Does Anyone Know an Italian Nursery Rhyme about Sheep or Lambs Playing around a Well?

Grace wrote to me asking for help with a childhood rhyme…

Hi Lisa,

My name is Grace, and when I was little, my Nana used to recite me a nursery rhyme in Italian. I think it was about sheep or lambs that were playing around a well.

When she would recite it to me, she would circle my palm with her finger and then wiggle my fingers one by one. I have been searching the internet for what seems like forever and I can’t find anything about this, and it’s leading me to believe that perhaps she had made it up just for me. However, she has Alzheimer’s so she hasn’t been able to help me, and members of my family remember her doing this but they don’t remember the words, only what it was about. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope that perhaps you’ll be able to provide me with an answer.

Again, thank you!

If anyone can help Grace with any info about this rhyme, please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks in advance…

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 5:01 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Finger Plays, Italian, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Mama Lisa, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Readers 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.

19 Responses to “Does Anyone Know an Italian Nursery Rhyme about Sheep or Lambs Playing around a Well?”

  1. cathy Says:

    I think I can help you. My mother-in-law did that little nursery rhyme with all her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Is it the one that ends…”baa, baa, baa”? Starts with Questo bella. If so, I think I can help you.

  2. Antonia Says:

    Yes! My grandmother used to sing that to me as well. I came to the website looking for the lyrics. All I remember is that it started something like “Come esta la fontanella…..” and then she would draw my fingers in one by one, and then wiggle the pinkie toe and sing “…bida la bida la bate mia.” I think it was actually about little pigs, but not sure.

  3. Nichole Says:

    Ok, so my grandmother used to sing one to me, I know the words, but I have nooo idea how to spell them, nor do I speak Italian… So here goes nothing, hope this helps you, I’d really like to know what it means if you can help me with that part!

    Fund a nella Fund a nella quat cha bebe le peek a chava, quish la chava, quish la gee, quish la maya, quish la gucchi, quish la vee a vee a vee

    She’d circle my hand until the “peek a chava” part, and then each of my fingers would be one of the next lines, my thumb being the last part about “quish la vee a vee a avee” hope this helped! My great grandmother was 96 years old when I learned she was dying, so I tried to learn the words and that was 10 years ago. She immigrated over in 1912 and never learned to speak english too well.

  4. amy Says:

    I came to the website looking for the words to an italian nursery rhyme my mother-in-law does with my son. I thought it begins with something like “sorte carbonella (no idea of the spelling), but maybe as Cathy stated above it begins with “Questo bella?”….where she strokes his hand, then goes up his arm while saying “ba, ba, ba, ba” – until she gets to his chin and then tickles him. She’s not sure of the translation as HER grandmother did it to her…but she knows it something about sheep.

    Cathy, can you help me? Thanks!

  5. Denise Says:

    Hello everyone. I found this site while searching for, I believe, the same nursery rhyme. I recall my mother singing to my something like “sotto fontanelle via beva bucarelle” (the soft spot on your head, then something about drinking from the hole). Yes, she would draw circles in my son’s open palm and then pull on each finger (as Nicole noted) until the end, when she’d reach up and tickle him under the arm. Oh, it delighted him! I do wish I knew all the words. My mother was Neapolitan and perhaps her rhyme was in dialect. It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve heard the rhyme, and she’s been gone twenty years. I want this memory of her to be more complete, so if anyone else can add to the rhyme, I will enthusiastically appreciate it!

  6. Jane Singh Says:

    Hi! I was just at my grandmother’s this weekend. She just did this for my 3 year old son. It is about pigs, it’s sort of like doing this little piggy rhyme on your toes. I video taped her singing it to him. I will try to type up the lyrics in the coming days. I don’t speak italian, but will call her to see if she can help me write it out.

    I actually came to the site to see if anyone new some of the lyrics to another finger play game… i have no idea how to begin to spell it, but it sounds like…. deenza deenza gatta ga deenza nubastocka beeta badeenza…. ok, that’s just how it sounds, i’m sure not how it’s spelled. I keep asking my grandmother to slow down but she just says it quickly and i can’t figure out the actual words. Anyone know???

    Thanks and good luck to anyone!

  7. Lisa Says:

    If you can send a recording of your grandmother saying it – I can post it and add it. OR if you post a youtube video of her saying it, I can post that. Thanks! Mama Lisa

  8. Joanne Says:

    I’ve been trying to find the actual words to this rhyme–my grandma has been gone for 4 years now and I’d like to teach my daughters. I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but I remember it being about a little duck drinking at a fountain and then someone catches it; I’ll try my best–the spelling will be way off, and it’s in dialect, so it may not make any sense, but here goes:
    a qua medsa ci steva una fontanelle,
    ci viveva una paparelle,
    questo gli chiape,
    questo gli spene,
    questo gli cuoche,
    questo gli mangia,
    e questo fa “pippere pi, gli vuole piu i, pippere pi, gli vuole piu i!”

    I hope this rings some bells for someone. I’d love to know the actual words.

    If anyone knows another one, where you bounce the baby on your knee and sing “Arre, arre, arre…” and then something about a horse, and then a donkey couldn’t do it, so the donkey was killed (lovely image), killed with a knife, then you bang on the baby’s back and say something like, “tuppo, tuppo il ciambonile?”

