Bella Ciao – Original Italian Lyrics & English Translation

These days, Bella Ciao is widely known as a generic protest song, but did you know that it has its origins in the risaie (rice fields) of northern Italy?

That’s right – it was first sung by the mondine (rice weeders) whose job was to weed the paddies to promote the growth of the young rice shoots. Carried out by women of a low social class, the work was gruelling due to the long days spent bent over under the scorching sun, knee-deep in water. To make matters worse, the pay was poor and the supervising padroni (bosses) often punished the workers if they spoke amongst themselves during working hours.

Rice paddy field, South India

It is therefore no surprise that many protest songs were born out of these excruciating work conditions. Bella Ciao, perhaps the most famous of them all, is thought to have been written in the early 19th century, though the earliest written version was recorded in Vercelli, Piedmont in 1906. The original mondine lyrics describe the horrific conditions, from insetti e le zanzare (insects and mosquitoes) and the boss’ bastone (stick), to the curved backs of the workers.

In the 1940s, the song was adopted and revised by the anti-fascist resistance. The new lyrics tell the story of a young partisan who leaves his beloved to join the partisan militia, says goodbye for probably the last time. Both versions were recorded for the first time in 1964 by Italian folk singer Giovanna Daffini.

Since then, Bella Ciao has been recorded and translated numerous times, performed by dozens of famous musicians, and used at protests all over the world. Most recently, it was revived by the Spanish Netflix series Money Heist (2017-2018), in which the song is regularly played in symbolic moments as a metaphor for freedom.

Group of people activists with megaphone protesting on streets, strike and demonstration concept.

If you are interested in learning the lyrics, we’ve shared both the mondine and partigiano versions below along with their respective English translations. Happy protesting!

Sources: Financial Times, The Local Italy, Wikipedia


Bella Ciao – Original Lyrics in Italian (Mondine version)

Alla mattina appena alzata
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao, ciao, ciao
alla mattina appena alzata
in risaia mi tocca andar.

E fra gli insetti e le zanzare
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
e fra gli insetti e le zanzare
un dur lavoro mi tocca far.

Il capo in piedi col suo bastone
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
il capo in piedi col suo bastone
e noi curve a lavorar.

O mamma mia o che tormento
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
o mamma mia o che tormento
io t’invoco ogni doman.

Ed ogni ora che qui passiamo
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
ed ogni ora che qui passiamo
noi perdiam la gioventù.

Ma verrà un giorno che tutte quante
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
ma verrà un giorno che tutte quante
lavoreremo in libertà.


Bella Ciao – Original Lyrics in Italian (Partisan version)

Una mattina mi son svegliato,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
Una mattina mi son svegliato
e ho trovato l’invasor.

O partigiano portami via,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
o partigiano portami via
che mi sento di morir.

E se io muoio da partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e se io muoio da partigiano
tu mi devi seppellir.

Seppellire lassù in montagna,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
seppellire lassù in montagna
sotto l’ombra di un bel fior.

E le genti che passeranno,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e le genti che passeranno
mi diranno “che bel fior”.

Questo è il fiore del partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
questo è il fiore del partigiano
morto per la libertà


Bella Ciao – English Meaning (Mondine version)

In the morning as soon as I get up
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
In the morning as soon as I get up
I have to go to the paddy fields.

And between insects and mosquitoes
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
and between insects and mosquitoes
I have to work hard.

The boss is standing with his cane
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
the boss is standing with his cane
and we work with our backs curved.

Oh my goodness, what torment
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
oh my goodness, what torment
Every day I beseech you.

And every hour that we pass here
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
and every hour that we pass here
we lose our youth.

But the day will come when all of us
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
but the day will come when all of us
will work in freedom.


Bella Ciao – English Meaning (Partisan version)

One morning I woke up,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
One morning I woke up
And I found the invader.

Oh partisan, take me away,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
oh partisan, take me away
Because I feel as if I’m going to die.

And if I die a partisan,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
and if I die a partisan
then you must bury me.

Bury me up in the mountain,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
bury me up in the mountain
under the shade of a beautiful flower.

And the people who pass by,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
and the people who pass by,
will tell me “what a beautiful flower.”

This is the flower of the partisan,
oh goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, bye, bye, bye
this is the flower of the partisan
who died for freedom.