What are the lyrics to ‘O sole mio’, and who wrote it?

6 November 2018, 15:16

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Also known as the Cornetto song, ‘O sole mio’ is one of the most beloved Neapolitan songs of the last 100 years. But who wrote it, and what are the lyrics?

‘O sole mio’, which translates as ‘My Sunshine’, is a song whose melody you’ll probably know better than its lyrics.

Written by Giovanni Capurro, its Neapolitan lyrics rhapsodise about the beauty of a sunny day, creating an enviable picture of southern Italy in the sunshine.

But the melody is known and understood worldwide, having been used in English cover versions by Elvis Presley, Tony Martin and perhaps most famously, in an advert for Cornetto ice cream.

elvis presley - its now or never (1960)

Who composed ‘O sole mio’?

The melody of ‘O sole mio’ has long been credited to Eduardo di Capua, who supposedly composed it in April 1898. But after 75 years, it turned out that the melody in fact was an elaboration of a song which di Capua had bought from another musician, Alfredo Mazzucchi, the previous year.

In November 1972, shortly after her father’s death, Mazzucchi’s daughter asked to have her father officially recognised as a co-composer of 18 of di Capua’s songs, including ‘O sole mio’.

This choir singing ‘O sole mio’ in the ruins of Pompeii is so beautiful >

In October 2002, a judge in Turin ruled that Mazzucchi was a legitimate co-composer of the 18 songs, because they included melodies he had composed and sold to di Capua.

Luciano Pavarotti: 'O Sole Mio'

Who sings ‘O sole mio’?

Luciano Pavarotti won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for his rendition of ‘O sole mio’ in 1980. It was also famously performed by Enrico Caruso.

But the song found fame among a wider audience in the UK and US when Elvis Presley used the melody to create his worldwide hit, ‘It’s Now or Never’ (1960).

Two decades later, a series of TV commercials were broadcast for Cornetto ice cream in the 1980s, which set the words ‘Just One Cornetto…’ to the tune of ‘O sole mio’.

In 2012, it was named the catchiest jingle of all time, with 45 per cent of British adults claiming it pops into their heads against their will.

Walls Cornetto Ad

What are the lyrics to ‘O sole mio’?

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


Ma n’atu sole cchiù bello, oi ne’,
’o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
’o sole, ’o sole mio
sta nfronte a te, sta nfronte a te!

Lùceno ’e llastre d’’a fenesta toia;
’na lavannara canta e se ne vanta
e pe’ tramente torce, spanne e canta,
lùceno ’e llastre d’’a fenesta toia.

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

English translation:

What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!
The air is serene after a storm,
The air is so fresh that it already feels like a celebration.
What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!


But another sun, even more beauteous, oh my sweetheart,
My own sun, shines from your face!
This sun, my own sun,
Shines from your face; It shines from your face!

Your window panes shine;
A laundress is singing and boasting about it;
And while she’s wringing the clothes, hanging them up to dry, and singing,
Your window panes shine.

When night comes and the sun has gone down,
I almost start feeling melancholy;
I’d stay below your window
When night comes and the sun has gone down.