It’s currently podcast-time in Italy. Everyone seems to have something to podcast about. Some current facts: around 16.4 million Italians listen to podcasts, up 7% compared to 2022; more than 60% of listeners are millennials, including heavy users who listen to podcasts daily. Podcasts are popular in Italy for pretty much the same reasons as they are everywhere else: They’re entertaining while also being educational, they are easy to access, and they can be listened while doing something else—from daily chores to commuting. Trending topics in Italy are true crime, news, mental health and well-being, and history. Let’s look at these topics in detail and let’s also peep through educational shows to get some inspiration.
The most popular true crime podcasts are Elisa True Crime—hosted by the “girl next door,” who tells you everything about dreadful crimes, unsolved mysteries, and mysterious disappearances—and Indagini. This last one has somehow changed how true crime is divulged and perceived in Italy. As host Stefano Nazzi religiously repeats on the first of each month in his intro, Indagini focuses not only—and not much—on the crime itself, but on everything that happened in the aftermath, during the investigations and the trials. The goal is to understand how the investigations affected the media storytelling, and how the media storytelling and society at large affected the investigations. Thanks to word of mouth at first, and pushed by a growing social media hype later on, Indagini is now steadily among the top podcasts.
A special mention in this category must dutifully go to Carlo Lucarelli and his shows—Dee Giallo, Blu Notte, and Profondo Nero, among the many. With his books, TV and radio shows first, and podcasts later, Lucarelli is one of the founding fathers of the Italian true crime genre, also thanks to his unmistakable alla Lucarelli style.
The news podcasts top chart is particularly crowded: Mondo, from the weekly magazine Internazionale (which translates into Italian articles from foreign press all around the world) is one of the youngest, and it’s already among the top news shows. Some of the many others include The Essential (needs no explanations), Start,Notizie a colazione, Stories, and Morning. This last one is not in the top chart, presumably because it’s only available to subscribers to the online newspaper Il Post, but it has been a game-changer in how press reviews are done, taking the Il Post “spiegato bene” mantra to podcasts. In September 2022, Morning made it to The New Yorker: the magazine featured a long article about the podcast called “The Man Who Explains Italy”—the man being Francesco Costa, Morning’s host.
Science, Mental Health and Well-being, and Others
Explaining science has become particularly popular during the pandemic, and the trend seems to be still in good health. Trending now are Scientificast, the most long-running in the genre; Fottuti Geni, Ci vuole una scienza, and Cose da ingegneri (ma non solo). As far as mental health and well-being goes, we have Essere Grandi, hosted by the well-respected psychotherapist Stefania Andreoli; and Una cura tutta tua, by the biologist and science speaker Antonella Viola. Both are fresh out of the recording studios, but already deserving of a noteworthy label. There are also countless single-subject shows, which explore random or crucial events from the present or the past, from the Costa Concordia disaster (Il Dito di Dio – Voci dalla Concordia) to stories of powerful women (Fata Morgana, hosted by Chiara Tagliaferri and writer Michela Murgia) and Figlie, a personal account from an Argentinian desaparecida’s daughter. An embarrassment of riches, as they say.
Italians Love History
From monographic shows investigating specific past events or historical periods, to more generic what-you-might-have-missed-in-your-history-class shows, history takes the lion’s share of the Italian podcast charts. In Qui si fa l’Italia, for instance, hosts Lorenzo Pregliasco and Lorenzo Baravalle explore crucial events in the Italian recent past to understand how the country has changed and how those changes made today’s Italians. The real sensation in the history scene, however, is, without a doubt, Professor Alessandro Barbero. Specializing in Middle Age and military history, Barbero has a sort of cult following, thanks to his colloquial yet rigorous and precise style. His talks at conferences and such have been uploaded first on YouTube and then as dedicated podcasts by an army of loyal fans. And Barbero recently inaugurated his own podcast: Chiedilo a Barbero, a weekly show in which he answers a couple of questions from his listeners. From the first episode, the show went straight to the top of the chart and will likely stay there indefinitely.
Improving Language Skills
There are numerous shows devoted to language learning. Most of them focus on English: Learn English with Coffee Break English, Thinking in English, 6 Minute English, L’inglese passo passo, and many others along the same line. But there are also podcasts for learning Italian: Coffee Break Italian, Italian for Beginners, Easy Italian; French: Le français avec Fluidité, Little Talk in Slow French; and German: Easy German, just to name a few on the top of the education chart.
The podcast universe is expanding on a weekly—if not daily—basis, and you can easily find other shows to check out. Podcasts are a great way to practice your listening skills, to get familiar with different accents (and speech paces!), and to explore Italian pop culture from every possible angle. Give it a try! Making your bed, working out, or just taking the bus might sound completely different!
By Claudia Quesito