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Home The Nativities of Christmas 2018 from the Apennines to the Riviera

The Nativities of Christmas 2018 from the Apennines to the Riviera

Prized artistic interpretations that involve whole towns, nativities in the water or on boats, live representations with hundreds of participants, fragile versions crafted out of sand or salt, small mechanized masterpieces, multiethnic nativities and big, handcrafted works in homes: from the peaks of the Apennines to the beaches of the Riviera, it is Christmas in the towns and historic centers, which dedicate to this sacred holiday many Nativities that spring from the fervid creativity of artists and locals.


mechanized nativities | live nativities | handcrafted around the world | at the sea |


Whole medieval towns offer never before seen versions of this sacred representation from which an atmosphere loaded with charm emanates. Such as the one in Longiano (Fc), in the valley of the Rubicon, where there are more than one hundred nativity scenes in more than forty different points around the entire town center. Museums, churches, squares, streets, gardens, public places and private homes host the enchantment and magic of the nativities, both traditional ones and artistic interpretations, starting from the big mechanized nativity of the Convento del Ss. Crocefisso, the heart of this collection of nativities which will again be set up by the Gualtieri family.



Among the mechanized nativities worth visiting is the one in Vigoleno (Pc), which takes up almost an entire room of one of the local homes. Created in 1989 by local craftsmen, it now includes 32 movements, 39 little motors and 6 water pumps with a day and nighttime cycle change.


Also one of a kind is the mechanized nativity of the Santuario di Strà in Nibbiano (Pc). What sets it apart is the 28 mechanized movements that move the people, handcrafted and displayed on a 20 square meter surface, in a dedicated room inside the Sanctuary. A voice explains the particularities and the main characters.

In Cesena the Gualtieri mechanized nativity will be set up again this year with its many mechanizations, scenic effects and a soundtrack.



The live nativities invoke special emotions, real scenes that transport spectators into a unique reality. The one in Castello di Rivalta (Pc) will take you back to the age of Saint Francis when the liturgical celebrations were enriched with scenic elements to capture the attention of and amaze the faithful. On Christmas Eve, more than one hundred figures will bring the nativity to life by representing the old crafts of the village.

In Bettola, near Piacenza, the entire square will be transformed and enlivened by more than one hundred people representing the ancient crafts and key characters in the story of the birth of Jesus. The representations will be described by narrators, and at the end the spectators can go into the scenes to admire them up close. In Ravenna on Sunday, December 24 and Saturday, January 6 you can see the "Arrival in Bethlehem" with music, torches, craft stores and Roman guards, to celebrate Christmas Eve all together with mulled wine and sweets.

Now in its 15th edition is the live nativity in the heart of Cesena, on schedule for Thursday, December 21, divided into five scenes set up in important points around the city: the Annunciation on the steps of the Cathedral, Mary’s visit to Elisabeth under the portico of the Palazzo del Ridotto, the Annunciation of the Angels to the shepherds in Via Zeffirino Re, the village of crafts and the nativity scene in Piazza del Popolo.

The live nativities will populate also the centers of Montescudo (Rn), on December 16 with more than 100 participants; of Reggio Emilia, on December 17 with a representation in a parade from the Basilica di San Prospero to the Cathedral; of Montefiore Conca (Rn) with about thirty episodes that will wind through the streets of the town and culminate with the nativity scene at the foot of the  Rocca Malatestiana, on December 26 and January 1; of Fiumalbo (Mo), which on December 24 and January 6 will transform into a Bethlehem of the Apennines.



Among the handcrafted nativities, two scenographic handmade nativities, with lights and water mechanisms, can be admired in Ravenna, one made by Ezio Ricci and the other by Rino Belletti. In Gatteo (Fc) the discovery of all the nativities set up in the town is done in groups on Thursday, December 7, with an evening walk along the streets accompanied by the music of the bagpipe players. And on the way back, a hot, steaming glass of mulled wine for everyone.

Among the most original nativities is also the bread nativity in the Sapignoli Mill, home of the Museum of Mill Art, in Poggio Torriana (Rn), which will be inaugurated on December 8 with a big torch lit walk accompanied by the music of the bag pipe player.

Other artistic nativities not to be missed can be found in Gattatico and Brescello, near Reggio Emilia, and in Terra del Sole (Fc).



But there are nativities that come from all over the world, such as "A world of Nativities", in Castell'Arquato, that adds to the collections of professor Massimo Lorini some representations sent in from faraway lands made from various materials.

In Rimini an entire exhibition is dedicated to nativities from around the world which this year is in its 15th edition and is entitled “The Family, the families. Jesus was born into a family”. There are about thirty nativities set up in this place from as many groups of immigrants present in this area who through their nativity hope to make their country of origin known. Alongside of these nativities there are over 300 nativities from all over the world.  Nativities that tell the stories of Peru, Asia, of Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Philippines, Colombia, Cameroon, Nigeria and Zambia, of Eritrea and Ecuador, Bangladesh and the Chinese catholic community. In Ravenna there is "from the world" the Augusto Poverini Collection to be admired the whole Christmas season at the Cathedral of Ravenna.


Representations full of evangelical symbols and sacred art, in Neapolitan style or historical-oriental style, are mainly set up in Ravenna. Here you will also bump into artistic nativities in the Neapolitan style of the 1700s with "La teatralità del Presepe napoletano", which can be visited until January 31 at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, where until December 16 there will be the exhibition  "arte presepe napoletano. Il sogno del Dormiente nel presepe"; and the scene from the collection of the ancient Bottega di Restauro d’Arte presepiale “Cantone & Costabile” of Naples on display at the Cassa di Risparmio. A historic oriental style nativity will instead be on display at the Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore.



Many ancient, popular, scenographic and mechanized nativity scenes, but also many linked to the world of water and the sea.

Ferrara offers a unique show with "Nativity in the water - Christmas sub", on December 24: after the solemn blessing, you can see a moving torch-lit ceremony of scuba divers who will place Baby Jesus in the nativity scene, set up in the moat around the Estense Castle. Not very far away, in the lagoon town of Comacchio, the nativity scenes board boats, float along the canals and stop under the most beautiful bridges of the town. It is one of a kind, the show  "A water nativity - Maria’s Dream" which you can see on December 24, followed by a grande finale with pyrotechnics. But all throughout this period there will be many different nativities including  "the nativities in shop windows”.


Nativity scenes along the Riviera follow the spirit of the sea creating a perfect synergy with the elements of this land. From the salt nativities – such as the one along the canal port in Cervia – to the historic nativity scene in the canal port of Cesenatico (Fc) set up on the boats of the Maritime Museum – which reproduces the typical figures of maritime life while paying homage to Baby Jesus.


Even the sand takes shape and gives life to enchanting sculptures of every shape and size, which can be admired just a short distance from the sea directly on the beach, from the bathing establishments of Bellaria Igea Marina, Ravenna, and Rimini.

But the surprises do not end here, and the sand of Romagna and the Po River goes all the way up to Piacenza from January 2 to 7, taking on gigantic shapes and finished in astounding detail, to be admired while looking up in the big spaces of the Piacenza Expo.


Follow the comet and discover all the nativities in Emilia Romagna


Last modified Dec 02, 2019

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