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The best living nativity scenes in Italy to see during the holidays

The first nativity scene, according to legend, was built in 1223 at the request of Saint Francis of Assisi. In Italy, 800 years later, the custom is still carried on by communities and cities distributed around the country.

From Greccio to Genga, here is a guide to the most famous, traditional, and evocative Christmas destinations in Italy!

Lazio – Greccio (Rieti)

The first nativity scene was performed at Greccio in 1223 at the request of Saint Francis of Assisi. The community is also twinned with Bethlehem: it appears that the saint has always felt emotionally connected to the Lazio village, to the point of reminding him of the Palestinian metropolis.
The magic continues to shine, with dates to remember: December 8/24/26/28/30 and January 1/5/6/7.

Basilicata – Matera

Matera’s Stones designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, are ideal for recreating the usual hallowed and beautiful ambiance of Bethlehem. The living scene has been set up along a 4-kilometer walk from the old center to the caveoso stone for the thirteenth iteration this year. On the nights of December 8/9/10/16/17/29/30 and January 5/6, the Stones of Matera put on an incredible performance.

Sicily – Custonaci (Trapani)

Custonaci’s manger scene is one of the most anticipated and felt in Southern Italy. The Mangiapane cave was chosen as the setting for 160 actors (shepherds, kings, farmers, etc.).

An experience revealed between December 25–28 and January 5–7, and listed in Sicily’s Register of Intangible Heritage in 2006.

Rimini (Montefiore Conca) – Emilia-Romagna

This unique combination includes one of Italy’s most picturesque villages as well as one of the most emotive living nativity scenes in central Italy. On the 26th, 30th, and 1st of January, the historic heart of the small hamlet is converted into Bethlehem.

Puglia – Alberobello (Bari)

Alberobello’s living scene has been running for 53 years, with volunteers proposing spiritual scenes set at the end of the 800s. It is installed in the lovely Rione Aia.

A fantastic opportunity to see the typical trulli of Alberobello transformed into shepherds’, craftsmen’, and farmers’ huts!
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the nights of December 26/27/28/29.

Campania – Morcone (Benevento)

In Morcone, each resident plays a specific role in staging the Nativity as if we were in a theater. Starting in the historic center, we can learn about the inhabitants of Bethlehem, as well as Mary and Joseph. Instead, we can communicate with housewives, laundresses, artists, and musicians by traversing the alleys and squares. Following this path, we arrive outside Porta San Marco, where we can witness the scenes of the Nativity. Beginning with the Annunciation to Mary and ending with the apotheosis with the birth of the Saviour and the arrival of the shepherds, all illuminated by hundreds of torches.

Finally, on the nights of January 3 and 4, 2024, the comet will guide the Magi to the cave.

Puglia – Tricase (Lecce)

Tricase is particularly fond of the Nativity and its depiction. The more than 35 thousand light bulbs illuminating the road and the more than 200 people dressed as Bethlehem residents add to the spectacle. Furthermore, the oldest works, such as those of the tanner, rope builder, oil mill directors, and, of course, traditional housewives, are staged here.

An unmissable experience on the nights of December 25/26/28/30 and January 1/3/5/6.

Tenno Canal (Trento) – Trentino Alto Adige

The intriguing nativity scene in Canale di Tenno will be on display from December 16 to 18.

Lombardy – San Biagio (Mantua)

San Biagio is a community of roughly 2000 people where the tradition of the living scene is solid. A real family symbolizes Bethlehem here, and there are around 300 volunteers on certain evenings. Everything takes place on a 5000-square-meter sports field close to the parish church, in complete calm, in a wonderful setting, at twilight.

The development of Bethlehem begins each September, due to the excellent effort of a group of volunteers; each year, new streets, towers, and cottages are built, and the sports field changes look.
On the nights of December 25 and 26, as well as January 1/6/7/14, a beautiful mood pervades.

Marche – Genga (Ancona)

Even in Genga, in the province of Ancona, the Christmas celebration is followed by the construction of a living crib, which some claim is the largest in all of Italy.

Take advantage of the natural marvel of the Frasassi Caves, which attracts a great number of tourists throughout the year. The event comprises over 300 people, many of whom are disguised as farmers, fishermen, and shepherds who accompany visitors to the caves.

Don Giuseppe Fedeli’s idea was born in 1982, and it now spans over 30,000 square meters.

Happy Holidays!

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