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Italian Lullabies

Italian Lullabies

I’ve been in baby mode for the past few weeks due to the recent birth of my daughter (mia figlia). During this time, I learned two Italian lullabies that I think you will enjoy: “Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” and “Stella, Stellina.” I was going to write about “Ninna Nanna, Ninna Oh,” but it is about giving your baby to an old witch and a mysterious dark man (uomo nero), so my wife told me it was too creepy to put on the website. She’s probably right, but if you are curious you can check out the song and somewhat disturbing cartoon here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ8D9ClvwmM.

“Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” is the Italian version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The lyrics are different, but the melody is the same.

Brilla, brilla una stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Su nel cielo, piccolina.

So small in up in the sky.

Brilla, brilla sopra noi

Twinkle, twinkle over us.

Mi domando di che sei?

How I wonder what you are.

Brilla, brilla la stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Ora tu sei più vicina.

Now you are closer.

(Repeat above verse.)

Brilla, brilla la stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Ora tu sei più vicina.

Now you are closer.

“Stella, Stellina” is about farm animals getting ready to sleep, and it is a great way to teach your child the Italian words for popular animals.

Stella, stellina

Star, little star

La notte si avvicina

The night is coming.

La fiamma traballa

The flame flickers.

La mucca è nella stalla.

The cow is in the stable.

La pecora e l’agnello

The sheep and the lamb

La vacca col vitello

The cow with the calf

La chioccia coi pulcini

The hen with the chicks

La gatta coi gattini.

The cat with the kittens.

E tutti fan la nanna

And everyone goes to sleep

Nel cuore della mamma.

In the mother’s heart.

Vocabulary and Grammar Notes

Since “Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” is about a star, here are some other objects you may see in the sky:

  • Cloud: nuvola                                                                                                  
  • Sun: sole
  • Plane: aeroplano
  • Bird: uccello
  • Moon: luna

“Stella, Stellina” teaches your child about different farm animals. Here are some more animals that you may find on a fattoria:

  • Dog: cane                                                                                                          
  • Bird: uccello
  • Horse: cavallo
  • Goat: capra
  • Fish: pesce
  • Donkey: asino
  • Duck: anatra
  • Goose: oca
  • Pig: maiale

The second to last phrase of “Stella, Stellina” is “E tutti fan la nanna.” This is a shortened version of the phrase “tutti fanno la nanna” which translated literally means “Everyone does the nighty-night,” or “Everyone does the sleep.” In its colloquial form, it means “Everyone goes to sleep.”

The verb “fare” means “to make or to do.” It is conjugated as follows:

Io faccio

Tu Fai

Lui/Lei Fa

Noi Facciamo

Voi Fate

Loro Fanno

Fare is a multi-functional verb that can be used to convey diverse meanings from “Lo faccio” (I’ll do it) to “Fai lo scemo” (You play the fool.) Fare is also used to describe the weather, hearkening to Italy’s Catholic roots. “Fa caldo” means “It’s hot,” and “Fa freddo” means “It’s cold.” Translated literally, these phrases suggest that someone (God) is making it hot or cold.

I hope you enjoy singing the above lullabies to your children. I’d love to hear about your favorite Italian lullaby in the comments below.

 

An Italian Christmas Carol: Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin

An Italian Christmas Carol: Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin

It’s Christmas season. While you are decorating the tree this year, you should incorporate an Italian Christmas carol into your playlist. “Dormi, Dormi Bel Bambin” is a famous one that I like, and you can find some great arrangements of it online. I’ve included one of my favorite arrangements with the lyrics and translation below.

Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Fa la nanna o fantolino / Go to sleep, baby
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep, o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin./ Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa, la, la, la
Fa la, la, la
Perché piangi, o mio tesor? / Why do you cry, o my treasure?
Dolce amor, dolce amor / Sweet love, sweet love.
Fa la nanna, caro figlio / Go to sleep, dear Son
Tanto bel, tanto bel. / So beautiful, so beautiful.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin / Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Dormi, dormi, Re Divin / Sleep, sleep, King Divine.
Fa la la la (Repeat 7x)
O bel Bambin. / O beautiful Baby.
Dormi, dormi o bel Bambin / Sleep, sleep o beautiful Child
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.
Fa la nanna, o fantolino / Go to sleep, baby
Re Divin, Re Divin. / King Divine, King Divine.

