blackboard with writing: Italian Nursery rhymes with English translation
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Traditional Italian nursery rhymes your kids will love

Italian nursery rhymes your kids will love. Traditional Italian songs and rhymes for babies and small kids.

My kids are growing up bilingual Italian-English and Italian nursery rhymes have been the first elements of Italian languages they have been exposed to.

It happened naturally, with me simply singing to them and reciting to them the Italian nursery rhymes of my childhood and they were invaluable not just as bonding time but also to expose them to the rythm of the Italian language, rhymes and words that they may not have encountered in common language.

Italian nursery rhymes, like those in English and I imagine in all other languages, have ancient origins and introduce a world that may be unfamiliar to modern kids.

I myself being a city girl (I am from Rome) still have to sing to myself ‘Stella Stellina‘ to rememebr the names of the animals’ babies!

These are the Italian niursery rhymes sang in our house.

Please note: the tranlations is exclusively to make the meaning accessible and does not respect nor try to reproduce the sound or rythm of the original.

Traditional Italian nursery rhymes

Batti batti le manine

Batti batti le manine

Che son belle e piccoline

Son piccoline come te.. 1, 2, 3!

Clap clap your little hands

that are beautiful and small

Small like you…1, 2, 3!

Stella Stellina

Stella stellina
La notte s’avvicina
La fiamma traballa
La mucca è nella stalla

La mucca e il vitello
La pecora e l’agnello
La chioccia e il pulcino
Ognuno ha il suo bambino
Ognuno ha la sua mamma
E tutti fan la nanna

Star Little Star
The night is coming
The flame is trembling
The cow is in the stable

The cow and the calf
The sheep and the lamb
The mother hen and the chick
Each has their little one
Each has their mom
And everyone sleeps

Ambarabà Ciccì Coccò

This is a counting song to decide turns when playing as well as an Italian nursery rhyme.

Ambarabà Ciccì Cocò
tre civette* sul comò
che facevano l’amore
con la figlia del dottore.

Il dottore si ammalò
Ambarabà Ciccì Coccò

Ambarabà Ciccì Cocò
3 owls* on the dresser
who made love to
the doctor’s daugher.

The doctor fell ill
Ambarabà Ciccì Coccò

*In other versions it is ‘galline’, ‘hens’ instead of owls but the metric stays the same.

Apelle figlio di Apollo

This usually gets a giggle as it is almost a tongue twister!

Apelle, figlio di Apollo
fece una palla di pelle di pollo.

Tutti i pesci
vennero a galla,
per vedere la palla
di pelle di pollo
fatta da Apelle,
figlio di Apollo.

Apelle, son of Apollo
made a ball of chicken skin

All the fish
came up,
to see the ball
of chicken skin
made by Apelle,
son of Apollo.

Cavallino arri’ arro’

Cavallino arri, arrò,
prendi la biada che ti do,
prendi i ferri che ti metto
per andare a San Francesco.
A San Francesco c’è una via
che ti porta a casa mia.
A casa mia c’è un altare
con tre monache a lavorare,
una cuce, una taglia,
una fa cappelli di paglia;
la più piccola e vecchietta
Santa Barbara benedetta.

Little horse arri, arrò,
take the hey I give you,
take the irons I prepared
to go to San Francesco.
In San Francesco there is a road
that leads you to my place.
In my place there is an altar
with three nuns at work,
one sew, one cuts,
one makes straw hats;
the smallest and oldest
is blessed St Barbara.

Questo e’ l’occhio bello

Questo e’ l’occhio bello,
questo suo fratello 
questa e’ la chiesina,
e ila sua campanina:
Drin, drin, drin, drin, drin

This is the beautiful eye,
this is its brother
this is the little church,
and this its little bell:
Drin, drin, drin, drin, drin

Farfallina bella e bianca

Farfallina bella e bianca
vola vola mai si stanca
vola qua, vola là:
mai nessun la fermerà!
Vola, vola ore ed ore
poi si posa su un bel fiore
vola qua, vola la:
mai nessun la fermerà!

Little butterfly beautiful and white
flies, flies and never gets tired
flies here, flies there:
no one will ever stop her!
Flies, flies hours and hours
then she stops on a beautiful flower
flies here, flies there:
no one will ever stop her!

Giro giro tondo

The closest English rhyme I found to this one is ‘Ring a ring o roses, which is song and acted in the same manner.

Giro girotondo,
casca il mondo,
casca la terra,
tutti giù per terra!

Round round we go,
the world falls,
the earth falls,
all on the ground!

La bella lavanderina

You can find this on (with ‘Masha and the Bear’ style video) on youtube here

La bella lavanderina
che lava i fazzoletti
per i poveretti
della città.

Fai un salto,
fanne un altro,
fai la giravolta,
falla un’altra volta,

Guarda in su
guarda in giù
dai un bacio
a chi vuoi tu.

Beautiful little laundry girl
who washed the handkerchiefs
of the poor
of the city.

jump again,
do a twirl,
do another one,

Look up
look down
give a kiss
to whomever you want.

Ninna nanna, ninna oh

You can find this one on Youtube here

Ninna nanna, ninna oh,
questo bimbo a chi lo do?
Lo darò alla Befana
Che lo tiene una settimana
Lo darò all’Uomo Nero
Che lo tiene un anno intero
Lo darò all’Uomo Bianco
Che le tiene finché è stanco

Lo darò alla sua mamma
e il bimbo fa la nanna!

Ninna nanna, ninna oh,
who shall I give this baby to?
I will give him to la Befana
who will keep him a week
I will give him to the Black Man
Who will keep him a month
I will give him to the White Man
Who will keep him until he is tired

I will give him to his mom
and the baby is asleep!

Trotta trotta cavallino

Trotta trotta cavallino,
porta a spasso il mio bambino:
fallo andare come il vento,
fallo andare a mille e cento.

Passa i monti e la marina,
fallo andare domattina,
e poi dopo scappa scappa,
che il mio bimbo vuol la pappa!

Run, run little horse,
bring my baby around:
make him go like the wind,
make him go at 1100 .

Pass the mountains and the sea,
make him go tomorrow morning,
then run away, run always,
as my baby wants to eat!

You can find most of them on Youtube here

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Have small kids or maybe you are expecting? You may also like these Italian baby names for girls and Italian baby names for boys.

Blackboard with written ' Italian Nursery Rhymes with English translation' with camomile flowers beside it
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Marta Correale is an Italian mama of two. Born and raised in Rome, Marta has a passion for travel and especially enjoys showing off Italy to her kids, who are growing up to love it as much as she does! A classics graduate, teacher of Italian as a second language and family travel blogger, Marta launched Mama Loves Italy as a way to inspire, support and help curious visitors to make the most of a trip to Italy and learn about Italian culture on the way.