D'Anzi: the father of the Festivale della Canzone Milanese
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Giovanni D'Anzi

Musician and composer - Milan 01/01/1906 - Santa Margherita Ligure 15/04/1974


The name of Giovanni D’Anzi is linked to Italian songs that have marked an era. The list is endless: from “Bambina  innamorata” (Girl in love), “Nostalgia de Milan” (Nostalgia for Milan), “Vicino a te” (Close to you), “Nasce così l’amore” (Love is born like this), “Abbassa la tua radio” (Turn your radio down), “Ma l’amore no” (Not love), “Bellezze in bicicletta” ( Beauty on a bicycle), “Non partir” (Don’t leave), “Ma le gambe” (Legs) to: “Non dimenticar (le mie parole)” (Don’t forget my words), “Signorina Grandi Firme” (Signorina Cover Girl), “Tu, musica divina” (Divine music), “Ti dirò” (Then I will tell you), “Casetta mia” (My little home) and many, many others.

He participated in many editions of the festival of Sanremo and in 1953 won with “Viale d’autunno” (Autumn lanes) sung by Flo Sandon’s and Carla Boni.   

Up to the age of 18 D’Anzi cut his teeth by playing in various small orchestras in Milanese locations, then he went to seek his fortune in Paris where he gained his first successes. When he returned to his city the maestro composed his most famous song “Madonnina” on October 21st 1935. The text was written in Milanese, like many of the successful songs by Giovanni D’Anzi, to emphasis the qualities that make Milan great: dedication to hard work, the capacity to welcome even those who are not born Milanese and a certain pride in belonging to the city.

The “Madonnina” is the golden statue on top of the Duomo of Milan, even nowadays considered as the symbol of the city.

In the season of the teatro di rivista (show theatre very popular in Italy in the thirties) he wrote for the duo Isa Bluette - Nuto Navarrini, for Nino Taranto, Carlo Dapporto, Wanda Osiris, Macari, for the duo Walter Chiari - Marisa Maresca, for Tino Scotti and for Ugo Tognazzi.

D’Anzi and Bracchi wrote, and put to music, sound tracks for successful films like “Ma l’amore no…” (Not love) sung by Alida Valli. During the winter season the writers worked in Milan and in the summer in D’Anzi’s villa in Santa Margherita Ligure.

In the sixties, D’Anzi dedicated himself to the city of Milan, creating the Festival of the Milanese Song in the Gelateria di Inverigo. He participated in some shows in the famous Derby cabaret of Via Monterosa and, above all, he dedicated himself to his painting. More than once he was awarded in the annual show in Via Bagutta.

He died in Santa Margherita Ligure on April 15th 1974. Upon his death, the Municipality of Milan included him in the list of worthy Milanese and he was buried in the Palanti Chapel of the Monumental Cemetery in Milan.

Anecdotes and curiosities

Giovanni d’Anzi was born in via Olocati in Milan, a street that has disappeared from the toponymy of the city and which, nowadays, corresponds to via Conca del Naviglio.

Son of parents from the south of Italy, his father Antonio was from Puglia and moved to Milan when he was young. He worked firstly as inspector for the Italian beer company Birra Italia then as manager of a trattoria in via Martiri Oscuri.

The famous song “Madonnina” was composed one night in his house in Milan to compete with the many other Neapolitan and Roman songs that abounded in the Thirties. While D’Anzi played as a pianist in a piano bar, Pavillon Dorè, upstairs in the Trianon theatre shows were held that almost always represented Neapolitan farce and at the end of every evening the showgirl sang: O sole mio! One night at the end of the show D’Anzi approached the girl and said: “I would like to compose something for you!”: “Madonnina” was created.

Written in Milanese dialect, “Nostalgia de Milan” was dedicated to the Milanese who, for one reason or another, had to live far away from their city. When Alberto Rabagliati sang this song, which was written around 1939, he reduced to tears thousands of soldiers in Brindisi who were leaving on ships to fight in Albania and Greece.

With “Finestra chiusa” (Closed window), sung by Luciano Tajoli, he won the Festival of Italian Songs in Paris.

“Bambina innamorata” was made successful by Alberto Rabagliati and then taken up by  Luciano Taioli. Two other songs, “Non partir” (Don’t leave) and “Ti dirò” were re-launched by Tony Dallara in the Sixties.

In April 1990 in  the Galleria del Corso 3, Milan, the Municipality dedicated a plaque to him which says: "Once upon a time in this gallery there was a king...Giovanni D'Anzi wrote magic notes and the sweetest of which he sang for Milan "O mia bela Madonina".

In 1950 Giovanni D’Anzi and Marcello Marchesi wrote the famous song “Bellezze in bicicletta”, for the homonymous film, and took their inspiration from Alfonsina Strada, the first and only woman who participated in the Giro d’Italia competing against men.

On the answering machine of Marchesino, a restaurant opened by the famous gastronome Gualtiero Marchesi, one of  D’Anzi’s famous songs can be heard, “Gagarella del Biffi Scala” (Young rich layabouts at the Biffi Scala) reinterpreted by “Elio e le Storie Tese” and by Marchesi himself.

Related places

Via Olocati, now via Conca del Naviglio

Place of birth

Corso Vittorio Emanuele 43

He lived here in his youth

Via Durini 2

Where D’Anzi lived for a long time

Galleria del Corso 4

Where there is the piano he used to play

Via Visconti di Vimodrone 1

Alfredo Bracchi lived there. As a duo they wrote many songs and saw each other all the time yet they still used ‘lei’, the polite form of ‘you’, with each other

Sources and documents

Carlo Castellaneta, Il dizionario di Milano: tutta Milano dalla A alla Z: Le Lettere, Firenze, 2000.

“Ciao Giovannino”. Libro commedia di Roberto Marelli.

Massimo Castoldi, Ugo Salvi, Parole per ricordare. Dizionario della memoria collettiva: Zanichelli, 2003.

Paolo Facchinetti, Gli anni ruggenti di Alfonsina Strada: Ediciclo Editore, 2004

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