I have not counted the number of “presepi viventi” (living cribs in Italy: sacred representations of the Nativity night of our Saviour with living characters rather than models and statuettes). There are so many of them and they are all so different. Of course, some presepi viventi are more elaborate than others while others remain quite modest.
Without personally having visited all of them, this list would certainly contain the best of Italy’s presepi viventi:
Greccio – Rieti
This is the place; of course, where it all began in 1223 with Saint Francis (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/christmas-crib/).
Morcone – Benevento
Probably the best of the Neapolitan traditional ones – it’s a “presepe” within a “presepe” since the place itself is particularly picturesque.
Tricase – Lecce
This is reckoned to be among the best in all Italy and is in Puglia.
Custonaci – Trapani
Definitely the finest living crib in the Sicilian tradition with 160 characters.
Genga – Ancona
In terms of area this is the largest living crib in the world and takes place in the caves of Fracassi.
Equi Terme – Massa Carrara
This was quite simply the best in Tuscany with an unbeatable scenario of caves, torrents and picture-postcard village. Alas, this year it just won’t happen since, because of the earthquake last June, the public authorities have deemed the whole area unsafe for all. This means that we can’t take part in the beloved crib in which we took the roles of characters as diverse as one of the Magi to the Roman governor
Venegono Inferiore – Varese
Since 1972 this has been a major living crib in Lombardy.
Visciano – Napoli
Another super-duper Neapolitan traditional living crib.
Canosa di Puglia – Bari
A beautiful location and another lovely Puglia living crib.
Forino – Avellino
Yet another Neapolitan-style living crib.
San Biagio – Mantova
Seventeen years ago this living crib was started in a small quarter of this beautiful city and is worth seeing if you are in those parts during Christmas…
Vaccheria – Caserta
If you’re into Capodimonte figurines and the eighteenth century then this is the one to go for. It extends for over a mile in Vaccheria which is near the largest royal palace in Italy at Caserta…
Pietrelcina – Benevento
Devotees of Saint Padre Pio will flock to this one which attracts over 18,000 visitors annually. It is sited in the place where the stigmatised saint was born.
As we won’t be able to go to Equi Terme this year we’ll visit the living crib at Barga (which we haven’t been to for a few years as we were occupied in acting our parts at Equi Terme)
Through the efforts of Enrico Cosimini, a great lover of “barghigiane” traditions (including bell-ringing), the City of Barga’s Living Nativity, has continued to truly live even today.
It’s on December 23rd and these pictures of it were taken in December 2006 when we last visited it. Spot the various crafts including the figurinai that sold plaster-of-Paris statuettes in the four corners of the world, the grinders, the washerwomen, the smiths, scribes, millers, quarrymen, miners, the weavers and, of course the Roman soldiers, the Holy family and the animals…
The height of the celebration is the journey of that Holy Family for the census and a night at the Inn at the foot of Barga’s Cathedral.
Here’s something I wrote about that inn some years ago:
BETHLEHEM – YEAR ZERO
I might have shut the door right in their faces,
it wasn’t simply “no room at the inn”,
they just could not afford our three-star prices.
But her dear face was full of grace within
(I really could not turn my eyes away)
and my dear wife did think the humbled groom
quite downcast, so she said “If they would stay
inside the stable (it’s our warmest room –
we fondly care for all our animals)
they’d really favour us”. So that first night
our sweet Lord slept on clean straw by the stalls
and we never saw a midnight so bright.
Our place has long since gone; a gift shop’s there
and theme motels now answer to one’s prayer.
See you at Barga?
PS. If you like reading my blog I would be most grateful if you could please nominate it for the Italy magazine competition at http://www.italymagazine.com/italy-blogger-awards