Golden era of Italian alternative music: 5 bands you should know

If you were a teenager in Italy around the year 2000 and you were not a fighetto then like me you were an alternativo. Teenage years are a delicate time when pressure from your peers can change dramatically the experience of heading into adulthood. Well I can say that being kind-of-punk in a small town in Italy wasn’t all rose e fiori.

Those years, though, were a good time for alternative music in Italy: in a country where melodic, easy-listening pop songs have always been overpowering rock sounds the years from the beginning of the 90’s to early 2000’s seemed to bring some sort of change to the musical scene. It was a time when MTV was still broadcasting music videos (crazy, uh?) and they had shows dedicated to indie music, emerging bands, rock stuff you wouldn’t hear on your regular radio.
It was the time when bands that had been around for years suddenly became a big thing and everything seemed possible: was Italy perhaps going to develop an influential alternative music scene? Unfortunately the illusion only lasted for a decade, more or less. The pioneers are still around and making money but can hardly be called underground anymore. Many of them even took part in the festival of Italian mainstream music per antonomasiaSanremo. The vast majority of bands had one successful single or album and then ended up nel dimenticatoio.

And when you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to speak about music with your Italian friends, go grab a music vocabulary cheat sheet I prepared for you. Get it now:

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Verdena – Image by Carlo Polisano

Language takeaway

Fighetto: someone who follows mainstream fashion, wears brand clothes and has a posh attitude.
Alternativo: someone who follows alternative fashion and is into some sort of underground culture.
Non è tutto rose e fiori: it’s not a bed of roses.
Per antonomasia: par excellence.
Finire nel dimenticatoio: To end up on the scrap heap.

If you have any Italian friends in their late twenties to thirties who are into rock music, then they likely used to listen to at least one of these bands. Wouldn’t it be cool to impress them with your knowledge of these songs from the golden era of Italian alternative music?


One of the biggest Italian “indie” bands still around, they were formed in the second half of the 80’s in Milan. Front man Manuel Agnelli founded an independent music label and a rock festival before ending up as a judge for the Italian version of X-Factor.
Quello che non c’è, 2002

Marlene Kuntz

With Afterhours they one of the most important alternative rock bands still around. Their style, initially influenced by Sonic Youth, switched to a more traditional song-writing in recent years. They were born at the end of the 80’s in Cuneo and are formed by singer/songwriter/guitarist Cristiano Godano, guitarist Riccardo Tesio and drummer Luca Bergia.
Nuotando nell’aria, 1994


Formed in Bergamo in 1995 by the brothers Alberto and Luca Ferrari and Roberta Sammarelli, they made an impact on the alternative scene with their first self-named album. Their style went from grunge to psychedelic and experimental rock.
Valvonauta, 1999


Formed by Morgan (another future X-Factor judge) and Andy in the late 80’s, their sound was influenced by new wave and synthpop. In the 2000’s they went in hiatus for almost a decade and re-united in 2008 for a few years.
Fuori dal tempo, 1997


Subsonica are an electronic rock band from Turin. They became famous after playing at Sanremo music festival in 2000 and soon went from being an alternative group to gaining audience and success all over Italy.
Tutti i miei sbagli, 2000

These are just a few of the bands that were famous in the 90’s to early 2000’s, the ones who paved the way for other artists to emerge. Most of them are still making music and are now renowned acts. There still is a lively underground scene in Italy, but none of the young artists have as much exposure as these bands used to enjoy in those years.

Ready to speak about music with your Italian friends but you’re not sure about the words to use? I got your back. A music vocabulary cheat sheet awaits in the secret library for learning resources! Get it now:

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If you want to find out more I created a playlist with Italian alternative music. You can also check out this Pinterest board about Italian music. I will keep updating both so more good stuff will be added soon.


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