Central Songs


Central Songs

Chitarra Romana

(1934; music by Eldo di Lazzaro; lyrics by E. di Lazzaro & C. Bruno)

Sotto un manto di stelle Roma bella mi appare,
Solitario il mio cuor disilluso d’amore
Vuol nell’ombra cantar . . .        (or, sognar)
Una muta fontana e un balcone lassù
O chitarra romana, accompagnami tu!

Suona, suona mia chitarra,
lascia piangere il mio cuore
senza casa e senza amore, mi rimani solo tu!
Se la voce è un po’ velata
Accompagnami in sordina . . .
La mia bella Fornarina
Al balcone non c’è più

Lungotevere dorme mentre il fiume cammina . . .
Io lo seguo perché mi trascina con sé
E travolge il mio cuor . . .

Vedo un’ombra lontana e una stella lassù
O chitarra romana, accompagnami tu!

Suona, suona mia chitarra
//repeat as above//
O chitarra romana, accompagnami tu!

Rough translation:

Under a mantle of stars beautiful Rome appears to me
My heart is lonely, disillusioned with love
It wants to sing in the shadow . . .
A silent fountain and a balcony up there
Oh Roman guitar, accompany me

Play, play, my guitar
Let my heart cry
Homeless and without love, only you remain!
If my voice is a bit muted,
Accompany me quietly . . .
My beautiful baker’s girl
Is no longer on the balcony

The Tiber embankment sleeps while the river flows on . . .
I follow it because it draws me along with it
And overwhelms my heart
I see a distant shadow and a star up there
Oh Roman guitar, accompany me


(“Roman Guitar”. A tango with beautiful lyrics. The singer has been abandoned by everyone but his guitar. There is a great version by Connie Francis. Grade: B+.)


Veal Marsala

Slices of veal, cut into small pieces
Butter and olive oil for frying
Enough flour to cover the veal
½ glass marsala (or white wine)
Salt and pepper to taste


Flour the veal, then brown it (both sides) in the oil and butter. When browned, add the wine (you may also add 1/8 glass of water if the wine seems too strong). The meat should float on the wine mixture, but not be covered by it. Cook a bit until the meat is thoroughly browned, shut off the gas, cover the pan and keep it on the burner for about 5 minutes. Serve.


Egli é di Maggio

(From Pistoia in Tuscany)

As I write this we are mostly confined indoors by the Covid-19 “quarantine”, but still it is a beautiful day in May. This song is from Canti Popolari Toscani, collected by Giovanni Giannini. He chose it as the last song in his book, which I hope to translate entirely someday, but it seems a good time to add this one to my collection.

Egli è di maggio, – – fiorito la gaggia:
Siete i più belli – – che nella festa sia.
Egli è di maggio, – – gli è fiorito i rosi:
Unguanno dami, – – e ‘n altr’ anno sposi.
Egli è di maggio – – e fiorisce gli ontani:
E prego Iddio – -vi tenga tutti sani.

Rough translation:

It’s May – – the acacias are in flower:
You all are the most beautiful – – who are in the festival.
It’s May – – the roses have bloomed:
Give them to me this year, and we’ll get married in another.
It’s May – – and the alders are in bloom:
And I pray to God – – that you all keep healthy.

(“It is of May”. Giannini writes that this song, originally for collecting alms, is also sung in the festivities to celebrate lovers, usually accompanied by the Pistoian tambourine. In the “month of flowers”, however, it also serves as a May song, and there are other couplets in addition to the ones here. I haven’t heard this song, so it is ungraded.)


Emigrante che Viene, Emigrante che Va

(Sung by the father:)
Un giorno dal mio paese io son partito
Emigrante in terra straniera io sono andato
La mia mamma piangendo e la moglie ho lasciato
Ed un figlio più bello del sole appena nato

Emigarant che vien(e) emigrante che va [or, che vieni . . . che vai]
La tua vita è un inferno
Emigrante sarà . . .

Con gli occhi pieni di lacrime io son partito
Abbracciando la mia famiglia e il vicinato
Una valigia pieni di sogni mi son portato
Emigrante dentro una fabbrica mi son trovato


Lavorando di giorno e di notte con sudore
Ma soffrivo di nostalgia di ritornare
Ma una sera tornando a casa ho incontrato
Una bella ragazza e mi sono innamorato


(Spoken by the father:)
Una bella sera il mio destino è cambiato
Cinque anni sono bastante
E de la mia famiglia era dimenticata

(Sung by the father:)
La notte pensavo sempre e non dormivo
Volevo scappare via ma non potevo
Una voce di bimbo sentivo tanto lontano
Che cantava ritorna papà stammi vicino


(Spoken by the father:)
Ma quella voce di bimbo mi strappa nel cuore
????? e cantare queste belle parole:

(Sung by the son:)
?Sasa? che sei partito per lavorare
Cinque anni son giá passati senza tornare
La mamma mia tu hai lasciato senza dolore
E un figlio che ??più ho osene?? con tanto amore

Torneresti Papà, torneresti Papà
Sei ritorni in questa ca’ è la mia felicità

Papà, ritornni presto, questo ??soffreno??
Perchè ti voglio bene, ma tanto tanto
Perchè la mamma mia non ha più pace
Ma sei ritorni tu, siamo felice

