Can Anyone Help with a Calabrese Italian Rhyme called "Voca, Voca Marinara"?

Christina wrote asking for help with an Italian (Calabrese) rhyme.  Here’s her email…

Hi Lisa,

This rhyme has been recited to small children in our family at least since the early 20th century. My paternal grandfather’s parents came to the U.S. in 1913 from Falerna, Catanzaro. They left two children there and subsequently had four more children, my grandfather being born in 1917.

Anyway, Nanna sang this to my grandfather, who sang it to my dad, who sang it to me, and now both he and I sing it to my baby girl. The baby sits on your lap, facing you, you hold onto both of her hands, and rock her forward and back as if rowing a boat while reciting. For the last word of the rhyme, you lift their arms up and stand them up on your lap, and then say, "Yaayy!"

I can tell you ahead of time that not only is the rhyme in a very southern Italian dialect (Calabrese), I will probably completely butcher the spellings, dialect or not – so I apologize now, I will do my best! It’s never been written down that I know of, so this is just based off of how we’ve heard it recited.

Voca, voca marinara
Calle pesce sinegatti
Sinegatti casta luna
Voca, voca macaroni!

If there is any information you can give me on correct spellings, meanings, origins, or anything, that would be wonderful! My dad and I have often wondered exactly what it means. We can gather that it has something to do with night fishermen, but that’s about all.

Thank you so much!


We’ve only been able to find versions of this rhyme in standard Italian and in other dialects.  They begin as "Voga voga marinaro". 

If anyone can help with Christina’s version, please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks in advance!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, July 17th, 2015 at 3:08 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Italian, Italian Dialects, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Calabrese Italian Rhyme called "Voca, Voca Marinara"?”

  1. Annmarie Ball Says:

    My grandmother sang this to my sister and I when we were little but it was a bit different than the lyrics you’ve posted I don’t know if it matters but my family I from Sicily.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Please share your lyrics if you can. There are often many different versions and we love to learn them all!

  3. Maria Naccarato Says:

    Looking for a nursery rhyme from Southern Italy, Calabria with the words Maria Pia Pia in it. IF anyone knows the rest of the words it would b wonderful to have. Thanks.

  4. Sina Says:

    My mother’s from Calabria and we had a similar start but totally different endings.

    Voca voca voca
    La mama si le ioca (gioca in the town dialect)
    Il padre si né gride è la nonna lascuride

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