What’s the meaning of Bella Ciao | Italian song explained

Bella Ciao is probably the most famous Italian folk song. It has been sung anywhere in the world for years, and the TV series Money Heist made it even more popular. But what does it talk about? What’s the story behind its lyrics? This is a perfect chance to learn some more Italian with the meaning of Bella Ciao.
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When was this song composed?

There are conflicting stories about the origin of Bella Ciao. Some believe the tune came from Dalmatia, others say it was composed by this or that partisan group during the Italian Resistenza.

The most accredited theory claims that Bella Ciao was originally sung by the mondine (women who worked on the paddy fields of rice in Northern Italy).

According to this theory, the song’s original version described the atrocious working conditions faced by the mondine and carried the hope for a better future.

Later on, the song was changed to tell the story of the anti-fascist resistance in WWII, and the lyrics became those we know today.

Whatever’s the truth, Bella Ciao has always been a song about freedom from oppressors of any kind. Let’s go deeper into its meaning!

Bella Ciao meaning of the title

What does “Bella Ciao” mean?

You already know that Bella Ciao can be translated with “Bye-bye Beautiful” if you have been reading our blog. This is because ciao can be used both when meeting and parting with someone.

But then, what’s happening in the song? Is it about two lovers meeting, or rather about a tragic departure?

Why is it so important for Italy’s history and the freedom movements around the world? To understand that, you have to look at the song’s lyrics.

Does “ciao bella” mean the same as “Bella ciao“? Yes, you can change the order of the words and they will always mean “Hello/Goodbye Beautiful”. However, both expressions are now a little rusty and are rarely used in common conversations. Bella Ciao is used only to refer to the song. On the other hand,  ciao bella is now an obsolete expression and is used mostly ironically or with people you’re very familiar with.

The meaning of Bella Ciaos lyrics

Bella ciao lyrics explained

If you’ve ever wondered “what’s the meaning of the Money Heist song?”, here’s a translation of Bella Ciao‘s lyrics.

Now, why don’t we play a little game while you read it? The following lyrics are easy to understand for Italian speakers of every level.

Take the chance to practice and try translating them by yourself before looking at the English version.

If you don’t know some of the words you’ll find, or can’t understand some expression, let us know in the comments and we’ll be happy to explain everything in another post!

Here it goes.

Bella Ciao Italian Lyrics

Italian lyrics 

Una mattina mi son svegliato,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
Una mattina mi son svegliato
e ho trovato l’invasor.

O partigiano portami via,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
o partigiano portami via
che mi sento di morir.

E se io muoio da partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e se io muoio da partigiano
tu mi devi seppellir.

Seppellire lassù in montagna,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
seppellire lassù in montagna
sotto l’ombra di un bel fior.

E le genti che passeranno,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e le genti che passeranno
mi diranno «che bel fior.»

Questo è il fiore del partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
questo è il fiore del partigiano
morto per la libertà

Bella ciao lyrics in Italian

The meaning of the lyrics

If you were able to understand the lyrics, now you know the sad meaning of Bella Ciao: this song is about a partisan who’s saying farewell to his bella.

He’s about to leave to fight the invaders and sees death approaching. So, he asks to be buried in the mountains under the shadow of a flower which shall be remembered as “the flower of the partisan who died for freedom”.

These very poetic lyrics speak of someone who put the well-being and freedom of his community ahead of everything, even his own love, and life.

The melancholic melody adds a feeling of impending doom, but also hope for a better future.

This is why Bella Ciao has made such an impression on the hearts of revolutionaries around the world.

If the lyrics were too difficult to understand, here’s an English translation.

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Bella Ciao English Lyrics

English lyrics

One morning I woke up,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao! (Goodbye beautiful)
One morning I woke up
And I found the invader.

Oh, partisan carry me away,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching.

And if I die as a partisan,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
and if I die as a partisan
then you must bury me.

Bury me up in the mountain,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
bury me up in the mountain
under the shade of a beautiful flower.

And all those who shall pass,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
and all those who shall pass
will tell me “what a beautiful flower.”

This is the flower of the partisan,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
this is the flower of the partisan
who died for freedom

Now you know what bella ciao means

And now you know the meaning of Bella Ciao

Did you understand all the lyrics without looking at the English translation, or did you find it difficult?

Either way, now you have learned the meaning of Bella Ciao and, hopefully, you have a deeper perspective on Italy’s culture.

I think it’s enough for today. See you soon to learn new Italian words together!

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!

FAQs on What’s the meaning of Bella Ciao | Italian song explained

What's the meaning of Bella Ciao?

"Bella Ciao" is the title of a popular Italian song and can be translated as "bye-bye beautiful".

What's the difference between Bella Ciao and Ciao Bella?

Both "Bella Ciao" and "Ciao Bella" can be translated as "hello/goodbye beautiful". However, "Bella Ciao" only refers to the song. Today, both expressions are a bit rusty and rarely used in conversations.

Why is Bella Ciao famous?

"Bella Ciao" lyrics are about a partisan who says farewell to his lady as he knows that death is approaching. The song was a popular anti-fascist anthem during World War II, and it soon became popular among revolutionaries all over the world.

Michele

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