Torneresti Papà, torneresti Papà
Sei ritorni in questa ca’ è la mia felicità

(Sung by the father:)
Ascolta, figlio mio, queste parole
Di alla Mamma che ti voglio bene
Ti chiedo perdono se ti ho fatto male
La lontananza questo ci fa fare

Stai contento, figlio
Mio tesoruccio di papà
Che domani a casa tua
Torna la felicità

Stai contento, figlio
Mio tesoruccio di papà
Che domani a casa tua
Torna la felicità

Rough translation:

(Sung by the father:)
One day I departed from my country
I went as an emigrant to a foreign land
My mother was crying, and I left my wife
And a newborn son more beautiful than the sun

Emigrant who comes, emigrant who goes
Your life is a hell
Emigrant you will be . . .

I left, with my eyes full of tears
Embracing my family and the neighbors
I brought a suitcase full of dreams
I found myself an emigrant in a factory


Working day and night with sweat
I suffered with longing to return
But one evening I came home to meet
A beautiful girl and I fell in love


(Spoken by the father:)
On a beautiful evening my destiny was changed
Five years were enough
And my family was forgotten

(Sung by the father:)
At night I always thought and did not sleep
I wanted to run away but I could not
I heard a child’s voice so far away
That sang, “Return, Dad, stay close to me”


(Spoken by the father:)
But that voice of a child tore at my heart
(?And I heard it?) sing these beautiful words:

(Sung by the son:)
(? I know?) you left in order to work
Five years have already passed without your return
You left my mother without regret
And a son who has so much love for you

You should come back, Dad, you should come back
Your returning home will be my happiness

Dad, come back soon (?to this suffering?)
Because I love you so, so much
Because my mother no longer has peace
But if you return we’ll be happy

You should come back, Dad, you should come back
Your returning home will be my happiness

(Sung by the father:)
Listen, my son, to these words
Tell Mom that I love you
I beg your forgiveness if I have hurt you
It was the distance that made me do this

Be cheerful, son,
You are your father’s treasure
Tomorrow to your home
Happiness will return

Be cheerful, son,
You are your father’s treasure
Tomorrow to your home
Happiness will return

(“Emigrant Who Comes, Emigrant Who Goes”. The story is true enough, even today, but somehow this seems more of a sappy tearjerker than a folk song. You can find it on albums of Sicilian songs, songs from Campania and so on, but the lyrics seem to be standard Italian, so I am including it in Central Songs. Grade: C.)


Maremma Amara

(Tutti Mi Dicon Maremma Maremma)

Tutti mi dicon maremma maremma
E (or, ma) a me mi pare (or, sembra) una maremma amara

L’ucello che ci va perde la penna
Io c’ho perduto una persona cara

Sia maledetta maremma maremma
Sia maledetta maremma e chi l’ama         [or, e tutti chi l’ama]

Sempre mi trema ‘l cor quando ci vai         [or, mi piange]
Perchè ho paura che non torni mai

Other verses:

Chi va in Maremma e lascia l’acqua fresca
Perde la dama e mai più non la ripesca         [find again]

Chi va in Maremma lassa [lascia] l’aria bona
Perde la dama e mai più non la ritrova         [find again, recover]

Chi va in Maremma e lassa la montagna
Perde la dama ed altro non guadagna         [or, e nulla ci guadagna; no benefit,
no point, nothing to be gained]

L’ucello che ci va perde la penna
Il giovin che ci va perde la dama

Rough translation:

Everyone says to me, “Maremma, Maremma”
But to me it seems to be a bitter marsh

The bird that went away lost its feather
I have lost a loved one

Maremma, Maremma is cursed
Maremma is cursed and so are those who love it

My heart always trembles when you go
Because I’m afraid you will never come back

Other verses:

He who goes in the Maremma leaves behind fresh water
He loses the lady and will not find her again

He who goes in the Maremma leaves behind good air
He loses the lady and will not meet her again

He who goes in the Maremma leaves behind the mountain
He loses the lady and does not get another

The bird that goes away loses a feather
The young man who goes away loses his lady

(“Bitter Maremma” or “Bitter Marsh”. The word Maremma itself has a double meaning. As a common noun it means “marsh” or “swampy coast” but, as a place name, there is one particular large marshy area on the coast of Tuscany known as the Maremma. Reclamation efforts have taken place over the centuries, since the area is good for certain types of agriculture and especially for raising cattle. (In fact, this is the locale of the butteri, Italian cowboys.) Over the years many migrants sought work in Maremma, but life there was harsh. If the cholera didn’t get you, the malaria did. This folksong is very old, with many verses and versions: Those who go to Maremma say goodbye to fresh water, good air, mountains and loved ones. Maremma is cursed, and so are those who love it.

On Youtube you can hear beautiful renditions by Caterina Bueno, Simone Cristicchi, and many others, but especially by Amalia Rodrigues, The Queen of Portuguese Fado. Grade: A.)


Morte di Doriano, La

(This is a scene from the “opera” Riccardo di Granada by Viviano Chesi. I have a feeling that this may be a recent work, but I have not been able to find a copyright notice or anything else about Mr. Chesi. If he or anyone else with proper authority wants me to take this down I will, and then look for an older sample of a Maggio Drammatico, which go back to at least the 15th century. But in the meantime this is an excellent example, especially since most of this scene can be found on Youtube, performed in “il maggio drammatico Villa Minozzo” in Reggio.)

