Italian Language Blog

Ciappa La Rocca E Il Fus Posted by on Aug 23, 2018 in Culture

I mestieri nel borgo (the old village trades) which takes place in the beautiful little village of Ponticello, near Pontremoli, is undoubtedly my favourite festival of the year.

I love it not just because of the merry atmosphere that permeates the whole hamlet, but also because it re-evokes a period of history that’s within living memory. We are there every year with la Pro Loco di Pontremoli giving the public, especially the children, an opportunity to be creative, to work with their hands, and to learn a bit about how things were once done. My speciality is weaving on a traditional hand loom, although this year I decided to branch out and do something that would be a bit more accessible to our younger visitors. See our recent blog Le Bambole Della Nonna.
Whilst working, I’m often approached by elderly people who tell me that they remember watching their grandmothers spinning, or weaving wool at home using the same methods as us.

“Come pizzicava quella lana, quando ci mettevamo le maglie le prime volte!” a guy sitting on the bench next to the loom told me and Vincenza, my weaving companion.
“Restava sempre ruvida?” asked Vincenza.
“No, dopo un po’ di lavaggi si ammorbidiva”, the guy replied, “ma all’inizio era una sofferenza!”

This year, as I was sitting making dolls out of wool next to Clara, who has il compito of spinning the wool, an elderly couple stopped in front of us and the man spontaneously began to sing an old emigrants song: “Ciappa la rocca e il fus che andem in California …”

The song Ciappa la rocca e il fus goes back to the beginning of the nineteen hundreds, when thousand of Italians were emigrating to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s in the dialect of Brianza, the area immediately north of Milano.

Here’s the original version:

Ciappa la rocca e ‘l fus
che andem in California,
andarem in California,
in California a stopà i bus.

Gingin bell bell – oè oè oè
gingin bell bell – gingin bell bell
oè lè lè.

Stoppaa che avremm i bus,
i bus in California,
piantaremm la California,
tornarem con rocca e fus.

Gingin bell bell – oè oè oè
gingin bell bell – gingin bell bell
oè lè lè.

Here’s the Italian translation:

Prendi la rocca e il fuso
che andiamo in California,
andremo in California,
in California a stoppare i buchi.

Gingin bell bell – oè oè oè
gingin bell bell – gingin bell bell
oè lè lè.

Stoppato che avremo i buchi,
i buchi in California,
lasceremo la California,
torneremo con rocca e fuso.

Finally, the English translation:

Get the rock (distaff) and spindle
because we’re going to California,
we’re going to California,
to California to stop holes.

Gingin bell bell – oè oè oè
gingin bell bell – gingin bell bell
oè lè lè.

When we’ve stopped the holes,
the holes in California,
we’ll leave California,
we’ll return with rock (distaff) and spindle.

Here’s a nice modern rock n’ roll version:

Etymological note:
The Italian verb stoppare (to stop a leak) comes from the noun stoppa (oakum or plumber’s hemp), a material composed from fibres of hemp, linen or cotton and impregnated with tar which was used to caulk, or ‘stop’ leaks between planks in wooden ships or in plumbing joints.

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  1. Maria:

    All’incirca del 1870, i miei bisnonni paterni sono emigrati dal Piemonte prima al Brasile e poi all’Argentina. Con gli anni le loro tradizioni e la loro lingua si sono perse. Penso quanto triste è lasciare il paese dove si è nato, la famiglia e gli amici. Mi pare che in quel tempo l’Italia non faceva niente per la sua gente. Come ugualmente adesso i politici argentini, che sono tanto corrotti, non fanno niente per il paese e anch’io ho dovuto emigrare. Sebbene le nuove generazioni non lo capiscano, penso quanto sia importante conservare le tradizioni per non dimenticare come le cose erano prime.

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