An ode to a donkey

Sicilian donkeys on a mountain road


I am in love with the humble Sicilian donkey which once was something of a status symbol in the agricultural-based Sicilian culture of the last century. These animals are no longer seen much around the island as they are mainly kept by hobby farmers and those with a passion for animals.

I was absolutely thrilled to hear a wonderful folk song in praise of the donkey which has quickly become my five-year-old son’s favourite ditty to sing. It is an old Sicilian song from the period when donkeys were readily found around the island, a poor farmer has lost his beloved ‘siccareddu’ who has been killed. The words are quite heartfelt … ‘what a great voice he [the donkey] had, he seemed a great tenor, my beloved donkey, and when he sang he went [braying sound], how can I ever forget you.’

Poignant stuff.

Man riding on a donkey province of Messina

It is a hilarious song, my son bray’s his heart out in the chorus, it’s truly wonderful.

A heartfelt ode to a Donkey in Sicilian, Italian and English.

U sciccareddu / L’asinello / Donkey  

Avia nu sciccareddu / Avevo un’ asinello / I had a little donkey

davveru sapuritu / davvero saporito / really special

ora mi l’ammazzaru / adesso me l’hanno ammazzato / and now it’s been killed

poviru sceccu miu / povero asino mio / my poor little donkey.


Chi bedda vuci avia / Che bella voce aveva / What a beautiful voice he had

paria nu gran tinuri / pareva un gran tenore / he seemed like a great tenor

sciccareddu di lu me cori / asinello del mio cuore / donkey of my heart

comu ju t’hai a scurdari / come ti potrò mai scordare / how can I ever forget you

e quannu cantava facia: / e quando cantava faceva: / and when he sung he went:

iha, iha, iha… / iha, iha, iha… / hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw

sciccareddu di lu me cori / asinello del mio cuore / donkey of my heart

comu ju t’hai a scurdari / come ti potrò mai scordare / how can I ever forget you?

Quannu ‘ncuntrava ‘ncumpagnu / Quando incontrava un compagno / When he met another friend

subitu lu ciarava / subito lo odorava / he would get along with him

e dopu lu raspava / e dopo lo grattava / and he would caress him

ccu granni carità / con grande carità / with great tenderness


Here are two versions I found on You Tube, the first is a traditional interpretation complete with extensive and impressive donkey braying the second is a more serious Operatic interpretation by American tenor Charles Castronovo which shows how versatile Sicilian music can be.





14 thoughts on “An ode to a donkey

  1. Love this…I always worry about the donkeys with big fat tourists on their backs! They seem sweet and have lots of personality!

    Great post – thanks!


    1. Thanks Helena, I think you are right to worry about the heavy tourists donkeys have to cart around but they are tough little guys, very strong, stubborn and forthright. I have meaning to pay a tribute to them for a while, happy you enjoyed it and great to hear your comment.

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