Many children in Italy and around the world are tuned in this week to the 56th edition of the international children’s song festival Zecchino d’Oro.

Started in Milan in 1959, the festival moved to Bologna two years later, where it has been held since, at the Antoniano Institute, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Started by a young Franciscan priest in 1953, the Antoniano was created to assist the poor and help young people develop their talents, in the spirit of St. Francis. The first initiatives included a canteen to feed the poor, and the Academy of Dramatic Arts. From the 1960s on, other cultural initiatives were added, including the Zecchino d’Oro. Throughout the years, the Antoniano has kept adding new projects devoted to helping those in need, especially as related to children.

In 1963, Mariele Ventre, a conductor and director of young performers, created the Piccolo Coro Antoniano. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the show this year will include a journey through its history and its music, with performances by Veronica Maya and readings by Pino Insegna, the two presenters of the show. 

From 1976 the festival took on an international perspective - each year seven Italian songs and seven foreign songs are sung by children and voted for by a children's jury. The winning song is rewarded with the Zecchino d'Oro award – as with the Zecchino d’Argento (second place), the award goes to the writers and composers of the songs, not to the children who interpret them.

The show is broadcast on Italy’s Rai 1 in Italy and Rai International abroad.

Listen below to the most famous Zecchino d’Oro songs from the 1960s to the present.

Popoff (1967):

Valzer del moscerino (1968)

Volevo un gatto nero (1969)

Il coccodrillo come fa (1993):

Bravissimissima (2010):