Can Anyone Help with Some Italian Songs and Rhymes

We get many requests for help with Italian songs and rhymes.  Most of the people who send in the questions are Italian-Americans who were sung Italian songs as kids by their immigrant relatives.  They often never learned how to speak Italian, so the lyrics are usually phonetically given.  Here are the emails…

1.  A Sicilian Song – Une due tre

Hi mama lisa,

My great aunt was from piana del albanese, sicily.  she used to sing us a song that was similar to ‘uno due tre‘.  As best as i can spell it phonetically it was:

poleta poleta (polenta?) 
cinuna conchenta
ominfink you sapucatti
sapucatti vente tre
uno due y tre

Any ideas if it is a regional version of the song you have listed?

thank you!

joe 
san jose, ca

2.  Sicilian Song – Mani Manuzzi

Hi Lisa,

I saw and wrote on your website about my grandparents from Marineo and Agrigento, Italy. As a child, I learned a Sicilian song for babies which I taught my children and also now my granddaughter. I don’t know the spelling, but it went like this:

Mani manuzzi,
Pan e figuzzi
Ora veni Papa
Porta le cosi  e mindi ca
E si ne va
Pan e nuccidi
Pista piccerlida

I think it means, little hands (clap), bread and figs, now comes daddy, he’ll bring the things and put them here and then go away. Bread and nuts, for my little darling.

Is this correct? Would you know the correct spelling in Sicilian?

Thanks!

Antoinette Mastropaolo Klima

PS when my granddaughter hears this she listens very carefully and seriously and then starts smiling to beat the band! Wish my mom was alive to see this.  I miss my Italian roots.

3.  Fala Nanna Bambin

Dear Ms Lisa:

This lovely Italien childrens Song I studied about 50 years ago with my German Voice Teacher. I copied the song and lost it. In this version it was made into a more of an  art song by Castelnuovo-Tedeso.  It also has a 2nd verse, talking about the papa…. if he does not return than there is – la piacere Mamma….  I would love to get the Castelnuovo Version of this song. The accompaniment is not difficult as I could play it. At the end of this song there is a long fermata  as long as breath would last in a falsetto technique    over the bel BAMBIN, which makes it more into an art song for a trained voice.

Any way to help here? thanks.  Karla Winkler

4.  Spasa Camino

Hello                                                               

I got your mail from the web.  I don’t speak Italian but my mama was Italian.  She used to sing to us a song that included something that sounds like:

“spasa camino … spasa camino … dove ….. su picorino … tutti michiamano …"

She died and I cant ask her any more, but I would appreciate if you could help me find out this song, either the lyrics, the words or the music.

Many thanks,

ioleda
Canada

5.  Sicilian – Pati Maninni

Hi Lisa,

Julie and I are about to have our 1st, a little girl. I remember my great grandparents from (Partinico) reciting a patty cake song. I had a friend who vaguely remembered it but her version doesn’t seem to rhyme. This we do know, it went (forgive any misspellings):

Pati maninni, Pati maninni
Veni mamma, Veni papa
porta cossette e se ne va…..

or

porta mandarli e se ne va……

and it ended with " che piccilindi " repeated emphatically!

I sure wish I could find someone who knows this Sicilian rhyme in complete form.

Thanks,
Jimmy Osherow

6. Sicilian Thunderstorm Saying

Hello,

Do you know of a song or prayer that was either in Italian or a Sicilian dialect said during a thunderstorm.

I only remember bits and pieces now of what my grandmother taught me. 

One of the lines loosely translated as “thunder and lightning pass, this is the house of Jesus and Mary”

Barry Collins

7. Calabrian Lullaby called Bambinutsa

Dear Mama Lisa,

I hope you can help me.  I am looking for an Italian song, (lullaby), that my father used to sing to me, my siblings, and his grandchildren. 

Please excuse the spelling, but it was called, "Bambinutsa."

My grandparents were from Calabria, Italy, so it may be a Calabrian lullaby.

