This post celebrates the arrival of the bellissimo bambino Julian August, the brand-new son of my cherished blog collaborator Valentina and her husband Mike.
In my next life I want to come back as an Italian baby. Infants may be loved the whole world over, but in Italy, which now has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, i bambini are adored.
On a trip to Italy when I was about five months pregnant (incinta di cinque mesi), I went shopping for maternity clothes (abiti pré-maman). “Aspetto una bambina” (I am expecting a baby girl), I’d explain to sales clerks. Immediately their faces lit up with radiant smiles. They hugged me, patted my “bel pancione” (beautiful big belly) and showered me with advice about everything from labor (travaglio) and delivery (parto) to taking care of a neonato (newborn).
The women also asked all sorts of questions: How long would I be on maternity leave (essere in maternità)? What sort of diapers (pannolini) would I use? Would I hire una bambinaia (nursemaid, although “babysitter” has become more common)? Would I take my child (bimba) to daycare (asilo nido)?
Italians, superstitious about life in general, are especially wary of tempting the fates during pregnancy. A baby shower would be unthinkable. Many hesitate even to give a pregnant woman a present before the actual delivery. But when the infant (pupo) arrives, everyone celebrates.
Proud new parents hang a ribbon (fiocco nascita or coccarda annuncio nascita) on the entrance door to let people know that the big day (il lieto evento, or happy event) has come. A blue ribbon (fiocco azzurro) announces the arrival of a boy; a pink ribbon (fiocco rosa), a girl’s birth.
In another tradition, a mother dresses a newborn in a camicina della fortuna (little shirt that brings good luck), a tiny silken red or white shirt that acts as a lucky charm. In Italian someone “nato con la camicia” (born with a shirt on) is as lucky as an English speaker born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Some of the sweetest Italian songs are ninnenanne (lullabies) that mothers use to ninnare or cullare (sing or rock) a baby to sleep. Here are the words of “Stella Stellina,” a classic as well known as the English “Rock-a-bye Baby.”
la notte si avvicina
la fiamma traballa
la mucca é nella stalla
La pecora e l'agnello
la vacca col vitello
la chioccia coi pulcini
la gatta coi gattini
e tutti fan la nanna
nel cuore della mamma
Star, little star,
The flame trembles,
The cow is in the stall
The sheep and the lamb,
The cow and the calf,
The hen with the chicks,
The cat with the kittens
And everyone is sleeping
In their mommy’s heart.
Click below to hear the tune:
Words and Expressions
comportamento bambinesco – childish, puerile behaviour
bambinone – big baby, also used for adults who are totally immature and naïve.
bamboccio – babe in arms, simpleton
bambino prodigio – child/infant prodigy
fare il bambino – to behave like a child
da bambino – when I was a child
andare a nanna – to go bye-bye, go to sleep