Funiculì, Funiculà

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"Funiculì, Funiculà"
GenreCanzone Napoletana
Composer(s)Luigi Denza
Lyricist(s)Peppino Turco

"Funiculì, Funiculà" (IPA: [funikuˈli (f)funikuˈla]) is a Neapolitan song composed in 1880 by Luigi Denza to lyrics by Peppino Turco. It was written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular railway on Mount Vesuvius. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival the same year. The sheet music was published by Ricordi and sold over a million copies within a year. Since its publication, it has been widely adapted and recorded.


Mount Vesuvius funicular in the 19th century

"Funiculì, Funiculà" was composed in 1880 by Luigi Denza in his hometown of Castellammare di Stabia with lyrics contributed by journalist Peppino Turco.[1] It was Turco who prompted Denza to compose it, perhaps as a joke,[1] to commemorate the opening of the first funicular on Mount Vesuvius in that year.[2][a] The song was sung for the first time in the Quisisana Hotel[b] in Castellammare di Stabia. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival during the same year and became immensely popular in Italy and abroad.[5] Published by Casa Ricordi, the sheet music sold over a million copies in a year.[1]

Over the years the song has been performed by many artists including Joseph Schmidt, Erna Sack, Anna German, Mario Lanza, Beniamino Gigli, The Mills Brothers, Connie Francis, Haruomi Hosono (with lyrics translated into Japanese), Fischer-Chöre (with lyrics translated into German), the Grateful Dead,[6] Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Rodney Dangerfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Wiggles, Larry Groce, VeggieTales, and Il Volo. In 1960, Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman wrote a new set of English lyrics to the melody of "Funiculì, Funiculà" with the title "Dream Boy".[7][8][9] Annette Funicello included the song on her album of Italian songs titled Italiannette and also released it as a single that became a minor hit.[10]

Adaptations and unintentional plagiarism[edit]

Music publishers Spear & Dehnhoff of New York City published sheet music for a song titled "Tra-la-la-lee" in 1884, subtitled "A popular dancing song, adapted and arranged by W. T. Harris." It contains English lyrics set to Denza's "Funiculì, Funiculà" melody, and contains no attribution to Denza.[11]

German composer Richard Strauss heard the song while on a tour of Italy six years after it was written. He thought that it was a traditional Neapolitan folk song and incorporated it into his Aus Italien tone poem. Denza filed a lawsuit against him and won, and Strauss was forced to pay him a royalty fee.[12] Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov also mistook "Funiculì, Funiculà" for a traditional folk song and used it in his 1907 "Neapolitanskaya pesenka" (Neapolitan Song).[13]

Cornettist Herman Bellstedt used it as the basis for a theme and variations titled Napoli; a transcription for euphonium is also popular among many performers.[dubious ] Modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg arranged a version for the ensemble in 1921.[14]


Original Neapolitan lyrics[edit]

In Turco's original lyrics, a young man compares his sweetheart to a volcano, and invites her to join him in a romantic trip to the summit.

Traditional English lyrics[edit]

Edward Oxenford, a lyricist and translator of librettos,[16] wrote lyrics, with scant relationship to those of the original version, that became traditional in English-speaking countries.[6] His version of the song often appears with the title "A Merry Life".

"A Merry Life" sheet music

Some think the world is made for fun and frolic,
And so do I! And so do I!
Some think it well to be all melancholic,
To pine and sigh; to pine and sigh;
But I, I love to spend my time in singing,
Some joyous song, some joyous song,
To set the air with music bravely ringing
Is far from wrong! Is far from wrong!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Echoes sound afar, funiculì, funiculà!

Some sing the world is set for freedom dancing,
But not so I! And not so I!
Some sing our eyes could keep from finally glancing,
Upon the sly! But not so I!
But all we're so amazing and so charming!
Divinely sweet! Divinely sweet!
And shortly, there's no time for pace and harming,
In nimble feet! In nimble feet!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Echoes sound afar, funiculì, funiculà!

Ah me! 'tis strange that some should take to sighing,
And like it well! And like it well!
For me, I have not thought it's worth the trying,
So cannot tell! So cannot tell!
With laugh, with dance and song the day soon passes
Full soon is gone, full soon is gone,
For mirth was made for joyous lads and lassies
To call their own! To call their own!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Echoes sound afar, funiculì, funiculà!

