An ode to a donkey

Sicilian donkeys on a mountain road


I am in love with the humble Sicilian donkey which once were something of a status symbol in the agricultural based Sicilian culture of 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 sons favorite 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 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. As always, your blogs are a great read and bring Sicily to life, away from the touristy things (which I still love). Loved the song too, you should record your son singing it and let’s hear that!


    1. I’m happy you enjoyed it, I have a few more ideas with a Sicilian music theme I hope to get around to writing. Great idea, I should have recorded my son singing it, with just as much heart as the tenor.


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