“Tu Scendi dalle Stelle” — A Special Italian Christmas Carol

Close up of the statues in the Trevi fountain at night with water glistening
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Buon Natale a tutti voi!

Visiting Italy during Christmastime has been on my bucket list for many years.  I always travel to Italy during the spring or summer. And yet, from the photos I’ve seen, Italy is just as magical — or maybe even more so — during the Christmas season, when the towns sparkle with lights radiating from the shops and churches that are decked out in their special holiday displays. 

This year, visiting Italy during Christmastime will have to wait. But I would like to share an Italian Christmas carol that makes me feel close to the people in this special country. This Christmas carol is called “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle.” Although not well-known in America, it is said to be the most well-loved Christmas carol in Italy.

The music and lyrics for “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle” were written in 1732, by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who was a Neapolitan priest. Liguori originally gave the song the title, “Little song to Child Jesus,” but the song has since become known by its first line, “From Starry Skies Descending,” or in modern English, “You Came Down from the Stars.”

Liguori most likely took inspiration for this Christmas carol from a Neapolitan song called “Quanno Nascette Ninno” (“When the child was born”) which is also called “Canzone d’i Zampognari” (“The Carol of the Bagpipers”).

I hope you enjoy reading the first two stanzas of the lyrics to this song. The traditional translation uses antiquated English. There are many versions recorded on You Tube. If you like, click on the link for my favorite, from the You Tube channel lorpre87.

“Tu Scendi dalle Stelle” with English Translation


Tu scendi dalle stelle

From starry skies descending,

O Re del Cielo

Thou comest, glorious King,

e vieni in una grotto

A manger low Thy bed,

al freddo e al gelo.

In winter’s icy sting.

O Bambino mio Divino

O my dearest Child most holy,

Io ti vedo qui a tremar,

Shudd’ring, trembling in the cold

O Dio Beato Great God,

Thou lovest me!

Ahi, quanto ti costò

What suff’ring Thou didst bear,

l’avermi amato!

That I near Thee might be!


A te, che sei del mondo

Thou art the world’s Creator,

il Creatore,

God’s own and true Word,

mancano panni e fuoco;

Yet here no robe, no fire

O mio Signore!

For Thee, Divine Lord.

Caro eletto Pargoletto,

Dearest, fairest, sweetest Infant

Quanto questa povertà

Dire this state of poverty

più mi innamora!

The more I care for Thee,

Giacché ti fece amor

Since Thou, O Love Divine

povero ancora!

Will’st now so poor to be.

Buon Natale a tutti voi!

Your Italian Travel Tips – Christmas Guide for Northern Italy from “Rossi Writes”

Italy Christmas 2018

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

For November, I am featuring a blogger who lives in Vicenza Italy, whose name is Rossi, from the blog, Rossi Writes.  She has so kindly created a list of wonderful things to do in Northern Italy during the Christmas season in Italy under the title: “Christmas Guide 2018 for Northern Italy – The Complete List of Christmas Markets, Events and Happenings.”

Visiting Italy during Christmas time has been on my bucket list for years.  I always go during the spring or summer, and yet from the photos I’ve seen, Italy is just as magical – or maybe even more so – during the Christmas season, with towns sparkling with lights and shops and churches decked out in their special holiday displays.  When I read Rossi’s list of holiday concerts and events, I can almost feel the mounting excitement of the Christmas season.

In her own words, Rossi says about herself:

Hello! I am Rossi – a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in.

My blog Rossi Writes was started in November 2014 and currently has over 350 articles on several topics: from what to do and how to settle in Vicenza, in particular, and Italy, in general, to travel diaries and personal thoughts on a variety of themes – expat life, food, travelling with a baby/toddler, dealing with life as it is to name but a few.

I hope some of you get to visit Italy during this Christmas season.  And, if you go to Northern Italy, hopefully you can experience the sights and sounds graciously listed in Rossi’s blog for us all to enjoy.

To read the full blog, click on the title: Christmas Guide 2018 for Northern Italy from Rossi Writes

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! Sperare (Part 2) – What I wish for the holidays…

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases


Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2018?  Well, the end-of-the year festivities and a new year are just around the corner!  I hope this blog will help you celebrate and bring good wishes to your family and friends.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express important feelings – like our  good wishes – just as we do in our native language!  We’ve already learned some important new conversational and  email phrases in Italian in our first blog  about the verb sperare.  Today we will expand on what we have already learned and wish a good holiday season and Happy New Year to all! Read below and you will see what I mean.

This post is the 16th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!”  just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” that allow us to describe our feelings
start with the phrases
“I hope…” or  “I wish…”

 If we are hopeful for someone else,  in Italian we must say
“I  hope that…” or  “I wish that…

which will lead us to the Italian subjunctive mood.
See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.


What I Wish…

For the Italian Winter Holiday Season

When an Italian wants to describe a hope or a wish  he has, either for himself or someone else, he  must use the verb sperare, and this is the verb that will be the topic of our blog today.

Sperare works a bit differently from the “typical” Italian -are verb.  To review what we’ve learned in our last blog about sperare:

  • When using the verb sperare to express a hope or a wish one person or a group has for themselves, sperare must be followed by the preposition “di”.
  • “Di” will often be followed by a verb in the infinitive form (to see, to start, etc.), which will start the phrase that follows to describe the hope or wish.