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1933, Arthur Fields and Fred Hall published a parody of "Funiculì, funiculà" titled "My High Silk Hat".[17] This parody has been republished several times, including in the 1957 Gilwell Camp Fire Book.[18]
  • In the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of the 1947 Disney film Fun and Fancy Free, Goofy and Donald Duck sing a song to the tune of "Funiculì, Funiculà" called "Eat Until I Die", detailing all of the food they, as starving peasants, want to eat.
  • In 1966, comedian Christine Nelson wrote and recorded a parody of the song with lyrics inspired by the English version, titled "Marvin." Nelson portrays the aggrieved mother of a constantly misbehaving son. It was produced by Lou Busch and released on Nelson's Reprise Records album, Did'ja Come To Play Cards Or To Talk?[1]
  • In the 1996 live action fantasy movie The Adventures of Pinocchio, there is a Luigi's Welcome song parodied to the tune of "Funiculi, Funicula."
  • Between 1977 and 1989, the song was performed more than 20 times by the Grateful Dead during tunings.[19] A brief recording opens their live album Dick's Picks Volume 3.
  • The VeggieTales episode Lyle the Kindly Viking features the song in its Silly Songs with Larry segment, entitled "Larry's High Silk Hat"; heavily inspired by the 1933 parody, "My High Silk Hat".
  • The song is used in the 2004 video game Spider-Man 2, a tie-in to Sam Raimi's film of the same name. In the movie and in the game, Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker has a job delivering pizzas. In the game, the player must deliver pizzas to various places throughout New York City before a shortened accordion and flute version of "Funiculì, Funiculà" finishes playing. As the game version of the song progresses, the tempo increases and the key shifts progressively higher, indicating that the song is nearing its end. This caused the song to be highly associated with pizza. Today, it is now known as an internet meme.[20]
  • The song title is used in the novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, as the name of the coffee shop in which the story is set. The song is referenced in the second short story. (Book originally published in Japanese - 2015, translated into English and released 2019).
  • An arrangement of the song is playable in the 2022 video game Trombone Champ.
  • The tune can be heard in the track "Funiculi Holiday" during the tutorial stage of the 2023 indie game Pizza Tower. In demos of the game, a direct cover of "Funiculi Funicula" was used, before being replaced by "Funiculi Holiday" for the final release.
  • At the 2023 Mark Twain Prize honoring Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel sang the song "Funiculi, Funicula" She dressed as Sandler's Saturday Night Live character from Opera Man to Opera Woman cape, looking like a Dracula-esque.
  • The game Vampire Survivors features a remix of this song known as "Vempair Survaivors", which plays in the Il Molise bonus stage and also serves as the game's credits theme.


Informational notes

  1. ^ The funicular was later destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 1944.[3]
  2. ^ According to one source, Denza was the son of the proprietor of the Quisisana Hotel.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Meloncelli, Raoul (1990). "Luigi Denza". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). Retrieved 26 January 2015 – via Treccani.
  2. ^ Fuld, James J. (2000). The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (5th ed.). Courier. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-486-41475-1.
  3. ^ Smith, Paul (March 1998). "Thomas Cook & Son's Vesuvius Railway" (PDF). Japan Railway & Transport Review: 10–15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  4. ^ Nuova Antologia di Lettere, Scienze ed Arti (in Italian). Direzione della Nuova Antologia. 1908. p. 576.
  5. ^ Randel, Don Michael (1996). The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-0-674-37299-3.
  6. ^ a b Trager, Oliver (1997). The American Book of the Dead. Simon & Schuster. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-684-81402-5.
  7. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries Series 3. U.S. Govt. Print. Off. June 1960. p. 106. Dick Sherman and Bob Sherman. NM; 'new words to P.D. tune"
  8. ^ "The Cashbox Pick of the Week". Cashbox. Vol. 22, no. 19. 21 January 1961. p. 16.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Joel Whitburn Presents Across the Charts: The 1960s. Record Research. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-89820-175-8.
  10. ^ "Annette Funicello Dream Boy Chart History". Billboard. 27 February 1961. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  11. ^ Harris, W. T. . Spear & Dehnhoff, New York, monographic, 1884. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.
  12. ^ Foreman, Edward (2001). Authentic Singing: The History of Singing. Pro Musica. ISBN 978-1-887-11712-8.
  13. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (2004). Slonimsky Yourke, Electra (ed.). Nicolas Slonimsky: Russian and Soviet music and composers. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-415-96866-9.
  14. ^ "273. Denza: Funiculi, funicula". Schoenberg Archives. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  15. ^ a b Bivona, Mike (2013). Traveling Around the World with Mike and Barbara Bivona. iUniverse. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4917-1041-8.
  16. ^ Eyles, F.A.H. (1889). Popular Poets of the Period. Griffith, Farran, Okeden, and Welsh. p. 148.
  17. ^ Get Together Songs.
  18. ^ Hazlewood, Rex; Thurman, John (1957). The Gilwell Camp Fire Book: Songs and yells from fifty years of Scouting.
  19. ^ " "Grateful Dead Archive Online". Grateful Dead Archive Online. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Spider-Man 2 Pizza Delivery Theme". Retrieved 24 May 2023.

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