The roles: King Riccardo; Costanza, his wife; Dorian, their son; Ircano, a Moorish wizard-warrior; and the fisherman (pescatore), who is a former nobleman of Granada.

Story: I have not read the entire libretto but I get the impression that somehow by sorcery Dorian has the heart of Ircano or vice-versa. In any case, this final scene of the opera takes place on a battle field, with Riccardo, Doriano and Ircano all wounded or dying.


Pescatore: Sto perdendo la speranza
Qui non s’ode alcun rumore

Doriano: Sembra il vecchio pescatore

Pescatore: C’è qualcuno in quella stanza
Grazie al cielo sei Doriano

Doriano: Come mai qui a Gibilterra
Ma un fragor s’ode di guerra

Pescatore: È tuo padre contro Ircano

Doriano: Questo è il giorno che punirti
Saprà il figlio di Riccardo

Pescatore: Corri pur senza ritardo
Prendi questo può servirti (gli da un pugnale)
(Doriano va fuori)

Ircano: Tutto sei di sangue intriso
Cerca di ferirmi almeno (Riccardo vacilla)

Riccardo: Se al mio fer togliessi il freno
Spegnerei quel tuo sorriso (Riccardo vacilla forte)

Doriano: Vittorioso vedo Ircano
E mio padre ormai perduto
Ma non posso dargli aiuto
Sono ancor troppo lontano

Riccardo: Ormai sono in sua balia
Già più volte mi hai capito (butta la spada)
A por fine allor ti invito
A un ‘inutile agonia

Ircano: Volentieri un tal favore
Il mio brando ti concede (alza la spada per colpirlo)

Doriano: Muori o belva senza fede (Doriano si pugnala)
E riprenditi il tuo cuore

Ircano: O Doriano sciagurato
Ti salvai e tu mi uccidi

Doriano: Or potrai tornare ai lidi
Dell’inferno in cui sei nato

Ircano: Il seme che ha mia madre fecondato
Odiava il Dio cristiano e la sua gente
E l’unico infedele che ho salvato
Ma fa finir così miseramente
Di tutto il mal del sangue che ho versato
Non ho rimorsi non mi importa
Un sol ricordo turba il mio pensiero
La morte di Serena e di Raniero

Riccardo: Quando in ciel sarà al traguardo
Il tuo giovane germoglio
Dirà a tutti con orgoglio
Sono il figlio di Riccardo

Tu muori per salvarmi
E ancor non hai vent’anni
E adesso mi condanni
A viver senza te
E adesso mi condanni
A viver senza te

Doriano: Si smorza finalmente quella fiamma
Che già vent’anni fa sembrava spenta
E di Doriano so conclude il dramma
Il cuor di un mostro più non mi alimenta
Potessi aver vicino la mia mamma
Che il viaggio verso il buio me spaventa
Ma dille che cercando la mia mano
Con l’ultimo respir le ho detta t’amo

Costanza: O signor Doriano è morto
Ho perduto il mio bambino

Riccardo: Lui odiava il suo destino
Ora in Dio trova conforto

Costanza: Gli portava la notizia
Che un fratello avrebbe avuto

Pescatore: Su nel ciel l’avrà saputo
Con sua gran gioia e letizia

Riccardo: Lui l’avrem sempre in memoria
Questo prenderà il suo posto
E chissà quest’ altro Agosto
Forse canterem suo storia

(Sonetto finale)
Coro: La favola è finita
Un grazie a tutti voi
Speriamo primo e poi
Di rivederci ancor
Di rivederci ancor

Rough translation:

Fisherman: I’m losing hope
Here there is no noise

Doriano: It looks like the old fisherman

Fisherman: There is someone in that room
Thank goodness you are Doriano

Doriano: How did I come here to Gibraltar?
But I hear a roar of war

Fisherman: It’s your father against Ircano

Doriano: This is the day I’ll punish you
You’ll know the son of Riccardo

Fisherman: Run without delay
Take this, it can serve you (he gives Doriano a dagger)
(Doriano goes out)

Ircano: You are all soaked in blood
Try to hurt me at least

Riccardo: If I release the brake on my sword
I would extinguish your smile

Doriano: I see Ircano victorious
And my father now lost
But I can’t help him
I’m still too far away

Riccardo: I’m now at your mercy
You have already understood me several times (he throws his sword)
Finally I invite you
To a futile agony

Ircano: Gladly such a favor
My sword will grant you (he raises his sword to strike Riccardo)

Doriano: Die, oh faithless beast (Doriano stabs himself)
And take back your heart

Ircano: Oh wretched Doriano
I saved you and you kill me

Doriano: Now you can go back to the shores
Of the hell you were born in

Ircano: The seed that my mother fertilized
Hated the Christian God and his people
And the only infidel that I saved
Brings it to an end so miserably
Of all the ill-blood I shed
I have no regrets, I don’t care at all
A single memory disturbs my thoughts
The death of Serena and Raniero

Riccardo: When in heaven he will be at the finish
Your young sprout
He will tell everyone with pride
I am Riccardo’s son

