Italian Language Blog

Mulattiera di Mare Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Culture, Italian Language

Occasionally it’s fun to find examples of one of the many dialects which make Italy so linguistically rich, and to show the difference between dialect and ‘official’ Italian.

Today I’ve chosen Fabrizio de Andrè’s beautiful song Creuza de mä, written in the Genoese dialect (from Genova). Fabrizio de Andrè (Genova 1940-1999) was a very important Italian cantautore (singer-songwriter). Many of his songs are now considered poems in their own right, and, in fact, have even been included in school anthologies. In the past I’ve published posts about two of his songs, which you can read by clicking on the following links: Bocca di Rosa, and Giovanna d’Arco

In 1984 de Andrè decided to turn to his native language, the Genoese dialect, which is part of the Ligurian group of languages, and he wrote the song Creuza de mä (‘Mulattiera di mare’, Mule Track by the Sea), which is included on the album of the same name. Creuza de mä  (click here for album details) is considered one of the best Italian albums of the Eighties. The word creuza has been translated into Italian as mulattiera (mule track), but it actually describes a steep, narrow, country lane enclosed by stone walls, typical of the Ligurian landscape. Here in our village, officially in Tuscany, but in reality just thirty five km from the Ligurian town of La Spezia, there is a steep old stone path which links the upper and lower parts of the village. The locals call this path la cresa (Creuza).

The Genoese dialect is influenced both by the languages of its surrounding regions (particularly Tuscan and French), and, due to the fact that it has always been a very important trading port, by other Mediterranean languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Corsican, etc. In fact it’s said that Genoese sounds somewhat like to Portuguese.

Here are the lyrics to the first part of the song Creuza de mä, which is a collection of images from a sailors’ life. You can listen to the song and follow the lyrics by clicking on the following link: Creuza de mä

De André


Umbre de muri muri de mainé
dunde ne vegnì duve l’è ch’ané
da ‘n scitu duve a l’ûn-a a se mustra nûa
e a neutte a n’à puntou u cutellu ä gua
e a muntä l’àse gh’é restou Diu
u Diàu l’é in çë e u s’è gh’è faetu u nìu
ne sciurtìmmu da u mä pe sciugà e osse da u Dria
e a funtan-a di cumbi ‘nta cä de pria
E ‘nt’a cä de pria chi ghe saià
int’à cä du Dria che u nu l’è mainà
gente de Lûgan facce da mandillä
qui che du luassu preferiscian l’ä
figge de famiggia udù de bun
che ti peu ammiàle senza u gundun

Here is the Italian translation of the song:


Ombre di facce facce di marinai
da dove venite dov’è che andate
da un posto dove la luna si mostra nuda
e la notte ci ha puntato il coltello alla gola
e a montare l’asino c’è rimasto Dio
il Diavolo è in cielo e ci si è fatto il nido
usciamo dal mare per asciugare le ossa dell’Andrea
alla fontana dei colombi nella casa di pietra
E nella casa di pietra chi ci sarà
nella casa dell’Andrea che non è marinaio
gente di Lugano facce da tagliaborse
quelli che della spigola preferiscono l’ala
ragazze di famiglia, odore di buono
che puoi guardarle senza preservativo



Shadows of faces, faces of sailors
where are you coming from, where are you going
from a place where the moon shows herself naked
and the night has held a knife to our throat
and only God is left to ride the donkey
the Devil is in the sky where he’s made a nest
we come out from the sea to dry out Andrea’s bones
at the fountain of the doves in the house of stone 
and who will be there in the house of stone 
the house of Andrea’s who isn’t a sailor
people from Lugano, faces of pickpockets
those who of the sea bass prefer the wing  
girls from good families, smelling so good 
whom you can watch without a condom

Tags: , ,
Keep learning Italian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

Leave a comment: