Italy chose to host the event in Turin, in the northern, foodie region of Piedmont, which was last in the international spotlight during the 2006 Winter Olympics. Then, as tonight, viewers across the world caught glimpses of this elegant city, where the first Fiat car was built about 120 years ago. More recently, the city has shifted its focus to contemporary art, becoming known for its well-regarded contemporary art foundations, museums and the Artissima art fair.
Italy is one of the “big five” Eurovision countries, which automatically qualify for the final because of the money their broadcasters contribute to the running of the contest. Although this arrangement is no guarantee of success at the final (sorry, Britain), Italian acts often do well at Eurovision.
Three years ago, “Soldi” by Mahmood placed second, and the Italian artist is competing again this year with “Brividi” (Chills), a duet with newcomer Blanco.
This is also the third time Italy has hosted the song contest.
In 1964, 16-year-old Gigliola Cinquetti won Eurovision in Copenhagen with “Non Ho l’Eta,” and the following year Italy hosted the competition in Naples. Italy won again in 1990, when Toto Cutugno took the grand prize with the song “Insieme 1992,” which means “Together 1992,” promoting a united Europe.
Cotugno and Cinquetti co-hosted the Eurovision contest in Rome the following year, which is remembered on the Eurovision website as having been “a chaotic affair,” at which the hosts often had to call on Eurovision officials for clarification, “especially during the voting.”
Tonight, the Italian hosts are the Grammy Award winning singer Laura Pausini, an Italian star with a global following; Alessandro Cattelan, a popular television presenter; and Mika, the British-Lebanese artist who has become a household name in Italy after several stints as a judge on X Factor Italia.