You die to save me
And you are not yet twenty
And now you condemn me
To live without you
And now you condemn me
To live without you

Doriano: That flame finally dies down
That already twenty years ago seemed extinguished
And the drama ends with Doriano
The heart of a monster no longer feeds me
Would that I could have my mom near;
The journey into the dark scares me
But tell her when she’s looking for my hand
With the last breath I said I love you

Costanza: Oh, Lord Doriano is dead
I’ve lost my child

Riccardo: He hated his fate
Now in God he finds comfort

Costanza: He brought him the news
That he would have a brother

Fisherman: Up in heaven he will know this
To his great joy and gladness

Riccardo: We will always have him in our memory
This will take his place
And who knows, of this other Augustus
Maybe we will sing his story

(Final sonnet)
Chorus: The story is over
Thanks to all of you
Let’s hope first and then
To meet again
To meet again

(“The Death of Dorian”. This scene is just a sample from a longer work, which may be based on a historical incident. The following notes on the Maggio drammatico (May play or Maysong)tradition come from Wikipedia, from Ellen Mary Clerke’s Fable and Song in Italy and from other sources. A Maggio drammatico is a costume show in sung verse, put on by country people in the springtime, mostly in the mountains of Tuscany and adjoining areas. As stated above, the plays are from at least medieval times, but stem from traditions going back to how the ancient, even prehistoric, Greeks and then the Romans chanted their poetry. Going forward, opera developed out of this tradition. This is similar to agrarian chants and performances in other places, especially at planting and harvest times. In Japan there are similar rural and townsfolk dances and plays that led to more sophisticated Kabuki and bunraku. As Clerke notes (and as can be heard on Youtube) all the dialog is sung on a single musical phrase of a few bars, repeated throughout the entire piece. Grade: B+, for effort and for carrying on a great tradition.)



O Santissima

(O Sanctisima)

Verses in standard Italian:

O santissima, o piisima,
Dolce Virgine Maria
Madre amata, immacolata
Prega, prega per noi

Tu confortaci, tu difendici
Madre nostra Maria
Con te crediamo, in te speriamo
Prega, prega per noi

Le tue gioie e le tue amarezze
Ci siano di aiuto, O Maria
In te speriamo, a te gridiamo
Prega, prega per noi

Verses in Latin:

O sanctisima, o piisima
Dulcis Virgo Maria
Mater amata, intemerata,
Ora, ora pro nobis

Tu solatium et refugium
Virgo Mater Maria
Quidquid optamus, per te speramus
Ora, ora pro nobis

Ecce debiles, perquam flebiles
Salva nos, O Maria
Toile languores, sana dolores
Ora, ora pro nobis

Virgo, respice, Mater, aspice
Audi nos, O Maria
Tu medicinam portas divinam
Ora, ora pro nobis

Rough translation

First, the verses in standard Italian:

Oh most holy, Oh most pious
Sweet Virgin Mary
Beloved mother, immaculate
Pray, pray for us

You comfort us, you defend us
Our mother Mary
We believe with you, we hope in you
Pray, pray for us

Your joys and your sorrows
Are of help to us, Oh Mary
In you we hope. We cry out to you:
Pray, pray for us.

Next, the verses in Latin (found on the Web; these seem to be traditional):

Oh most holy, Oh most pious
Sweet Virgin Mary!
Beloved Mother, undefiled,
Pray, pray for us

You are solace and refuge
Virgin Mother Mary
Whatever we wish, we hope it through you
Pray, pray for us

Look, we are weak and deeply deplorable
Save us, Oh Mary!
Take away our lassitude, heal our pains;
Pray, pray for us

Virgin, look at us, Mother, care for us;
Hear us, Oh Mary!
You bring divine medicine;
Pray, pray for us.

(“Oh Most Holy”. I presume this hymn was originally in Latin, but it was sung in Italian at the Italian language masses at Sacred Heart Church in Clifton, NJ and was a favorite of my grandmother. According to Wikipedia the tune is often called “The Sicilian Mariners’ Hymn”, so maybe this should be in the Southern Songs section, but the version at our masses was in standard Italian. Grade: B+.)


Quando Me’n Vo’ (Musetta’s Waltz)

Quando me’n vo’ soletta per la via,
La gente sosta e mira
E la bellezza mia tutta ricerca in me
Da capo a pie’ . . .
Ed assaporo allor la bramosia
Sottil, che da gli occhi traspira
E dai palesi vezzi intender sa
Alle occulte beltà.
Così l’effluvio del desìo tutta m’aggira,
Felice mi fa!
E tu che sai, che memori e ti struggi
Da me tanto rifuggi?
So ben:
Le angoscie tue non le vuoi dir,
Ma ti senti morir!

Rough translation:

When I go walking alone on the streets
People stop and stare
And examine my beauty
From head to toe . . .
And then I savor the subtle cravings
That ooze from their eyes.
And from the obvious charms they perceive
The hidden beauty.
Thus the scent of desire envelopes me
And makes me happy!
And you who knows, who remembers and yearns,
You shy away from me?
I know why:
You don’t want to tell me of your anguish,
But you feel like dying!

