The annual competition is held in the Ligurian town of Sanremo and showcases previously unreleased songs and new artists.

As the five-day competition gets underway, we bring you 10 fun-facts which may surprise you.

Humble beginnings...

The first edition of the Sanremo Music Festival took place from January 29 to 31, 1951.

Broadcast by RAI’s radio station Rete Rossa, the contest featured only three participants – Nilla Pizzi, Achille Togliani and Duo Fasano – and 20 songs.

Nilla Pizzi won the inaugural competition with the song Grazie dei fiori.

Nilla Pizzi

The centre of the action

The festival was held at the Sanremo Casino from its inception until 1977.

It then moved to Teatro Ariston, where it has been held since.

The only exception was the 1990 edition of the contest, which was hosted at Sanremo’s Palafiori.

Teatro Ariston, Sanremo

An international event

Between 1953 and 1971, except in 1956, each song was sung twice by two different artists, each one using an individual orchestral arrangement.

This was to illustrate the meaning of the festival as a composers’ competition, not a singers’ competition.

During this era of the festival, it was custom that one version of the song was performed by a native Italian artist, while the other version was performed by an international guest artist.

It was through this initiative that many international acts such as Louis Armstrong and Stevie Wonder broke into the Italian market.

Louis Armstrong and Lara Saint Paul sang a duet at Sanremo in 1968

Introducing Volare...

The Sanremo Music Festival launched the classic Italian song Volare, also known as Nel blu dipinto di blu, sung by Domenico Modugno.

Winning the eighth Sanremo Music Festival, the song was chosen as the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958, held in the Netherlands, where it won third place out of 10 songs in total.

The combined sales of all the versions of the song exceed 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time and the most successful Sanremo Music Festival song ever.

Modugno’s recording subsequently became the first Grammy winner for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards in 1958.

The song was later translated in several languages.

Domenico Modugno

From Sanremo to the European stage

The Sanremo Music Festival was the inspiration for the world famous Eurovision Song Contest.

The festival is also used as the way of selecting the Italian entry to Eurovision each year.

Francesca Michielin represented Italy at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest after coming second at Sanremo earlier that year

A star is born

The festival has launched the careers of some of Italy’s most successful artists, including Mina Mazzini, Andrea Bocelli, Paola e Chiara, Il Volo, Giorgia, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti and Gigliola Cinquetti.

Andrea Bocelli with his son Matteo on the opening night of this year’s festival

An internet craze

Sanremo was the second most searched for event in Italy on Google in 2017 (outdone only by the football match that saw the country booted out of the 2018 World Cup).

Francesco Gabbani won the 2017 edition

A winning duet

Last year’s competition was taken out by Albanian-born Ermal Meta and Rome native Fabrizio Moro, with their song Non mi avete fatto niente.

The pair said the winning song was inspired by the Manchester Arena bombing last May, in which 22 people were killed when a man blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert.

Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro

Baglioni brings in the numbers

Last year’s event was hosted by Italian star Claudio Baglioni, model and actor Michelle Hunziker, and actor Pierfrancesco Favino.

The 2018 edition was a great success, with millions tuning in to RAI 1 every night, and a massive 12.125 million people watching the final evening.

Due to the event’s resounding success, Baglioni has been called back to host this year’s edition, alongside comedian and actor Virginia Raffaele, and actor and presenter Claudio Bisio.

Claudio Baglioni

Australians don’t miss out

The Sanremo Music Festival is broadcast live on Italian television station Rai 1 each year.

It also airs annually in Australia on SBS One.

Photos: ANSA