Can Anyone Help with Some Italian Nursery Rhymes and Songs?

I get a lot of requests for help with Italian rhymes and songs. It seemed like a good idea to post a few together as the writers may even be able to help each other! Most of these are from the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Italian immigrants to the United States who remember being sung these by their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. These are special memories!

The Italian is mainly written phonetically below. Here are some of the emails I’ve received…

1) Hi Lisa,

My mother and my grandmother used to say a nursery rhyme to me when I was a little girl. They would put me on their lap, facing them like I was riding on a galloping horse. The rhyme is: (Keep in mind my spelling is all wrong)

Ki Ki Ki cavallo,
la mama vien al ballo,
da scarpieta sienna….

And it goes on. My mother and grandmother were from Trieste, so it could be in dialect. I’d just like to figure out the words and meaning of the rhyme to teach my granddaughter. Hope you can help me.

Many thanks,

Sue Henry

2) My great grandmother was from the Abruzzi Region and used to sing us a song that started out (phonetically):

Di say comati….

I don’t remember any of the other words but know that she used to rock us on her lap during the song and then at the end would say ‘di di di di deeeee’ lean over so we would fall back and up-side-down.

I realize that I’m not giving you much to work with! Any help would be appreciated.

3) My mother used to sing an Italian nursery song to my girls when they were young, but now my mother has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember the words to teach my daughter so she can teach them to her girls. It was “mane mane manutsa vene papa, boite gozi sini va….” something to that effect, general meaning: clap hands clap hands, daddy’s coming home and bringing presents…” something like that.

It’s all my daughter has of her grandma to pass on. Please help if you can. My grandmother was from Palermo and very poor, so the words and the dialect would be home Italian versus book Italian.

Thank you.
Nan Juday

4) I would like to know if anyone knows of a song my grandmother used to sing to me. I can only remember it as the Tick Tock Song. One line sounded like:

“Quando se qiere peccina bambina,
mia cuore tica tic, tica toc.”

Mind you, I have no idea if these are the actual words or if they are spelled right! I think it meant “when you need me my pretty baby, my heart goes tick tock. Thanks for your help.

Carmen Akridge

5) Hi

I came across your site while searching for a song my nonna used to sing to me when I was little. She died in 1971 when I was six. I would lay across her lap and she would tap her fingers on my back and sing something like this:

Lena lena
sopa sopa
cuanta pena tena ungoupe
en e mene mah cuanta su

There are sections missing. It was a guessing song. How many fingers do I have on your back… kind of thing. It was such a special memory for me. I wish I could find an accurate version. She was 84 when she died. She emigrated to the US in 1907.

Lisa Sebelle

6) Hello Mama Lisa. I wander if you could help me find this song… do you know who wrote it? or who sang it?

Sorridi alla tua mamma,
amore… sorridi a che te adato il cuor…
nina nana

It’s a very old song that my mother used to sing to me….

Thank you
Marisa

7) Hi,

I have just come across your website and was wondering if you could help me?

I am after an old Italian story that my father and grandfather used to tell us when we were little. I can only remember bits and pieces. Below is some of it in English……

Once upon time there was an old man who swept the church, he found some money…….bought some milk but the mouse drank it and the old man pulled off his tail…the mouse said, give me back my tail and the man said give me back my milk…….

Hope you can help me.

Thanks
Anna

8) I came across your website when trying to look for a song my grandma used to sing and hoped maybe you could help or could post this and maybe someone else would know. It’s an Italian children’s song along the same idea as “this little piggy went to market”, but it talks about a duck and as you pull each finger it says this one catches it, this one cooks it, this one eats it and so on. I can only describe the Italian as it sounds from my memory and I’m not sure of the actual spelling so if anyone could help, it would be greatly appreciated. This is how I would sound it out in my head, but I would really like to know how it really goes.

Rina sta fundanelle
Ghista na ba ba della
Ghistan gop
Ghista schpen
Ghista sta goscha
Ghista sa manga
Chista digz
Bi bi bi bi nu boga min
Bi bi bi bi nu boga min

Thanks,
Dorothy

9) I have been looking for Manzoline de Fiore and can’t find it. Any help = my mother used to sing this song all the time when we were little.

Rose Montagner Bundra

10) Hi, Mama Lisa,

Do you know of an Italian Lullaby song with the words:

“Bolla, bolla,
pane e cipolla.
Cipolla cucinare;
(name) e sudare…”

Literally: “Dance, dance,
bread and onion.
Onion is cooking
and the cook is sweating!