(“When I go walking”. An aria from La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, with the libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. In the 1950s Della Reese sang a hit record adaptation of this called “Don’t You Know”. No grade from me; I’ll leave that to the experts.)


Quattro Cavai che Trottano

As sung by L’allegra Compagnia:

Quattro cavai li trottano (or, che trottano)
Sotto la timonella
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
Quattro cavai li trottano
Sotto la timonella
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
Su la riva del mar (or, in su la riva)

In riva el mar si pescano (or, al mar)
Si pescan le sardelle
Tu sei una di quelle
Tu sei una di quelle
In riva el mar si pescano
Si pescan le sardelle
Tu sei una di quelle
Io vorrei pescar (or, che io vorrei pescar)

Alternate/additional verses, as sung by Orietta Berti and others:

Quattro cavai che trottano
Sotto la timonella
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
Quattro cavai che trottano
Sotto la timonella
Vuoi tu venir mia bella?
In su la riva del mar

Che bella notte che fa
In barchetta si va
A far l’amore con te
Che bella notte che fa
In barchetta si va
A far l’amore con te

In riva al mar si pescano
Si pescano le sardelle
Sono lucente e belle
Sono lucente e belle
In riva al mar si pescano
Si pescano le sardelle
Sono lucente e belle
Come i tuoi occhi per me


Vieni alla tua finestra
Bruna, o mia bella bruna
Che al chiaro della luna
Che al chiaro della luna
Vieni alla tua finestra
Bruna, o mia bella bruna
Che al chiaro della luna
Andremo a fare l’amor


Rough translation:

Four trotting horses pull the carriage. Do you want to come along, my love? To the shore of the sea.

On the shore of the sea they fish for sardines [actually, pilchards; sardines are sardine, not sardelle]. You are one whom I would like to catch.

Alternate/additional verses:

What a beautiful night. We go by boat to make love.

On the shore of the sea they fish for sardines. They are shiny and beautiful, like your eyes are for me.

Come to your window my beautiful brunette, so that we can make love in the light of the moon.

(“Four Trotting Horses”. This song is identified with Tuscany but it is also popular with choral groups farther north. Note that apparently it is not an insult to compare one’s girlfriend to a sardine. Grade: C+.)


Mary Mazzer’s Sausage and Chicken Stew

This is a family favorite from Maria C. (Mary) Mazzer, especially for family gatherings. Her father, Vito, was born in Altamura, Italy. Her mother, Lucille, was of Portuguese and Sicilian descent.


Olive oil
Sweet sausage links
(Chicken pieces (thighs are recommended)
Onions, sliced
Red potatoes, cut in chunks
Fire roasted diced tomatoes (canned)
Canned peas
Canned sliced mushrooms
Artichoke hearts (NOT marinated)
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
1 bottle of white wine

Crusty bread and parmegiano reggiano, for serving


I’ll leave the directions to Mary, as follows.

I can’t really give quantities, but you can’t go wrong!
Use your largest deep oven roasting pan. Add olive oil to the bottom. Place sweet sausage links on the bottom. Add chicken pieces (my family prefers thighs and I always remove the skin first). Sliced onions and chunked red potatoes (or whatever you prefer – I leave the skins on) go next. The rest of the ingredients come from cans! Layer fire roasted diced tomatoes, peas (with the liquid), sliced mushrooms (without the liquid), and quartered artichoke hearts (not the marinated ones – without the liquid). Add garlic powder and Italian seasoning as per your preference. Add a bottle of white wine to the whole thing (nothing too dry or expensive – just a decent white) – I fill the pan til I can just see the wine coming up the side but it pretty much takes the whole thing, with maybe a sip left over for you (if you plan right!). Cover the whole thing tightly with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven. Depending on the amount you’ve created, plan on a couple of hours – when I make this, I can barely lift the roasting pan, so it takes a while. I judge doneness by the smell – you’ll know what I mean – the scent melds so that you can’t pick out any one ingredient anymore. The chicken and sausage can be brought up to the top for a few extra minutes of uncovered cooking to let them brown a bit. The potatoes should be ‘forkable’ but not too mushy. The chicken may be off the bone by then so be careful when serving. I like to serve this with a hearty, crusty bread and a chunk of parmagiano reggiano. It could easily go with polenta instead of the bread. This is great, hearty, peasant food – good for a large gathering, especially in the winter. (Also makes great left-overs. I have frozen it but the potatoes don’t do as well.)


Reginella Campagnola

La la la la la la la . . . . .

O campagnola bella, tu sei la reginella
Negli occhi tuoi c’è il sole
C’è il colore delle viole delle valle tutte in fior.
Se canti la tua voce, è un’ armonia di pace
Che si diffonde e dice, “Se vuoi vivire felice devi vivire quassu.”

La la la la la . . . . .

All’alba quando spunta il sole
La nell’Abruzzo tutto d’or
Le prosperose campagnole,
Discendono le valli in fior.

La la la la la . . .

Rough translation:

La la la la la la la . . . . .

Oh beautiful country girl, you are a little queen
Within your eyes there is the sun
There is the color of the violets of the valley all in flower
If you sing, in your voice is the harmony of peace
That spreads and says, “If you want to live happily you should live up here.”

La la la la la . . . . .

