La bella lavanderina

Main piece:

“La bella lavanderina che lava i fazzoletti

Per i poveretti della città.

Fai un salto, fanne un altro,

Fai la giravolta, falla un’altra volta.

Guarda in su, guarda in giù

Dai un bacio a chi vuoi tu”

The beautiful washerwoman who washes the handkerchiefs for the needy of the city. Jump, jump another time, do the twirl, do it again. Look up, look down, give a kiss to whoever you want. 

[the transliteration comprehends the translation as well, as there is not a deeper meaning that goes beyond the words themselves]


S.C.: This was a nursery rhyme that I learnt when I was very young and that I sang both at home and at school to..well, first of all to understand that there were people more needy than me that could and should be helped and, also to transform a topic, which for a child can be quite unknown, into something happier and more easily approachable. Children would associate a serious issue to a form of gameplay, to a moment of carefreeness.

V.S.: Where did you learn it?

S.C.: I think my mum thought me it, but then I used to sing it with my friends at school..a bit everywhere…everyone knew it. To be happy and do something together, this rhyme was always performed 


I myself knew this rhyme since really young, and we were in the informants’s house when she mentioned and performed this.  


As my informant pointed out, this is a piece taken from what would be defined as children’s folklore and which has been passed down from generation to generation; as a matter of fact, my grandmother used to do it, and so does my cousin’s son who is now three. Despite the first impression the lyrics or the performance could give, this practice done’t involve a particular gender, but it is, instead, carried out both by male and female kids. This is not particularly unexpected, as the majority of gender-based games and plays usually start to be performed when infants are 6 or 7 years old, while this little kinesthetic song is typically learnt and ‘enacted’ some years before. I use the term kinesthetic as this nursery rhyme is most of the times performed with a dance, which basically consist in following and doing what the lyrics of the song tells. So when it says jump, children jump; when it says do the twirl, children do it, and so on until the end of the song, in which each child chooses who to give the kiss. In this way, another interesting aspect is brought to light, which is the young approach of children to the world of adults. Even if indirect and unconscious, the kiss represents a turning point, a means for approaching the other sex since a really young age. 

However, this isn’t the only grown-up thematic children are put in contact with: as my informant highlighted, indeed, children are also introduced -in a joyous and playful manner- to more serious and relevant topics, like poverty, altruism and philanthropy.