My father-in-law sang it to all our children and we just want to know more information about it. Thanks!

AnnMarie

If anyone can help out with any of these questions, please comment below. Give the number of the question you’re addressing so it’s clear which is being answered.

Thanks in advance!

-Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2008 at 11:01 am and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Italian, Italian Children's Songs, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, 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.

188 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with Some Italian Nursery Rhymes and Songs?”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    HI!!

    My grandmother (from Nicastro) would sing a song to us to get us to nap. It had something to do with peas and macaroni. All I remember (and this is phonetic) is:

    Mano, Mano Mineli
    Prepotsa porta piselli
    E piselli macaroni

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  2. Steve Says:

    My Nanny passed away a few years ago, and we were reminiscing about a rhyme she used to tell us. She used her 5 fingers and it started something like:
    (pinky finger) “Questo dice mala mangiare aya nu bolo si ba?”
    (roughly translated to This one says I wanna eat but have nothing.
    (ring finger) “Questo dice non danga”
    This one says I don’t have any (food or thing)?
    Middle finger “Questo Dice, wanna rob?”
    Index finger ( we never understood this one but something like. “Ka zee a napledon?
    (roughly slang translated to what about the boss?
    Thumb ( and she would grab and shake her thumb) – ” Amokle bee lezone”
    translated to we’ll hit him in the head, or something like that…

    Probably not the best nursery rhyme for Nanny to teach us, but she was old school from the old country…

  3. Monica Says:

    Hello,
    To start thank you for having this website!:) My son’s great grandpa is from Italy, Bari to be exact. They would sing this song and I would like to teach my son to sing to his children. I have no clue the meaning either and will most likely spell it all wrong. Thank you in advance, I am very grateful.

    Co-Co, Co-Co,
    Cusafiga bella-bella du papa,
    Oh la la.

    (Repeat x3)
    That’s all I can remember and Nana has since passed away to ask her. Again many thank yous.

  4. Casey Sens Says:

    Hi my nonna learned a song from her mother but the only lines she knows go something like this:

    nani nani poo poo, portala boom boom bebe.

    anyone know this? My great grandmother was calabrese, abruzzese, and langanese?

  5. Ken Zwickl (Amici) Says:

    My grandmother sang a song to me, then sang it for my kids, now I have a grandchild I’d like to sing it to. The song started (pardon my English!) Pizza Pizza tada, Mamma chicolata…..and ended with clapping the baby’s hands to “wee wee wee”. Any help with this would be great!!! Love the site!!!

  6. Diana Says:

    Hello! My great-great grandfather used to sing this song to my grandmother and she taught it to all of us. She’s starting to lose her memories, so she is having a hard time translating it for us, or even being able to spell the words but it goes like this (Spelled out phonetically because I know zero Italian).

    Poo poo cavale, porto saco mamale. Mama leya, poo penda. Tra la mesa deutenstra.

    From what I can remember, it’s about a donkey that falls down because his bags are too heavy and the children laugh. It’s a lap song, where you bounce the child and at the end you tip them back or slide them down your legs.

  7. Paul Says:

    My father-in-law, whose family came from Abruzzo, used to play a little game with infants (1-2 years old). He’d take their hands and stroke them down his face (best done with a bit of beard growth) three times saying something like:

    Jimmy Jimmy Jat
    Kenna mangina bey
    Kena mangina panne na bey

    Then he’d pat the infant’s hands on his cheeks rapidly, saying:

    Veege Veege Veege all the way!

    I’d love to know what the real words are to this game – and what they mean!

  8. Ellie Says:

    I’m a Nonni now to three beautiful grands. My Nonni who immigrated to the US from the Fruglan region very northern Italy. She would bounce me on my knee and
    Chant — Nina Bella _ _
    Anyone know this rhyme ?

  9. Ann Says:

    I’ve noticed Gabriella, on May 29,2013 was looking for the same child’s song as I, The only words I remember while my grandmother rocked me are “seda, seda” and that’s all I can remember. Can anyone help?

  10. Peg Says:

    I am looking for a song that mom sang to my kids, she woul sing it and touch there nose and try to make them laugh. They were supposed to try and not laugh. It sounded like “barbadella barbadella…….