Sperare + di + infinitive verb

So, “I hope…” or, “I wish…”  would be, ” Io spero di…” But, of course, we leave out the subject pronoun in Italian, so the phrase becomes,  “Spero di…”  “We hope… ” or, “We wish…”  would be, “Speriamo di…”

Or, one can just say, “Speriamo!”  for, “Let’s hope so!” or,  “Let’s wish!” in order to express a hope or wish that is shared  with someone else.

Below are listed important Italian holidays and some common phrases that Italians use to wish each other “happy holidays”.  We will learn how to use the verb sperare for our holiday wishes in the next section.


Vigilia di Natale Christmas Eve
Natale  Christmas
Buon Natale!
Buone Feste!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
Auguri di buon Natale!  Best wishes for a merry Christmas!
Tanti Auguri!
Best wishes!
Le tradizioni Natalizi
Le luci Natalizie Il biglietto di auguri Natalizi
Regalo di Natale
“Spero di ricevere un buon regalo di Natale dal mio fidanzato quest’anno.”
Christmas traditions
Christmas lightsChristmas greeting card
Christmas gift
“I hope/wish to receive a wonderful Christmas gift from my boyfriend this year.”


L’ultimo dell’anno New Year’s Eve
La notte di San Silvestro December 31st is the feast day of San Silvestro for the Catholic church
Capodanno New Year’s Day
Buon anno nuovo!
Buon anno!
Happy New Year!  (used most often)
Felice anno nuovo!  Happy New Year!


Catholic church holiday, which celebrates when “Wise Men” visited the baby Jesus.  In Italy, gifts are exchanged on this day.  Italian traditions: a friendly witch, La Befana, brings gifts to children, although Santa Claus is also celebrated.



Now that we are familiar with Italian end-of-the-year holidays and  greetings, lets go on and see how sperare can help us to express our good wishes. A short review is necessary from our previous blog as a reminder that…

  • When one uses the verb sperare to express a hope or a wish he has for someone else or something else, he must follow the verb with the conjunction “che”, which means “that”. In fact, the word “che” can never be left out of an Italian sentence of this type and must be used to link the two phrases!
  •  “Che” will then be followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood, which will start the phrase that follows to describe this hope or wish.

Sperare + che + subjunctive present tense verb

Just what is the “subjunctive mood”?  The subjunctive mood is the type of verb form that Italians use to express a wide range of emotions, such as hopes and wishes.

In order to express our good wishes for the holidays, we must first review the commonly used present tense form of the subjunctive mood for the verb avere, which means “to have”.

Che is included in parentheses in the first column of our table below as a reminder that these verb forms are typically introduced with  the conjunction che.  Also,  make sure to include the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the singular verb forms are identical. The stressed syllables have been underlined for you.

Practice the subjunctive verbs out loud by saying che , the subject  pronoun and then the correct verb form that follows!

Avereto have – Present Subjunctive Mood

(che) io abbia I have
(che) tu abbia you have
(che) Lei (che) lei/lui abbia you have
she/he has
(che) noi abbiamo we have
(che) voi abbiate you all have
(che) loro abbiano they have


Phrases of Good Wishes Using “Avere” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mood

Example phraes that use avere (to have)  in the subjunctive mood to express good wishes are listed below.  Many of these phrases are a good way to end a conversation before departing a friend’s company.  These phrases are also commonly used to sign off emails to family and friends  in order to express hopes for a good week or weekend.

You will notice that for the phrases in the first column of the list below, the Italian verb passare, which refers to “passing time” or “spending time,” is used.   In English, the verb “to have” is used in these situations, so we must “think in Italian” in order to remember the proper Italian phrase!

Also, notice that the English translation is the same for the present tense and the Italian subjunctive forms used in the sentences below.


Present Tense
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Passa una buona settimana! Have a good week! Spero… che tu abbia una buona settimana. I hope that you have a good week!
Passa un buon fine settimana! Have a good weekend! Spero… che tu abbia un buon fine settimana. I hope that you have a good weekend!
Buona giornata.

Buona serata.

Have a good day.

Have a good evening.

Spero… che tu abbia una buona giornata/buona serata. I hope that you have a good day/evening.


Finally, in the last table of examples, we will provide Italian phrases that can be used to express good wishes for the winter holidays! In later blogs, we will discuss the subjunctive endings for passare and fare.  For now, just remember the endings to use in these often-used phrases of good wishes for the holiday season!

Present Tense
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Buon Natale!  Merry Christmas! Spero che tu passi
un buon Natale.
Spero che voi passiate
un buon Natale. 
I hope that you have a merry Christmas!

I hope that you all have a merry Christmas!

Buone feste!  Happy holidays! Spero che tu faccia  buone feste!

Spero che  voi  facciate  buone feste!

I hope that you have happy holidays!
I hope that your holidays are happy!I hope that you all have happy holidays!
I hope that your (to a group) holidays are happy!
Buon anno! Happy New Year! Spero che tu abbia
un buon anno!
Spero che voi abbiate
un buon anno!
I hope that you have a happy New Year.

I hope that you all have a happy New Year.


Remember these phrases and the Italian subjunctive mood, and I guarantee you will use them to bring good wishes to your family and friends for the holidays and every day!

Buone feste!


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