  9. Gregory Says:

    I was surfing to find texts to another Italian nursery rhyme that a friend was looking for and came across yours. Love those Italian grandmothers! (Not Italian myself.) Here is what I could write out phonetically, but haven’t located an online source. I’d appreciate any leads. It also references playing with the toes like the little pigs rhyme:

    Pita pidenia, la meza la Junio
    Fare pizelle con mare mari
    Ecce sono le tricca tracca
    Uno due tre e quatr’

    Eco la Fontanell
    Que ce la beva la pigorelle
    Questa la vedud
    Questa la quiapar
    Questa la cucinar
    Questa la mangier
    E Questa die “nienda me, nienda me, nienda me.”

    P.S. This is why it’s so important for families to pass on the language of their ancestors.

  10. Courtney Says:

    My nona did the same thing the song is called questa la fontanella. I will find out from her next time i see her all the exact words. I remember some of it but i will get the rest from her. I know it ends with your pinky finger and she will say questa mingulo (sp?).

  11. Courtney Says:

    So what I came up with is Questa La Fontanella Which means : This is the Fountian.
    Spelling isnt all correct….
    Questa La fontanella dova della pecarella
    Questa poliche ( this thumb)
    questa indayche ( this pionter finger)
    questa med ulla (this middle finger)
    questa lobby lano (this ring finger)
    questa mingolo (this pinky)

    you sing he questa la fontanella whike circling the palm of the hand and then grab each finger as u say them.

  12. Brandon Moriconi Says:

    I am in search or something similer. My Grandfather, Alberto Manci, used to do to my brothers and myself as well. He would say all these Italian words while wiggling our ears……until the end, he would pull them while saying BAAAAAA!!!! I was told it had something to do with a sheep….? Please help.
    He recently passed, nobody knows the true words or meening. I have done it to all my girls as well as doing it now to my youngest daughter, & they love it. Unfortunately I am making up italian words until the end.
    Thank you, Brandon Moriconi

  13. Giuliana Says:

    There are definitely many versions of this finger game and various dialects. Here is the one my family from between Rome and Naples told and the best dialect spelling I could do:

    Qui a mez che stava la fontenella
    dove a bev la pecorella
    questo lo capo
    questo lo squrtigo This word is by sound only-sorry
    questo lo cucino
    questo lo mangio
    E questo lo digio “me! me! diami un piccolo

    In the middle is the fountain
    Where the little lamb comes to drink
    This one killed it
    This one skinned it
    This one cooked it
    This one ate it
    And this one cried “me, me give me a little”

  14. Viviana Rossios Says:

    Hi i have been trying to find the lyrics to the fontanella song my Nonna used to sing to me and I came across this website.
    It was in dialect and Joanne thankyou as you helped me with the missing pieces I was looking for :

    qui medzu ce na fontanelle
    che ci vengono gli paparelli
    questo gli chiape,
    questo gli spene,
    questo gli cuoche,
    questo gli mangia,
    e questo fa “pipperi pi nu poco a me, pipperi pi nu poco a me”

  15. Kristin Says:

    Hello all,

    A few years back I wrote the phonetic spelling of the song in a journal of mine when my Nona was teaching me the hand song. So between reviewing that and doing my own research I have come up with this:

    “Questa la fontanella dove della va la pecorella. Questa pollice, questa indice, questa medio, questa anulare, questa mignolo!!”

    The spelling should all be correct, minus the fact that I am not too sure the grammar of the first sentence makes much sense, but it basically states:

    This is the fountain of where the sheep (my guess would be it really means this is the fountain, where are the sheep?) You circle the palm of the hand for this part and then grab each finger starting with your thumb (pollice). My Nona used to get faster and then cheer QUESTA MIGNOLO! at the end.

    Hope this helps someone!

  16. Romy Says:

    Omg. I remember my Bonnie singing while my finger was pointing up she put her Palm and would make circles. I remember (incorrect words and spelling) it sounded like alambay or che lambe. Che come che combat stata stata ole stata ole sta baaaa!

  17. Tara Ship Says:

    My nonna used to sing this song to me and her other grandchildren. I sing it to my children now, and she sings it to them as well.

    She also puts her finger in the middle of your palm and makes a circular motion while singing:

    In mezza la fontanella (in the middle of a fountain)

    che steve un paparella (duck) (there was a duck)

    queso gli chiape (thumb) ?
    questo gli spene (pointer) ?
    questo gli cuoche (middle) cook it
    questo glie mangia (ring) eat it

    Y questo dice me me tutto me! (pinky) meaning all for me! all for me!!

  18. Francesca Says:

    Mezza questa fontanella, ci beve la pecorella. Police la cappo, Indice la mazzo. Annullare se la mangio. E migno lo pi, pi, poca me!

  19. Lisa Says:

    Monique translated Francesca’s version for us:

    En mezzo a questa fontanella = in the middle of this fountain
    ci beve la pecorella. = [here] the lamb drinks (pecorella = lit. little ewe)
    Pollice l’acchiappò, = the thumb caught it
    Indice l’ammazzò, = the pointer killed it
    Medio la cucinò = the middle finger cooked it
    Anulare si la mangiò = the ring finger ate it
    e mignolo “pi pi un poco a me!” = and the pinky [said] cheek cheek, a little for me!

    Thanks for the translation Monique.

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