    The purpose was to make the child laugh when they were trying not to

  11. John Says:

    My father taught me a Italian chant that was said to cause the smoke from a small fire to blow away from ones eyes. Phonetically it sounds like: “Baccala baccala boom ba ya”. Does anyone else know of this?

  12. Becky Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    My Great-Grandma was Sicilian and she used to sing a song or a rhyme to us that went:
    (spelled phonetically)

    Wooga, wooga, wooga,
    El Rey la ponse looga
    El Rey y la Regina
    (Say child’s name) ponca geena, geena, geena
    (Tickle the child’s tummy on the last line)

    It was about a king and queen going to the market. Can anybody help me find the correct rhyme?

    Thank you!!
    Becky

  13. Gloria Says:

    My Sicilian grandpa played a holiday guessing game with mixed nuts. One grabs a handful and asks. “mille foo?” The reply is “Lemmi su”? Then, the asker says “Quanta su?” The above is phonetic. Can you tell me the meaning of the words?

  14. Shelley Says:

    My mom and grandmother from Marche used to sing a rhyme to us while we sat on their laps. They would rock us back and forth while singing, and then on the last line ‘throw’ us backward on their legs (while still holding our hands). It went something like this, but I don’t know the spelling. Does anyone know the real words?
    Ciacia minaccia
    Buta ..(name) piu la piazza.
    La piazza dao bubu,
    Buta .(name) ju ju ju.

  15. Angela Says:

    Would like correct spelling in Italian of the phonetic words I’m about to type. The following was a little diddy my mother and grandmother would sing…..it would go like this….Fa or Va la nonna, coo coo, mo vana or vanna papa, et ti porta boom booch, fa or va la nonna coo coo, coo coo, coo coo…..and then it would be repeated….

  16. Heidi Says:

    My Nonno, and later my grandfather (his son), used to sing a nursery rhyme to us while standing us on his lap, holding our hands, and rocking us back and forth. It started something like “Se paz y talla, Baby valle scuola.” (I’m sure I totally butchered that.) At the end he’d clap out hands together and cheer “yaaay!”
    I’ve searched for the real words and the rest of the song for years with no luck.

  17. Mirella Wilcox Says:

    Hi. I’m hoping someone can help. My Nona and Mom Would sing this to me and I would sing it to my daughter. I can’t remember all the words but it goes like this:
    Maruzella, Maruzella,
    viena sedia la sidgitella.
    la sidgitella e per bambina,
    che chi dunne pane e vino
    pane e vino per la bambina,
    che chi brusshe la oucuuza.
    La oucuuza e kina de mele
    viva, viva Sain Michelle

    roughly translated to
    maruzella, maruzella,
    come sit in the chair
    the chair is for the child
    what will you give her,
    bread and wine
    bread and wine for the child will burn her mouth
    her mouth is filled with honey
    ***Something about heaven and the holy trinity***

  18. Miguel Says:

    Hi Everyone –

    I came across this site looking for some help. For years I’ve heard my Great Uncle, Nana and Mother sing this song in Italian to us as kids. They would do it as bouncing us on their knees, and now they do it four our kids and they sing it. Unfortunately, none of us know what it translates to – at all. So, I’m trying to track it down and came across this site. I found this song which is close, but not how my Mom pronounces things. I know it starts with Arre, Arre, arre, but the best I can do is give you phonetic spellings of the rest. It’s going to be wrong, very wrong, but I’m really hoping you guys can finally help me translate this in the end:

    My MOM’S VERSION
    Arre, arre, arre (here comes the phonetics) si-mona kak-a-va
    e chuch eh-mon, EH, simona call-eh-ve

    A VERSION THAT I KNOW EXISTS (Naples Dialect)
    Arre, arre, cavalluccio
    Quanne arrive a Murchigliano
    Nce accattammo nu bello ciuccio
    Arre, arre, cavalluccio

  19. Tony Says:

    rhyme?
    Do you know this Italian (Sicilian) nursery rhyme? My mother said it to her niece the other day and I had forgotten it. It’s like patty cake. The thing is that nobody knows the words. Just the sounds. It sounds something like:

    manu manuzze pinuciduzze pindala rama di suzza di chiama
    eh ?????? mattino mattino
    viva viva di suzza bambino!

    and when you say bambino you both throw your hands in the air.

  20. Stewart Says:

    Hope someone might help. Early 70s my P5 class took part in a choir contest in Falkirk. One of the songs we sang was possibly Italian. I only remember the first couple of lines.
    (Phonetically). E nato a si belle, a lui volu donar…
    Anyone help?

