From Trentino to Sicily, there are many places where you can watch the living cribs in Italy. Discover the most evocative living nativity.
The living cribs in Italy are one of the most characteristic traditions of the Christmas period in Italy, which involves the whole family, from the youngest to the oldest. Italy is full of cities, villages, and historic places that lend themselves well to the scenic representation of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
The living crib owes its origin to St. Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 returning from a trip to the holy land, decided to replicate the sacred scene of the nativity in a living way in the village of Greccio, near Rieti. Since then the living crib has increasingly spread as a tradition throughout Italy with every corner of the boot engaging in this ritual at Christmas. Find out which are the best living cribs in Italy, region by region.
21. Living Cribs in Italy: the living crib at the foot of the Alps
This guide to the best living cribs in Italy starts from the north with one of the smallest municipalities in the Val d'Aosta, Challand-Saint-Anselme. In fact, on Christmas night a characteristic representation of the nativity scene comes to life, staged by the inhabitants of the small town at the foot of the Alps, in Val d'Ayas. The inhabitants recreate live scenes of ancient crafts and glimpses of ancient life as if it were a real journey through time through the streets of the town.
A particular living nativity scene is also staged in the capital. Every year a moving nativity scene is created in Aosta. During all the Christmas holidays and until the Epiphany, the cribs re-proposes classic scenes of the nativity in front of the Fromage Tower, near the Roman theatre of Aosta.
20. Living cribs in Italy in chocolate's region
Even Piedmont offers some of the best living nativity scenes in Italy. One of the major Italian cribs takes place right here between the nights of 23 and 24 December in Dogliani Castello, the upper village of the city of Dogliani, in the province of Cuneo. In this medieval village, the inhabitants, almost entirely, stage the living Nativity scene, with about 350 costumed figures.
Among the alleys of the village, the moments of the life of the crib are staged with an accuracy of the scenic details and also of the dialogues, becoming a sort of miniature Bethlehem.
19. The longest-living nativity scene in Northern Italy
San Biagio, in the province of Mantua, hosts its thirty-year live nativity scene. In a suggestive and silent scenario, an entire area of the city territory is destined for scenes of the Nativity and craftsmen's shops. The crib will be open until January. Also in Lombardy, in Venegono Inferiore, in the province of Varese, the whole town stages its participatory living nativity scene in which the whole small town is transformed into an extract of nativity scene life.
In Lombardia, there are also many proposals in the province of Bergamo, where, specifically in Zogno, Ornica, Sussia, Piazza Brembana and Mezzoldo, itinerant living nativity scenes are organized. It is an exciting way to experience the atmosphere of the nativity, touching it with your hand.
18. The Christmas tradition in the mountains: the living nativity scene under the Alps
A few kilometres from Trento and about 40 minutes from Lake Garda is the small village of Calavino where a large living nativity scene is held, the oldest in Trentino. The small village involves its entire community in this initiative by representing the nativity scenes flanked by scenes of Trentino peasant life of the past and the ancient crafts that are often seen on the crib: the carpenter, the knife grinder, the potter, the blacksmith, the innkeeper, etc.
All the characters, often played by the inhabitants of Calavino themselves, will wear costumes immersed in a beautiful scenography, created throughout the year. Even the medieval village of Canale di Tenno is transformed for a day into the setting of the Nativity, with the re-enactment of ancient crafts and scenes from the tradition of living nativity scenes.
17. Snowy Christmas: the living nativity scene under the Dolomites
During the Christmas holidays in Egna, an Italian municipality in the autonomous province of Bolzano, the living nativity scene takes place, which attracts tourists every year and is staged in a large courtyard surrounded by arcades, a distinctive feature of this small South Tyrolean village.
The entire event is accompanied by the Christmas atmosphere of South Tyrol with the Christmas markets together with stands of typical products and local artisan workers.
16. The living nativity scene in the north eastern Italy
In Veneto, for its fifth edition, the living nativity scene is back in the province of Treviso, in Cessalto. An eye-catcher with around 80 actors, based on tradition and social inclusion. Among the many actors, there will be about twenty people with disabilities.The nativity scene will be preceded by Christmas-themed events such as choirs and gospel concerts that will accompany the opening of the gates of the living nativity scene. Visitors will enter a scenographic reconstruction of the typical Bethlehem village of about two thousand years ago.