Here are some fun Italian words and phrases for the holidays:

una mangiatoia
una mangiatoia

Soprammobile: ornament
Angelo: angel
Albero di Natale: Christmas tree
Buon Natale: Merry Christmas
Babbo Natale: Santa Claus
Biglietto d’auguri di Natale: Christmas card
Mangiatoia: Manger
Regalo di Natale: Christmas gift

I can’t write a post about Christmas in Italy without mentioning “La Befana.” La Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). Epiphany is a holiday that celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child.

un albero di Natale

According to Italian folklore, La Befana fills children’s shoes with candy and presents if they are good or coal if they are bad. Instead of milk and cookies, the children’s family leaves Befana some wine and food. She is sometimes portrayed as a friendly witch because she flies around on a broom.

Slate has a fun article about her that you can find here: “Forget Santa. You Should Celebrate La Befana.” If you are tired of Elf on the Shelf and want to add a fun Christmas story to your child’s library, check out La Befana: An Italian Night After Christmas or The Legend of Old Befana.

If you have a favorite Italian Christmas tradition or carol, please share it in the comments below. Buon Natale!


 

O Mio Babbino Caro

O Mio Babbino Caro

My Italian professor in college used to teach us Italian songs to help us remember vocabulary and grammar. They wer a lot more fun than flash cards.

One of my favorite songs I learned is “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi. It’s a short, yet beautiful song about a Florentine girl’s agonizing love. In the song, the girl tells her babbino (daddy) she wants to go to Porta Rossa (Red Door), a popular spot on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), to buy an engagement ring. If her love is in vain, she’ll still go to the Ponte Vecchio, but to throw herself in the river.

A bit dramatic, but that is the beauty of Italian. It would be hard to convey such drama and passion in a song in English, but it sounds natural in Italian.

Below is a clip of the song with it’s Italian lyrics. The translation follows.

O mio babbino caro                                      O my dear daddy

Mi piace è bello, bello                                   I like him, he’s handsome, handsome

Vo’andare in Porta Rossa                            I want to go to Porta Rossa

A comprarar l’anello                                     To buy the ring

Sì, sì, ci voglio andare                                   Yes, yes, I want to go there

E se l’amassi indarno                                    And if I love him in vain

Andrei sul Ponte Vecchio                             I’ll go to the Ponte Vecchio

Ma per buttarmi in Arno                              But to throw myself in the Arno

Mi struggo e mi tormento                            I am anguished and tormented

O Dio, vorrei morir                                         O God, I’d like to die

Babbo, pietà, pietà                                         Daddy, pity, pity

Babbo, pietà, pietà                                         Daddy, pity, pity

Some vocab and grammar points from the song. Dad is expressed in many ways in Italian. “Padre” means father, and “papà” means dad, not to be confused by “papa” which means pope. However, in the Florentine dialect, “babbo” also means dad or daddy. To add make a word more endearing, you add “ino” or “ina” to it, depending on the gender. So, “babbo” becomes “babbino.” You do the same thing to shrink something. For example, “naso” means nose. To describe a small nose, you could say “nasino,” instead of “piccolo naso.” “Topolino” is what Italians call “Mickey Mouse,” which is derived from “topo” meaning mouse.

Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s most famous bridge. It rests over the Arno River. “Fiume” means river in Italian. Another popular fiume is the Tiber or “Tivere” in Rome.

Il Ponte Vecchio
Il Ponte Vecchio

To learn more about Gianni Schicchi, check out this fun post from Opera North Blog: https://www.operanorth.co.uk/blogs/gianni-schicchi-five-fascinating-facts .