  21. Gary Nigro Says:

    I’m looking for info on this possible rhyme.
    Liscia, liscia
    The cat pees,
    The dog poops,
    beautiful face, beautiful face, beautiful face.
    On the words Liscia, liscia, the singer rubs the child’s face.
    On the last line, the singer gently smacks the child’s face.

  22. Jacquie W Says:

    Ciao!

    My grandmother was from Abruzzi and used to sing this to us as children while we were on her knee:

    Daci, Daci, Daci
    (Child’s name) vuole ciacci
    E la ciaccia non giusta
    E la tola vacata
    Frusti! Frusti! Frusti! (Said would lightly slapping the cheeks)
    Non e la verde!

    Has anyone ever heard of this song? Or know a translation?
    Grazie!

  23. Amy Valens Says:

    My mom and I have been refining the spelling of the songs and clapping games my grandparents sang to me. They were from Cimina, which is not far from Palermo. I can see how they are slightly different versions of songs found here. Here are our versions:

    My grandpa would hold my palm up and make a circle with his finger…

    Ca ce funtenedra

    Then each finger starting with my pinky would be put down for each of the verses:

    Ci vive pecuredru
    chistu lu ferra
    chistu lu scorcia
    chistu lu cocse
    e chistu lu mange
    umm umm umm!

    Oai une cappiduzzu
    e tantu saporitu
    e quannu mi laiu mettiri?
    Quannu mi fazz’u zitu!
    Scinnu pi lu Cassuru
    Scinnu pi li Banneri
    E tutti chi me ricuni
    Bongiorno cavaleri!

    And the version of the clapping song in our home was:

    Manu manuzzi
    pan e figuzzi
    come si chiama?
    Amy si chiama!

  24. Jessamie Says:

    Re:#3
    Here are the words In the Siciliian dialect.

    Batti manuzzi ca veni Papa!
    Poita cusuzzi e si nni va
    Poita miennuli e nuchiddi
    Pi accuiddari sta picciridda / (stu picciriddu)
    Saleeeeeee!*

  25. Catherine Hunt Says:

    Looking for a song…old world war nursery rhyme from Northern Italy I believe…
    The kid is sitting on the lap, hands held and it begins like…

    ‘Bolt-ah-lah, bolt-ah-lah saw-mah-tine
    Dog-ah-lah-velah cah-val-een
    Cah-Val-een…( don’t remember the rest)

    This is right before the child slides down the legs of the adult.
    Any help is appreciated!

  26. Melissa Says:

    Hi! This site is amazing. I’m hoping to help my mom find a song her Sicilian grandmother sang to her. Phonetically as best she remembers it:

    Fa me whoa whoa baby
    Ga veni lou papa
    Day vo day va day be
    Fa bene lou baby

    Thank you! jmjashep@comcast.net

  27. Tony Tesoriero Says:

    Never used this site before. Mom used to sing a lullaby when I was a child with the words
    Tutte le belle dorme na ca studa.
    Not much to go on, but it is all I can remember.
    Anyone know where this might come from?

  28. Mariya R. Says:

    In quasi-answer to Dorothy’s post (#8 above), my grandmother, from a little hill town in Apuglia, used to sing us the duck in the fountain song. I’ll copy what Dorothy posted, then how I understand & remember it:

    Rina sta fundanelle
    Ghista na ba ba della
    Ghistan gop
    Ghista schpen
    Ghista sta goscha
    Ghista sa manga
    Chista digz
    Bi bi bi bi nu boga min
    Bi bi bi bi nu boga min

    “Cuanta ste va la fontanella,
    {ba da ba da} la paparella.
    Cuesto faceva il ____;
    Cuesto faceva il panne;
    Cuesto _________;
    Cuesto _________;
    E cuesto di
    ‘Pippilo pi! Pippilo pi!
    Io voglio mamma mi’!”

    I had this all written out and can’t find it. Can only remember some of the words, and others are blank. Basically, it’s something about being at the fountain and seeing the duck swimming there. “Cuesto faceva il panne” is “This one makes the bread.” The last line translates as “I want my mamma!” My grandmother would trace a slow circle on my palm during the 2 lines at the beginning–the duck swimming in the fountain–and then gently pull each finger in turn, and would hold onto the pinky, shaking it gently & quickly back and forth for the last bit.

