Italian Language Blog

‘O Sole Mio Posted by on Jun 18, 2009 in Culture, Italian Language

‘O sole mio  is without doubt the most well known Neapolitan (and probably Italian) song in the world. The lyrics were written by the journalist Giovanni Capurro in 1898, and the music was composed by his friend Eduardo di Capua, a professional posteggiatore, a Neapolitan word meaning someone who sings in restaurants and at parties. They then sold the song to the music publisher Bidieri for 25 lire! Bidieri presented the song at the most important Neapolitan music festival, la festa di Piedigrotta. ‘O sole mio didn’t win but took second place and the rest, as they say, is history. Poor Capurro and Di Capua, however, went on living in poverty.

I chose this song not only because it’s the most famous Neapolitan song in the world, but because in my posts I often mention Italian dialects, and I thought this might be a good way to illustrate some of the differences between ‘proper’ Italian and dialetto (dialect).

Firstly the original Neapolitan text :

Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole, / n’aria serena doppo na tempesta! / Pe’ ll’aria fresca pare gia’ na festa. / Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole!

Ma n’atu sole / cchiu’ bello oi ne’. / ‘O sole mio / sta ‘nfronte a te! / ‘O sole, ‘o sole mio / sta ‘nfronte a te, / sta ‘nfronte a te! 

Lucene ‘e llastre d’a fenesta toia; / na lavannara canta e se ne vanta / e pe’ tramente torce, spanne e canta / lucene ‘e llastre d’a fenesta toia.

Ma n’atu sole / cchiu’ bello, oi ne’. / ‘O sole mio / sta ‘nfronte a te! 

Quanno fa notte e ‘o sole se ne scenne, / me vene quase ‘na malincunia; / sotto ‘a fenesta toia restarria / quanno fa notte e ‘o sole se ne scenne. 

Ma n’atu sole  / cchiu’ bello, oi ne’. / ‘O sole mio / sta ‘nfronte a te!


Now the Italian ‘translation’:

Che bella cosa una giornata di sole, / un’aria serena dopo la tempesta! / Per l’aria fresca pare gia’ una festa. / Che bella cosa una giornata di sole!

Ma un’altro sole / piu’ bello non c’e’. / Il sole, il sole mio / sta in fronte a te, / sta in fronte a te!

Luccicano i vetri della tua finestra; / una lavandaia canta e si vanta / mentre strizza, stende e canta / luccicano i vetri della tua finestra!

Ma un altro sole / piu’ bello non c’e’. / Il sole mio / sta in fronte a te!

Quando fa notte e il sole se ne scende, / mi viene quasi una malinconia; / resterei sotto la tua finestra, quando fa notte e il sole se ne scende.

Ma un altro sole / piu’ bello non c’e’. / Il sole mio / sta in fronte a te!


Neapolitan is just one of the many dialects spoken in Italy, but it is probably the most famous one due to the well known tradition of Canzone Napoletana, and to the many famous actors who have made Neapolitan a popular dialect. Comparing the two texts above it’s easy to see the similarities between the Italian language and Neapolitan dialect, e.g. you can see that na jurnata ‘e is a dialectic transformation of una giornata di, and so on. Seeing the Neapolitan and the Italian texts side by side doesn’t, however, really illustrate the true difference between spoken Italian and Neapolitan dialect. To understand this you will need to listen to ‘O sole mio performed by a true Neapolitan.

To finish with, here is my English translation of ‘O sole mio:

A sunny day is such a beautiful thing, / the air is serene after the storm! / The  fresh air really feels like a celebration / A sunny day is such a beautiful thing!

But there’s no other sun, / more beautiful. / The sun, my sun / upon your face! / upon your face!
The glass of your window is sparkling; / a washerwoman is singing and is boasting / while wringing out, hanging out and singing, / the glass of your window is sparkling.
But there’s no other sun, / more beautiful. / My sun / upon your face!
When night comes and the sun has set, / I feel almost melancholy; / I’d stay below your window, / when night comes and the sun has set.

But there’s no other sun, / more beautiful. / The sun, my sun / upon your face! / upon your face!


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  1. Laurentiius:

    That’s great! I love the way in which the text is exposed; especially for us folk who are unfamiliar with la lingua napoletana. Grazie!

  2. Richard Palumbo:

    Ciao Serena,
    Thank you for the interesting article on “O sole mio.” I realize an important reason for presenting this song is to show the difference between a dialect and standard Italian. But I wanted to share some information with you and your readers about “O sole mio.” In 1898, after returning to Naples with the song, Di Capua showed it to Alfredo Mazzucchi, a young pianist, who transcribed the music, scoring it for the piano, and it is now believed, making significant contributions to the melody. In 2002, after almost 30 years of litigation, an Italian court ruled that Mazzucchi had the right to be known as the co-author of “O sole mio”, and granted his heirs the copyright until 2042.

  3. Serena:

    Salve Richard

    Thank you for your information about ‘O Sole Mio. I wasn’t aware of it and it’s always very interesting to learn a bit more.

    A presto.

  4. Christina:

    Thank you for the lovely translation. I will never listen to the song in the same way again.

  5. Charles Sparacino:

    I really enjoyed the article and translation on ‘O Sole Mio I would love to see more of this type.
    Thanks, and keep them coming.

  6. Aurora:

    Hi, Serena,
    thank you Beautiful Serena! you did great job for the translation with important background information about this beautiful song.


    • Serena:

      @Aurora Salve Aurora, grazie per i complimenti.
      Saluti da Serena

  7. Joe Moran:

    Thanks for the background I am learning Italian and find music translations a wonderful method. Grazie.

  8. Jack:

    I learned this song in grade school in Michigan in the 1940’s, but the lyrics were different, and I can’t find them anywhere: The sunset radiance, dreamy wavelets laving, the ancient waterways with gold are paving. From Malamochho vesper bells are ringing, with silver sound a song of twilight singing. And as the twilight fades into night, and in the heavens the stars are bright, a song, there comes a song, ah, from dark gondolas there comes a song. Etc. Anyone know this or where I can find all the words?

    • Serena:

      @Jack Salve Jack!
      I don’t know this version of ‘O Sole Mio. I hope one of the readers will recognise it.
      Buona fortuna!

      • Jack:

        @Serena I’m still looking. I read that the song was written in or inspired by a visit to Odessa. That’s closer to Venice than is Naples. Still wondering if it’s older than people know. Or, was the version we sang in school written especially for children, leaving out the romance and focusing on the beauty of nature?

        • Serena:

          @Jack Salve Jack!
          Tutti i siti italiani danno questa storia per quanto riguarda la nascita di questa famosissima canzone:

          Spero che ti sia utile
          Saluti da Serena

        • Jack:

          @Jack Thank you Serena. As it turns out, I remembered the song almost exactly from my 4th grade class at Washington School in Flint, MI, about 1947.

      • Aye:

        @Serena Jack,
        Here are the complete words to that poem. Page17 of the attached PDF. I do not know the original source, but if you can get your hands on “The Music Hour, Fifth Book”, you should be able to get the source.

  9. JVR:

    Italian and Napoletano have different sources. Napoletano is so named for the old Kingdom of Naples and was a language that descended from Oscan which was sister of Latin. Italian is from Latin. What is now Abruzzo, Bari, Campania, Marchese, Calabria and Sicilia were all in the Kingdom of Naples sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. At the time of the height of the Roman Empire, Latin was official, but in the south, the people still spoke Oscan as they have and still do in the form of Napoletano. Siciliano is variation and both Napoletano and Siciliano can be called sisters from their mother Oscan.

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