Maremma Amara

We’ve just received a great video from Donatella Saccocci and the students of Istituto Comprensivo Grosseto 1 in Italy. Here’s what they say…

We are really interested in taking part in your special celebration of OSPREY MIGRATION! We really liked the idea of your project A Musical Migration! For this reason we are sending a traditional song from our country.

We live in Tuscany, Italy. In the past this region was covered in marshlands, and was therefore infested with malaria-carrying mosquitos. The quality of life here was very poor. Attempts to drain the land had been made since Roman times, but malaria remained a big problem for centuries. It was only at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, when Tuscany became Granducato di Toscana under the rule of the Austrian Asburgo Lorena , that the land was successfully drained on a large scale. Unfortunately, in 1824 Granduca Ferdinando III died from malaria contracted while inspecting the drainage works in Maremma.

Maremma Amara (Bitter Maremma) is the title of this anonymous folk song. The origins of the song are unknown, but it’s widely believed that it was written at the beginning of the 19th century, during the drainage works. During this period farmers all over Tuscany were given incentives to go and work the land in Maremma, but many couldn’t get back home, having lost their lives to malaria . For this reason, one of the most common forms of cursing in Tuscany is the expression Maremma maiala (literally: Maremma pig).

This song was rediscovered in the Sixties . Maremma amara must be sung very slowly, almost dragged out, in order to depict the pain of those who lost their beloved in the infected land of Maremma. Here are its sad lyrics, followed by the translation:

Maremma amara
Tutti mi dicon Maremma, Maremma,
ma a me mi pare una Maremma amara.
L’uccello che ci va perde la penna,
io c’ho perduto una persona cara.
Sia maledetta Maremma Maremma,
sia maledetta Maremma e chi l’ama.
Sempre mi trema il cor quando ci vai
perché ho paura che non torni mai.
Sia maledetta Maremma Maremma,
sia maledetta Maremma e chi l’ama.

Bitter Maremma (translation)
Everybody tells me Maremma, Maremma,
but to me it seems a bitter Maremma.
The bird that goes there looses its feather,
I’ve lost a dear person there.
Cursed be Maremma Maremma
Cursed be Maremma and those who love it.
Every time you go there my heart trembles
because I worry that you will never come back.
Cursed be Maremma Maremma
Cursed be Maremma and those who love it.