Bella Ciao

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"Bella Ciao" was originally sung as "Alla mattina appena alzata" by seasonal worker of paddy fields of rice, especially in Italy's Po Valley from the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th century with different lyrics. The work of monda (weeding) was widespread in northern Italy in that era. The work consisted of removing the weeds growing in rice fields that hindered the healthy growth of young rice plants. It took place during the flooding of the fields, from the end of April to the beginning of June every year, during which the delicate shoots needed to be protected, during the first stages of their development, from temperature differences between the day and the night. It consisted of two phases: transplanting the plants and pruning the weeds. The work of monda was an extremely tiring task, carried out mostly by women known as mondinas (rice-weeders) that came of the poorest social classes. The workers would spend their workdays with their bare feet in water up to their knees and their back bent for many hours. The atrocious working conditions, long hours and very low pay led to constant dissatisfaction and led, at times to rebellious movements and riots in the early years of the twentieth century. The struggles against the supervising padroni was even harder with the abundance of clandestine workers ready to compromise even further the already low wages just to get work. Besides "Bella ciao", similar songs by the mondina women included "Sciur padrun da li beli braghi bianchi" and "Se otto ore vi sembran poche".

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