At dawn when the sun rises
All in Abruzzo is golden
The prosperous peasant women
Descend to the valleys in bloom

La la la la la . . .

(“Country Girl Princess”. In your eyes there is the light of the sun, the violets of the valley, etc. The second verse indicates that the girl is from Abruzzo, a region east of Rome. Grade: B.)


Romagna Mia

Sento la nostalgia del passato
Dove la mamma mia ho lasciato        (or, quando la mamma mia)
Non ti potrò scordar casetta bella
In questa notte stellata,
La mia serenata
Io canto per te.

Romagna mia, Romagna in fiore,
tu sei la stella, tu sei l’amore.
Quando ti penso, vorrei tornare,
dalla mia bella, al casolare!

Romagna, Romagna mia,
lontan da te, non si può star!

Rough translation:

I feel nostalgia for the past
Where I have left my mother
I cannot forget you, pretty little cottage
On this starry night
My seranade
I sing for you.

My Romagna, Romagna in bloom
You are the star, you are love
When I think of you, I would go back
To my love, to my cottage

Romagna, my Romagna
I cannot stay far from you

(“My Romagna”. Dance music. The singer is nostalgic for his home and his girl, back in Romagna, a region just south of Venice/Veneto. Grade: B.)


Romanina, La

La romanina cantando
Vien dal gianicolo in fiore.
Ti dà un’occhiato passando
Ti mette il fuoco nel cuore.

E tutta Roma
s’incanta ed ognuno
le canta dicendo cosi:

Lasciatela passare
La bella romanina
Che tutti fà incantare
Nel mentre che cammina
Ti fa provare la scossa
Col gli occchi d’ assassina
La bella romanina
Lasciatela passar.

Quando la gente straniera
Vede la bella romana
Sente sbocciar primavera
Sente che il cuore risana

//repeat from “E tutta Roma”//

Rough translation:

The singing Roman girl
Comes down from the Janiculum Hill in bloom.
She gives you a passing glance
That puts a fire in your heart.

And all of Rome
Is enchanted and everyone
Sings, saying:

Let her pass through,
The beautiful Roman girl,
Who enchants everyone
As she walks among them.
She gives you a shock
With the eyes of an assassin.
The beautiful Roman girl,
Let her pass by.

When foreign people
See the beautiful Roman girl
They feel spring blossoming
They feel that their hearts are healing

//repeat from “And all of Rome”//

(“The Roman Girl”. This actually may be a northern song, since it is often sung by northern groups, but it is about the Roman girl who can cut you down with eyes like an assassin’s. At the same time, when she passes by she brings spring to the hearts of Romans and visitors alike. Grade: B+.)


Scaramella Va alla Guerra

Music and lyrics composed/arranged by Josquin des Prez (c. 1440-1521) but based on an earlier folksong.

Scaramella va alla guerra
Colla lancia et la rotella (small wheel in mod. It., but transl. as “buckler”, shield)
La zombero boro borombetta (zombero = thump?)
La boro borombo

Scaramella fa la gala (he makes festive; but a pun on “gets a blister”)
Colla scarpa et la stivala (from his shoes and boots)
La zombero boro borombetta
La zombero boro borombo

Scaramella se inamora (he just loves to cry day and night)
Sol per pianger notte et hora
La zombero boro borombetta
La zombero boro borombo

Scaramella vaie in campo (he goes into the field/into battle)
Con la spada sopra el fianco (with his sword remaining at his side)
La zombero boro borombetta
La zombero boro borombo

Rough translation:

Scaramella goes to war
With his lance and shield
?? Thumping and bumping along ??

(Same pattern below)

Scaramella gets a blister
From his shoe and boot

Scaramella just loves
To cry all night and day

Scaramella goes into battle
With his sword remaining by his side

(“Scaramella Goes to War”, a famous early music piece. Grade: A.)



String Beans with Tomatoes


1 lb. string beans, washed
3 oz. olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
½ can tomato paste (with ½ can water)
1 small can of whole peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper as desired (e.g., 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper)


Cut the beans in half. Heat oil in a saucepan and brown the garlic very slightly. Add the tomato paste and water (or peeled tomatoes), salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the string beans, mixing them thoroughly into the sauce. Cook slowly until the beans are tender and the sauce has thickened through evaporation.

Hint: Cook with the cover on at first and then cook the dish uncovered.


Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle

(originally in Neapolitan, but this is in standard Italian)

Tu scendi dalle stelle, O Re del Cielo
E vieni in una grotta, al freddo, al gelo        ( for each verse, repeat the last line)

O Bambino mio Divino
Io ti vedo qui a tremar
O Dio Beato
Ahi, quanto ti costò, l’avermi amato!

A te, che sei del mondo il Creatore,
mancano panni e fuoco, O mio Signore!           (or, non sono panni . . . )

Caro eletto Pargoletto, quanto questa povertà
Più mi innamora!
Giacchè ti fece amor povero ancora! (since)

From starry skies descending Thou comest, glorious King
A manger low thy bed, in winter’s icy sting.

O my dearest Child most holy, shudd’ring, trembling in the cold!
Great God, Thou ovest me! What suff’ring Thou didst bear
That I near Thee might be!

Thou art the world’s Creator, God’s own and true Word
Yet here no robe, no fire, for Thee, Divine Lord.

