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Top moments of 2011: Italy's return

23 December 2011 at 17:39 CET

It was in 1997 when Italy took part the last time in the Eurovision Song Contest and then they decided to take a break. But the organisers, and especially the EBU, had been working very hard every year to bring back one of the original founders of the contest.

So finally, a bit over a year ago, the EBU could announce the happy news that Italy's broadcaster RAI had indeed applied to take part in Düsseldorf in 2011!

It was a piece of news that spread all over Europe at the speed of light, from the local newspapers in Estonia to the British broadcaster BBC. And was, of course, received with great excitement.

Raphael's triumph

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Just months later, RAI also had the task of picking their entry. They decided the best format for this would be a special jury at the highly popular Sanremo festival.

For years the winning song of Sanremo went on to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest, the last time this happened was in 1997 with Jalisse's Fiumi Di Parole, the last time that the country participated in Europe's favourite TV show.

The attention was high all over Europe and in the end, on the last day of the festival, it was Raphael Gualazzi with the song Madness Of Love to bring back Italy to the Eurovision Song Contest.

 "We came back to stay." Nicola Caligiore, RAI.

On the 7th of May this year, Raphael had the first Italian rehearsal in 13 years and according to the people in the Arena, it went very well. See our interview with him below!

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But not only that. He was one of the underdogs of the bookmakers before the contest but on the day of the Final, it was he who brought home the second place from Düsseldorf. Among forty-three other nations, this is quite an achievement!

He's also continued to have success after the Eurovision Song Contest, enjoying sold-out concerts as well as great album sales. A true European star has born!

Italy's back!

"We're going to have the maximum diffusion possible, which is a big challenge. /--/ One of the ideas to try to keep the Italian audience glued to the contest is that, during the Final, we'll have a popular face and some guests commenting from Italy to the Italian viewers. They, of course, won't interfere with the songs, just try to keep the atmosphere of the contest up by explaining to our audience what's going on." Nicola Caligiore, the Italian Head of Delegation said in an interview to us in April

"Do not worry, we will have great respect of the original format and our intervention will be minimal: we need this to promote the Eurovision Song Contest as much as possible and make it a success since we came back to stay." he added.