His first great-grandchild will be born soon, and I would love to find the lyrics to the song.

The family’s regret is that we did not write it down before he passed away.

I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Karen Antone

The questions are numbered, so if you can help with any questions, please include the number you’re helping with in the comments below. 

Most people are looking for the original lyrics with an English translation if possible.  Thanks in advance for any help! –Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011 at 9:27 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Italian, Italian American, Italian Children's Songs, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Readers Questions, Sicilian, Sicilian Rhymes, Sicily, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with Some Italian Songs and Rhymes”

  1. Jimmy O Says:

    Hi all,
    It looks to me like #2 is a variation of our # 5. Dialect could have a great deal to do with it. However, I have to say several parts are closer to my grandparents version than our friend Anna Catalano could provide. Almost as if you blended the two you would get the version I remember. I suppose it would be easier to decipher if anyone in the family still spoke Sicilian. As its starting to come together I remember something like this , a hybrid:
    Veni Mamma
    Veni Pappa
    Porta cosi se ne va
    Porta mendarli e se neva
    Pan e nuccudi
    Pan e figuzzi
    Piccolindi

    After spending some time with a translation program, plugging in all these different versions. I am beginning to believe I will never find the the exact rhyme, however any made up goof will make my “piccoline” giggle.
    Lisa, Your site is really awesome.

  2. Marco Says:

    @Karen (question # 7):
    could it be “Bambinuzzu”? (“zz” sound like “ts” in “cats”) It is a popular Calabrian Christmas song, I don’t know if it’s used as a lullaby (I live in Italy, but pretty much at the opposite end of the country)

    @Ioledea (#4), can I ask you from what part of Italy you mother was? “Spasa camino” is undoubtedly “spazzacamino” (chimney sweeper) but knowing the region would be helpful (e.g in some dialects “zz” becomes “s”)

    @joe (#1) I don’t think it’s “polenta”, or anyway, polenta is supposed to be a Northerner-only dish. Actually “polentone” (polenta-eater) is sometimes used as a term of abuse for a Northern Italian, like “kraut” for the Germans or “frog” for the French – though no one in the North seems to regard this is as insulting, we usually just look puzzled :-)
    “Vente tre” is “ventitré” (= 23) and then “uno due e tre” = 1, 2 3, so it sounds like one of those counting rhymes like “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” used to play hide and seek. I’m sure there must be hundreds of versions, children often forget a word or two and make them them up as they go!

  3. Monique Says:

    #4 “Tutti mi chiamano…” could be “La mula de Parenzo/Tutti mi chiamano bionda” You can also find the lyrics to “Lo spazzacamino” online -many YouTube videos for both songs too.

  4. Michele Says:

    I’m not sure if this is the place to ask a question. I would appreciate any help in finding the lyrics in Italian (Sicilian) and English.
    My grandmother came from Marsala,Sicily to America when she was a young girl.
    She always sang a song to all her grandchildren, but I can’t find it anywhere.
    “Suzy bambina” It’s about a girl having to get up for school, something about “the bells are ringing”. I can not find it anywhere, and I’m hoping you would be able to help me.
    Thank you so much. Michele

  5. frank` Says:

    Looking for help on this one.When i was a child my nonno would put us on his lap and sing a song to us which involved fingerplay (the pulling of the fingers gently while counting I think). It went something like this: Beetsu beetsu lune monapoleny lune
    quando saga magarita de lunum betsugeeda
    di quaddu livu on donde
    He was from the Agrigento region Of Sicily. Please help

  6. Alex Vassallo Says:

    The song my father would sing spelled out phonetically-

    A combatti chi wa so notti
    A ques a sonno
    co fish co let to
    a tony desoto
    co fish co let to
    a finga finga monalia tu tu saxophony
    a picady picady dum
    a picady picady picady picady picady dum!