Dearest, fairest, sweetest Infant, dire this state of poverty.
The more I care for Thee,
Since Thou, O Divine Love, will’st now so poor to be.

Another translation:

You came down from the stars, Oh King of Heavens,
And you come in a cave, in the cold, in the frost      (repeat)

Oh my Divine baby, I see you trembling here
Oh Blessed God
Ah, how much it cost you, Your loving me.

For you, who are of all the world the Creator,
No robes and fire, Oh my Lord

Dear chosen one, little infant,
This dire poverty makes me love you more
Since Love made you poor now.

Other verses:

Tu lasci del tuo Padre il divin seno pervenir a penar su poco fieno         (straw)
Dolce amore mio cuore, dove amor ti trasportò, O Gesù mio!
Perché tanto patir? Per amor mio!

Ma se fu tuo volere il tuo patire, perché vuoi pianger poi, perché vagire?
Sposo mio amato Dio, mio Gesù, t’intendo si, Ah mio Signore!
Tu piangi non per duol, ma per amore           (pain)

Tu piangi per vederti da me ingrato, dove sì grande amor, si poco amato!
O diletto del mio petto, se già un tempo fu così or te sol bramo
Caro, non pianger più, ch’io t’amo, t’amo.

Rough translation of other verses:

You left the divine bosom of your Father to come to suffer on a bit of straw
Sweet love of my heart, where has love taken you, oh my Jesus!
Why suffer so much? For my sake!

But if it was your will to suffer, then why weep, why whimper?
My groom, beloved God, my Jesus, I understand Thee, Ah my Lord!
You weep not for grief but for love

You weep to see me ungrateful. Where there is such great love, it is little loved!
Oh delight of my heart. If already there was a time like this, I long for You alone.
Dear do not cry any more. I love You, I love You.

(“You Descend From the Stars”. A Christmas song from the 1700s, still popular in churches with persons of Italian descent, such as Sacred Heart Church in Clifton, NJ. Check out the Wikipedia article for its history and an “official” (old) translation into English. Other sources state that while the original version by de Liguori was written in the Neapolitan language, later a pope of the time wrote verses in standard Italian. Grade: A.)


Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients (the proportions depend on the quantity of mushrooms):

Olive oil or butter (half of each tastes great)
Fresh mushrooms
Garlic, minced
Parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


Brown the garlic in the butter or oil. Add the mushrooms (drained/wiped of any excess water). Add salt and pepper. Sauté ¾ hour with the cover on. Then stir in the parsley and sauté some more with the cover half off. Cook until all the liquid evaporates.

Note: Grandma Angelina made this the best, and I think it was because she cooked it for a very long time.


Un Bel Di Vedremo

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.
Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle
E aspetto, e aspetto gran tempo
e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.
E uscito dalla folla cittadina,
un uomo, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po’ per celia
e un po’ per non morire
al primo incontro;
ed egli alquanto in pena
chiamerà, chiamerà:
“Piccina mogliettina,
olezzo di verbena”
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.

(a Suzuki)
Tutto questo avverrà,
te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

Rough translation:

One fine day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the white ship
enters into the port.
It rumbles its salute.
Do you see it? He is coming!
I don’t go down to meet him, not I.
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.
And, leaving from the crowded city,
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill.
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance
I without answering
Stay hidden
A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting,
And then, a little troubled,
He will call, he will call
“Little one, dear wife,
Orange blossom”
The names he called me at his last coming.

All this will happen,
I promise you this
Hold back your fears –
I with secure faith wait for him.

(“One Fine Day”. From Madama Butterfly, music by Giacomo Puccini with the libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Glover House in Nagasaki is said to be the setting. No grade from me; I’ll leave that to the experts.)


Vendemmia, La

(Il Trescone)

(Canzone della Toscana. Lyrics found on http://wikitesti.com)

Svegliatevi dal sonno ubriaconi,
che giunta è per voi la gran cuccagna.
Si mangerà di polli e di piccioni
E ber di vin che vien dalla campagna.

E la Menica con il cembalo
La frullana sonerà
E la Menica con il cembalo
La frullana sonerà
Viva la lora.

Sarà dei nostri anche Beppin di Noce
E disse pur che porta l’organino.
Giusto ne comprò uno a sette boce,
lo fa cantar che sembra un cardellino.

(different chorus here:)
Gli è un tremòto un accidente
Tutti i versi li sa fa.
Gli è un tremòto un accidente
Tutti i versi li sa fa.
Viva la lora.

L’amor si fa in campagna e non al mare,
venite tutti quanti qui a ballare.
Se piove danzaremo nel capanno
Faremo festa grande anche quest’anno.


Sarà insiem coi vostri anche l’Orietta
Che canterà una bella canzoncina.
Le ore passerano di gran fretta,
arriveremo presto alla mattina.


Rough translation:

Wake up from your drunken sleep
What has come is for you a great bonanza.
You will eat chickens and pigeons,
And drink of wine that comes from the countryside.

And Menica with the tambourine
Sounds the frullana dance
And Menica with the tambourine
Sounds the frullana dance
Cheers to all!

Joe the Walnut will also be among us,
He said while bringing the hurdy-gurdy
He just bought one with seven pipes
He’ll make it sing just like a goldfinch.

