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 antonomasia, Sanremo. The vast majority of bands had one successful single or album and then ended up nel dimenticatoio.

Language takeaway

Fighetto: someone who follows mainstream fashion, wears brand clothes and has a posh attitude.
Alternativo: someone who follows alternative fashion and 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. Frontman 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 songwriting 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 on hiatus for almost a decade and reunited in 2008 for a few years.
Fuori dal tempo, 1997


Subsonica is 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 has as much exposure as these bands used to enjoy in those years.

If you want to find out more I created a Spotify playlist with music in Italian.

Do you know any of these bands? Did I forget someone you would include on the list? Let me know in the comments!



I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I’m on a journey to help introverts and other quiet learners make language learning into a tool for self-care (and keep anxiety out of it).


  1. 27th May 2017 / 1:00 pm

    Io ero (e sono tuttora!) un’alternativa con i gusti musicali da fighetta… o qualcosa del genere 😛

    Sono cresciuta ascoltando le Spice Girls quindi penso di avere il pop nel DNA 😀

    Ho notato che nella playlist di YouTube hai incluso Carmen Consoli che è la mia cantante preferita italiana *__*

    • Elena
      29th May 2017 / 6:57 pm

      A vedere me invece non si direbbe che sia un’amante di rock e musica alternativa. Per fortuna ci sono sempre eccezioni alla regola che rendono tutto più interessante 🙂 Che poi musica alternativa o no sono solo etichette che ormai vogliono dire poco.
      Certo pop piace molto anche a me, Spice Girls e BSB li ho ascoltati per anni nelle musicassette. 🙂
      Carmen Consoli mi piaceva tantissimo qualche anno fa, ora sono poco aggiornata sulla musica italiana purtroppo, devo rimediare!