  29. PC Says:

    My Nonna passed away this week, and of course now would be the time I decide I want to try and remember the nursery rhymes we enjoyed when I was a kid.

    Pretty sure the first two on this list are the two that she said, though my memory is a little fuzzy.

    Number 1
    I remember two things about this one: my grandma bouncing me on her knee like a horse, but I recall the first line being (phonetically) “ta-toon ta-toon cavallo.” Not sure what the first word was, but that’s how it sounded.

    Actually, I thought number 2 and number 1 were the same, because I remember my nonna leaning over so we’d fall upside down. I know the last line was “tutti!”

  30. Cortney Says:

    Hey everyone. Please please hello My mom passed 8 years ago and used to sing this song to me. I have seen nothing close to it so far on the site. I don’t know the correct pronunciation or dialect region, but the song is about a boy who eats an apple, then poops his pants.

    Starts something like…
    No una feta una ….
    Ends with what sounds like
    Ally zee gaga

    If anyone is familiar, please it would mean the word. Family hails from Sicily

  31. maria Says:

    Zu zu Cavallo
    la mamma vien del ballo
    cho le scazzelle piene
    per dar a le putelle
    puetelle non le vuol
    buttemo in scavazziol

  32. maria Says:

    Does anyone know the children’s song, “O Gesu bellin bellino…..”?

  33. Lisa Says:

    Maria – can it be a version of this song?

    Angiolin bellin bellino,
    con quel capo ricciolino,
    con quegli occhi pien d’amore,
    Gesù mio, ti dono il cuore!

  34. maria Says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t remember the words but this most certainly is as close or actually is the one. Thank you so much for this beautiful memory that my Mom sang to my son many many years ago.
    I can’t wait to tell him!

  35. anne-Louise Scrivani Says:

    Dear Lisa,
    I am looking for the real words to a song my grandma from Naples area used to sing us. She would put us on her knees, hold our hands and rock us back and forth while singing and then tip us back on the last line.
    Phonetically :
    drein dreola
    pane e chipotle
    mane cade
    mucicciada

    I would love to know the real words – I do it with my grandtwins and they love it… and sign the words with me now!

    Grazie,
    Anne-Louise

  36. Adzar1207 Says:

    good evening,
    Ive been searching for what seems like years and hope you might be able to help.
    My grandma used to have a sort of rhyme or poem that she would say/sing to us while we sat in her lap. there was some face touching, and it ended with her gently tugging on each ear.
    I dont remember much of it, but it sounded like this:
    (phonetically of course)
    la barbeets a da beets a da beets (she would be touching our nose at the beginning)
    oongze a meech something something

    there were 5 verses i think, and it ended
    a da ling a da ling da ling (while gently tugging alternating on each earlobe)

  37. Lisa Says:

    Marisa wrote, “My Triestine mother sang a nursery rhyme that went:

    Giga gi cavallo. ( maybe it was ki ka ki cavallo)
    Mama vien da ballo
    Con le titina piene
    Per darghe le putele
    Ma
    Putele
    Non le vuol
    E butaremo in scovesogn. ( spelling)
    In scovesogn le pianse
    E butaremo in mar
    In mar ???? E suffica e non pianse piu.

    I’m not fluent in Italian/Triestine so between my memory and spelling I don’t know how accurate it is.

    I know the translation is:

    Giddy up horse
    Mums coming home from the ball/dance
    With breasts full of milk
    But, the baby doesn’t want it
    So throw the baby in the bin,
    In the bin the baby cries so throw it in the sea
    In the sea it drowns and doesn’t cry anymore.”

    Does anyone know the full version? -Mama Lisa

  38. Judy Angona Says:

    My Italian grandma used to put me on her knee and sing this bouncing rhyme to me and later to my kids when they were toddlers:

    Baba Rince
    Do mama un e
    E no re
    E che fa
    Mangia da
    E che mangia
    Pane e pesche
    U Panza ciu crescia (Repeat last line and tickle tummy gently)

    I always took the translation of her Sicilian dialect to mean:

    Little Ronce
    Where is your momma
    She went to the King
    And what is she doing?
    She’s eating there
    and what is she eating
    Bread and fish
    Her stomach is growing.
    Her stomach is growing.

    Is anyone familiar with this rhyme or anything like it? I know the spelling is very far off, but I’ve always thought it might have the deeper meaning that back in the day women were the possessions of the king. The king claimed this woman, even though she was already a mother, kept her away from her existing child, and impregnated her.

Leave a Reply