(different chorus here:)

?? He is an earthquake, an accident??
He knows how to play all the verses
?? He is an earthquake, an accident??
He knows how to play all the verses
Cheers to all!

Love is made in the countryside, not at sea,
Everybody come here to dance.
If it rains we’ll dance in the shed
We’ll have a big celebration again this year.


We’ll be together with you and also Orietta
Who will sing a beautiful song.
The hours will go by in a hurry,
The morning will soon arrive for us.


(“The Wine-Making”. A jolly song. You can imagine the peasants and townspeople gathering to enjoy food, drink, dancing and singing during this happy time of year, which is what this song is about. Also called Il Trescone, it is the song for a folkdance popular throughout northern Italy, but especially in Tuscany. According to an article on traditional Italian dances by Giovanna Pozzi on the website en.calameo.com, Il Trescone goes back to at least the 14th century. She says the word “trescone” comes from the German “thriskan”, which means to thresh or beat. Grade: B.)


Vieni Sul Mar

Deh, ti desta, fanciulla, la luna
Spande un raggio si caro sul mar.
Vieni meco, t’aspetta la bruna,
Fida barca del tuo marinar.
Ma tu dormi, e non pensi al tuo fido,
Ma non dorme chi vive d’amor.
Io la notte a te volo, sul lido,
Ed il giorno a te volo col cor.

Vieni sul mar. Vieni a vogar.
Sentirai l’ebbrezza del tuo marinar.

Da quel giorno che t’ho conosciuta,
Oh fanciulla di questo mio cuor.
Speme e pace per te ho perduto
Perché t’amo d’un immenso amor.
Fra le belle tu sei la più bella,
Fra le rose tu sei la più fin.
Tu del ciel sei brillante mia stella,
Ed in terra divina beltà.


Addio dunque, riposa, e domani
Quando l’alba a svegliarti verrà.
Sopra lidi lontani lontani
L’infelice nocchiero sarà.
Ma tu dormi, e non pensi al tuo fido,
Ma non dorme chi vive d’amor.
Io la notte a te volo, sul lido,
Ed il giorno a te volo col cor.

(Refrain, two times)

Rough translation:

Oh, wake up girl,
The moon spreads its charming ray on the sea.
Come with me; the brown, trustworthy boat
Of your sailor awaits you.
You sleep, and don’t think of your faithful one.
But those who live by love do not sleep.
At night I fly to you on the shore,
And by day I fly to you with my heart.

Come to the sea, come for a row,
You’ll feel the rapture of your sailor.

From the day that I met you,
Oh girl of my heart,
I have lost hope and peace over you,
Because I love you with an immense love.
Among the beautiful, you are the most beautiful.
Among the roses you are the finest.
In the sky, you are my bright star,
And on earth, divine beauty.


Goodbye, then, and tomorrow
When the dawn comes to wake you
The unhappy helmsman
Will be on shores far, far away.
But you sleep, and don’t think of your faithful one.
But those who live by love do not sleep.
At night I fly to you on the shore,
And by day I fly to you with my heart.

(Refrain, two times)

(“Come to the Sea”. “Traditional.” Some sources call this a traditional Venetian song, some say it is Neapolitan. In any case, the lyrics as sung by Caruso and many others are in standard Italian, so I have placed this in the Central Songs section. The website jopiepople.blogspot,com has a detailed history of the song (at least the music). Namely (thanks to “Joop” for this information), the same tune was sung in pre-Revolutionary Russia, as “Sing, Swallow, Sing”. A Russian record label of that song from 1903 says it is derived from an old Italian song. However, Italian sources, such as sheet music published in 1894, say that the music is transcribed from English. Joop, on the above website, thinks that Vieni Sul Mar actually derives from an American song, “My Nellie’s Blue Eyes”, written by William J. Scanlan in 1883. From the samples on that website, My Nellie’s Blue Eyes is similar to Vieni Sul Mar in the refrain, but not the verses. In contrast, the sample of the Russian tune is identical to the Italian version. My question: Isn’t it possible that the melody pre-exists all of those versions? Since it has been such a favorite for such a long time and in so many versions, including Brazilian, English, French and Spanish, Grade: B+.)


Gelsie’s Eggplant

My mother made eggplant several ways, but this no-frying method was her favorite.


1 large or 2 small eggplants, peeled and cut into thick slices
Salt, enough to sprinkle the eggplant slices
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbs. milk
3-4 cups of tomato sauce (see recipes above)
¾ cup parmesan cheese
Up to 1 lb. mozzarella cheese (optional)


Place the slices of eggplant in a colander, sprinkle them with salt, cover with a heavy plate and set aside for 20 minutes, so that water will drain off.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the eggs, milk, breadcrumbs and salt in a bowl. Dip the eggplant slices in the bowl, so that both sides are coated.

Put the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet (or sheets) and brown them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Next, grease a shallow (3 qt., or 7 ½ by 11 inch) baking pan and put in a light layer of tomato sauce. Cover with 1/3 of the eggplant slices, then 1 cup of the tomato sauce and a layer of the cheese(s). Repeat the layering. Ideally, the sauce and cheese will be on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so until the cheese melts.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with additional sauce and parmesan cheese if desired.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s