle violate sponde
sommesso e triste il mormorio dell'onde.
Come un singhiozzo in quell'autunno nero
il Piave mormorò "Ritorna lo straniero!".

E ritornò il nemico per l'orgoglio e per la fame:
voleva sfogar tutte le sue brame.
Vedeva il piano aprico di lassù, voleva ancora
sfamarsi e tripudiare come allora.
"No!" disse il Piave, "No!" dissero i fanti,
"Mai più il nemico faccia un passo avanti!".
Si vide il Piave rigonfiar le sponde,
e come i fanti combattevan l'onde.
Rosso del sangue del nemico altero,
il Piave comandò "Indietro va', straniero!".

Indietreggiò il nemico fino a Trieste, fino a Trento,
e la vittoria sciolse le ali al vento.
Fu sacro il patto antico, fra le schiere furon visti
risorgere Oberdan, Sauro e Battisti.
Infranse alfin l'italico valore
le forche e l'armi dell'impiccatore.
Sicure l'Alpi, libere le sponde,
e tacque il Piave, si placaron l'onde.
Sul patrio suolo, vinti i torvi imperi,
la pace non trovò né oppressi né stranieri.

English translation

The Piave whispered calm and placid during the crossing
of the first infantrymen on 24 May;
the army marched on to reach the frontier
to make a wall against the enemy.
The silent infantrymen passed in the night
they had to be silent and go forward.
From the beloved river banks they heard
light and low the exultation of the waves.
It was a sweet and propitious omen.
The Piave whispered: the foreigner shall not pass!

But on a sad night, they talked about a dark event,[3]
the Piave felt the wrath and the dismay.
Alas, he saw so many people coming down, leaving their homes;
because the enemy broke through at Caporetto.[4]
Refugees everywhere, from the distant mountains,
they came to crowd all his bridges.
They heard from the violated river-banks
light and sad the murmur of the waves
Like a sob in that black autumn
the Piave whispered: the foreigner is returning!

And the enemy returned, moved by his pride and by his hunger,
he wanted to vent all his cravings.
He saw the sunny plain from up there,
he wanted to feed and to exult like in the past.
No! the Piave said, "No!" said the infantrymen,
"May the enemy never make a single step ahead!"
They saw the Piave swelling from his banks
and his waves were fighting like the infantrymen.
Red with the blood of the haughty enemy,
the Piave ordered them: "Go back, foreigner!"

Then the enemy withdrew to Trieste, to Trento
and victory spread her wings on the air.
The ancestral oath was honored; among the ranks they saw
Oberdan, Sauro and Battisti resurrecting.
At last the Italic courage broke
the gallows tree and the weapons of the hangman.
Secure the Alps, free the shores,
the Piave got silent, the waves appeased.
On the fatherland's soil, the grim empires vanquished,
peace found neither oppressed people nor foreigners.


The song was executed for the first time at the end of the battle held in June 23, 1918. General Armando Diaz addressed a personal telegram to the author to thank him for his musical contribution to the military victory of the Italian army.[5]

In the years following World War I the song became an anthem dedicated to the resistance during the war.

E. A. Mario refused to gain money from La Leggenda del Piave. In November 1941 he donated his and his wife's wedding rings, and the first 100 gold medals he received as a tribute for this song by the towns along the river Piave, war veterans' associations, and private citizens to the "Gold for the Fatherland" initiative.[6]

La Leggenda del Piave was one of the candidates to become the anthem of the new Italian Republic. "Il Canto degli Italiani" was chosen instead.

Today La Leggenda del Piave is still widely popular, and the song is commonly played during official ceremonies to remember the fallen and the final victory.


  1. ^ "Ma in una notte triste si parlò di tradimento" was the original text in this line because a unit of the Italian Army was originally considered responsible of the defeat of Caporetto.
  2. ^ "per l'onta consumata a Caporetto" was the original text, see previous note.
  3. ^ "But on a sad night, by a treason, they said" is the original line because before the end of the hostilities it was believed that the surrender of a unit of the Italian Army had led to the defeat of Caporetto.
  4. ^ "because of the shame that had taken place in Caporetto" was the original line, see previous note.
  5. ^ "Il 24 maggio 1915 per l'Italia cominciava la prima guerra mondiale. La canzone del Piave del fratello E.A Mario immortalò quel momento". Grand Orient of Italy (in Italian).
  6. ^ "Il Cerchio", by Franz Maria D'Asaro

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