  7. Henry Says:

    Alex, the song you have there is “Eh Cumpari” and the words to that verse are
    Eh Cumpari
    Ci vuoi suonare
    Chi si suona, u friscolettu
    e come si suona
    u frisculettu
    (whistle), (whistle)
    tippity tippity ta

    Translated roughly: Lets sing, this is how the flute sounds (friscolettu), and how does the flute sound, (whistle), whistle).

    Other verses are added to this with each instrument adding its sound, kind of like the 12 days of christmas song.

    Some other instruments are:
    fringa, fringa u mandulino (the mandolin)
    fumma, fumma la trombona (the trombone)
    tat, tat, tat, tata la trumpetta (the trumpet)
    tu, tu, tu, tu u sassafona (the saxaphone)
    zinga, zinga u violinu (the violin)

  8. Anna Biundo Says:

    This is for Jimmy,It’s the Sicilian children’s rhyme my mother in-law sang to my children Batti manini ca Veni papa, porta cose a Senni va, porta Mennuli anu cendi. pa ucuntintare I picciridi.

  9. filippo Says:

    Batti i manini ca veni papa’
    Porta cusuzzi e sinni va
    porta mennuli e nuciddi pi accuntintari i picciriddi
    porta mennuli e castagni pi accuntintari a chiddi ranni
    translation:
    clap your hand daddy is coming
    he brings almonds and nuts to make happy the little ones
    he brings almonds and chestnuts to make happy the hold ones

  10. Ken Says:

    4. Spasa Camino……….In English is: Chimney sweep……….In Italian: Lo spazzacamino

  11. elizabeth Says:

    I need help with a little number that my Sicilian Nanna sang to me and my siblings in the 50’s. Excuse the spelling as I can only remember the song phonetically and not the whole thing either.

    Mamma minutsi, veni Pappa
    Porta cadushi, seni va
    Porta mendal in goosheedi
    And a gotta spechi deedee
    Taa taa

  12. Alex Vassallo Says:

    Henry! Thank you! I just found your answer to my question 5 years ago! This is great! Thank you, Thank you!

  13. Mary T Says:

    #1 Joe in San Jose, my family is from Piana and I know that rhyme, but have been looking for the correct wording for it. We used it same as eeny meeny miny moe and also a counting game where “e tre” got a flick on the forehead (probably just my older cousin’s made up game to torture us little ones)
    Here’s my take sometimes “phonetically”:

    poleta poleta (polenta?) “paletta paletta”
    cinuna conchenta Signora Concetta
    ominfink you sapucatti “ave” no figghiu cu “sapio caddi” [I always thought this meant she had no son, but I can’t figure out the “sappio caddi” Wish I knew more Sicilian
    sapucatti vente tre “sapio caddi” ventitre
    uno due y tre uno due e tre

    Someone else must know this rhyme. And, Joe, if you’re in San Jose (still) have you ever gone to Sacramento for the Arberesh picnic in September? Someone there might know this.

  14. Aneira Says:

    Seconding Mary T’s question.

    My grandpa and great aunts were first gen Americans. Their parents immigrated from Sicily around WWI. In the 80s, my great aunts taught me a song/rhyme type thing that seems similar to the one Mary mentioned. It didn’t start with anything like “paletta” though. I think it starts with something like “mama minuta” or something that sounds similar…definitely something that starts with M. The “Signora,” “sapio caddi,” and numbers at the end seem very familiar though.

    It also seemed to involve doing something with the fingers while you say it, counting maybe?

  15. Debbie Bennett Says:

    My father’s family is from Casabono, Calabria Italy. He used to sing a song to me and then to his grandchildren. It sounded like
    un polpetta badaneeski, badanouski, un polpetta, un polpetta.
    I know the spelling is not correct but hopefully someone will recognize it by sounding it out phonetically. He would use hand gestures like one potato, two potato. Please help. We want to teach it to the next generation.

  16. Lisa Yannucci Says:

    Debbie -“polpetta” means “meat ball”

  17. joe Says:

    Hi Mary T,

    i have heard about this picnic from several sources… i know some of them are relatives per Ancestry, but i have never been. maybe next year.

    thanks for the info on the song.

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