Bella ciao is an Italian partisan song which originated during the Italian civil war. It is used worldwide as a hymn of freedom and resistance.
The music and spirit of the song is based on a folk song sung by rice weeders on the River Po basin in the early part of the 20th century – “Alla mattina appena alzata“. A version of this song was recorded for music researchers by Italian folk singer Giovanna Daffini in 1962. Other similar versions of the antecedents of Bella ciao appeared over the years, indicating that “Alla mattina appena alzata” must have been composed in the latter half of the 19th century.
Bella ciao was already sung by the rice weeders from the “Waterland” near Vercelli (Piedmont) since 1906, when they got recognized their right to a 8 hours workday. The earliest written version is from that same year.
The lyrics clearly show the eternal aspiration to justice and freedom. The refrain “bella ciao, bella ciao“, repeated in every verse, could mean “Farewell youth, farewell beauty vanishing away in hard toil, in these rice moors”.
Bella ciao was sung by the anti-fascist resistance movement active in Italy between 1943 and 1945. The author of the lyrics is unknown.