Franco Migliacci started working on the lyrics of the song in June 1957, inspired by two paintings by Marc Chagall. He had planned to go to the sea with Domenico Modugno, but while waiting for Modugno to show up, Migliacci started drinking wine and eventually fell asleep. He had vivid dreams, and when he woke up, he looked at the reproductions of the Chagall paintings on his wall.
In “Le coq rouge” was a yellow man suspended in midair, while in “Le peintre et la modelle,” half the painter’s face was colored blue. So he started penning a song about a man, who dreams of painting himself blue and being able to fly. Later that same night, Migliacci discussed his lyrics with Modugno, and for several days they worked on the song, tentatively titled “Sogno in blu” (“Dream in blue”). Much later, in 2008, Franca Gandolfi recalled that her husband Domenico Modugno, after a storm forced open his window, had the idea of modifying the chorus of the song, introducing the word “volare,” which is now the popular title of the song.
The song is a ballad in a dramatic chanson style in which Modugno describes the feeling of the flight he has when with his lover. The song opens with a surreal prelude which the cover versions often left out: “Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più. Mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu; poi d’improvviso venivo dal vento rapito, e incominciavo a volare nel cielo infinito.” (“I think that a dream like that will never return; I painted my hands and my face blue, then was suddenly swept up by the wind and started to fly in the infinite sky.”)