‘Funiculì, Funiculà’: what are the original and English lyrics to the Neapolitan song?

5 March 2020, 18:52 | Updated: 5 March 2020, 22:05

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

“Jamme, jamme jà, Funiculì, funiculà!” – so goes the popular Neapolitan song. But what do the lyrics mean?

‘Funiculì, Funiculà’ was composed by Luigi Denza in 1880, to lyrics in Neapolitan dialect by Peppino Turco.

The merry Neapolitan tune sings of a young man, who compares his sweetheart to a volcano and invites her to join him on a romantic walk up to the summit.

It was written to mark the opening of the first funicular railway on Mount Vesuvius – and within the year, the song had done the 19th-century equivalent of shooting to the top of the charts. By 1881, the sheet music had sold a million copies.

Since its premiere, the Neapolitan song has been performed by swathes of classical singers including Luciano Pavarotti (listen above), Andrea Bocelli (watch below) and Mario Lanza.

Where is ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’ used in classical music?

Over the last 130 years, ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’ has been incorporated into a few famous classical works… not entirely legally.

German composer Richard Strauss heard it while on a tour of Italy six years after it was composed. Assuming it was a traditional Neapolitan folk song, he used it in ‘Neapolitan Folk Life’, the fourth movement of his 1886 tone poem, Aus Italien.

Denza filed a lawsuit against him and won, and Strauss had to pay a royalty fee.

Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov made the same assumption and used it in his 1907 Neapolitanskaya pesenka (Neopolitan Song). Ah, the days before search engines...

What are the lyrics to ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’?

Aissèra, Nanninè, me ne sagliette
Tu saie addò? Tu saie addò?
Addò 'stu core 'ngrato cchiù dispietto
Farme nun pò! Farme nun pò
Addò lo fuoco coce, ma si fuie
Te lassa sta! Te lassa sta
E nun te corre appriesso, nun te struie
Sulo a guardà, sulo a guardà
Jamme, jamme 'ncoppa, jamme jà
Funiculì, funiculà!

Nè jamme da la terra a la montagna
No passo nc'è! No passo nc'è
Se vede Francia, Proceta e la Spagna
E io veco a tte! E io veco a tte
Tirato co li ffune, ditto 'nfatto
'Ncielo se va, 'ncielo se va
Se va comm' 'à lu viento a l'intrasatto
Guè, saglie sà! Guè, saglie sà
Jamme, jamme 'ncoppa, jamme jà
Funiculì, funiculà!

Se n'è sagliuta, oje n'è, se n'è…

Luciano Pavarotti was known for singing ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’
Luciano Pavarotti was known for singing ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’. Picture: Getty

And what’s the English translation of ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’?

Yesterday evening, Anna, I went up,
Do you know where?
Where this ungrateful heart cannot spite me any more!
Where the fire burns, but if you flee
It lets you be!
And it doesn't chase you, it doesn't burn you, to see the sky!
Let's go up to the top, let's go,
Funicular up, funicular down!

Let's go from the earth to the mountaintop!
Without walking!
We can see France, Procida and Spain...
and I can see you!
Pulled by a rope, no sooner said than done,
We'll go to heaven...
It goes like the wind suddenly,
Up, up, up!
Let's go up to the top, let's go,
Funicular up, funicular down!

We've climbed it, my love, we've already climbed
To the top!
It's gone up, then returned, then it's back...
It's always here!
The summit revolves, around, around,
around you!
This heart always sings, my love,
Let's get married one day!
Let's go up to the top, let's go,
Funicular up, funicular down!