15. The region of the largest living nativity scene in Europe
At the eastern end of Italy, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, it is set up on an area of about 15,000 square meters, near a now uninhabited part of the village, the living crib of Corgnolo is staged. The rusticity and historicity of the place give it a charm of other times.
Every aspect of this huge crib is completely made by the villagers, even the clothes of the figures. In addition to many live animals, from nearby farms, many life-sized animal statues populate the area.
The Corgnolo nativity scene is set up near the parish church of the ancient village of Corgnolo. The crib of Corgnolo is one of the largest cribs in Europe with its territorial extension.
14. The living crib in the snowy landscape of Valbormida
In Valbormida, in the province of Savona, there is a small village, Roccavignale, where the living nativity scene has been held every year since 1985, now in its thirty-seventh edition.
The small village of Liguria owes its name to the abundance of vineyards in the municipal area, which makes the landscape much more pleasant to host this event. In the weeks before Christmas, on 22, 23 and 24 December, it will be possible to see the scenic representation of the Nativity and all the protagonists of the most iconic scene of Christmas.
The setting will be very suggestive so much so that the whole village will not be illuminated artificially, but with torches.
13. Living nativity scenes from the Apennines to the Po
Emilia-Romagna has a collection of living cribs that can be visited during Christmas. The most famous is the Reggio Emilia living crib, organized by the AVSI Foundation (Association of Volunteers for International Service). Even in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Montefiore Conca, in the province of Rimini, one of the most beautiful living nativity scenes in Emilia-Romagna is staged.
Alongside these towns or villages in Romagna, there is the living nativity scene of Rivalta on the banks of the Trebbia river and the living nativity scene of Fanano and Classe.
12. The best living nativity scenes in Dante's region
Even in Tuscany, as you can imagine, there are many manifestations of living nativity scenes with historical locations and costumes. Among the best living nativity scenes there are certainly those of Casciano Terme Lari and that of San Piero a Grado, both in the province of Pisa.
In Casciano Terme Lari, the streets of this small village are filled with about a hundred people who play the roles of the main characters in the birth of Jesus. In San Piero a Grado, however, the nativity scene comes to life next to the Roman basilica of the small Pisan village with shops, taverns and all the places that historically characterize the living nativity scene. One of the peculiarities of this crib is that you can exchange your money for talents to buy focaccia and mulled wine.
11. The best living cribs of the Apennines
Among the many nativity scenes that are staged in Umbria, there are some that must be visited if you are in this splendid land. Among the stages, there are undoubtedly the nativity scenes of Assisi, Rasiglia, the Marmore Falls, Foligno and Gubbio. These are beautiful villages and small cities to visit from 24 December to 06 January.
The living nativity scene of Marmore is a nativity scene in a natural setting of incredible beauty. In Assisi, however, the special event is "the living nativity scene of Assisi and Greccio" with the representation of two nativity scenes on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the first living nativity scene of St. Francis of Assisi.
10. The largest living nativity scene in the world on the Adriatic
On the Adriatic is one of the most iconic living nativity scenes in all of Italy. In the Marche region, in Genga, there is a nativity scene that is set up in a truly suggestive location: the temple of Valadier, which is located inside the cave in the Frasassi gorge.
Another curiosity about this crib is that it is the largest in the world with a covered area of about 30 thousand square meters. Another beautiful nativity scene is that of Grottammare, where an entire village becomes a nativity scene with a path that reaches the sea up to San Benedetto del Tronto.
9. The region where the living nativity scene was born
As mentioned above, the living nativity scene was born thanks to San Francesco d'Assisi, precisely in Umbria, one of the Italian regions with the oldest and most important historical, religious and artistic traditions, above all with the representation of the nativity scene, created precisely in Greccio, in the province of Rieti in 1223.
Like every year in the villages of Lazio, the tradition of living nativity scenes magically comes to life as in all of Italy. In the small villages of the Lazio countryside, many representations of the nativity are staged. As in Tarquinia, where the representation will return from 26 December to 6 January 2023 when the Magi on camel back in the streets of the historic centre. Even in Civita di Bagnoregio, in the province of Viterbo, after two years of detention due to Covid, the living nativity scene returns on 26 December and 6-7-8 January 2023. Enter the streets of the ancient town, built on the ridge tuffaceous will give you a journey through time through ten scenes that recreate the nativity.
8. Discovering the living cribs in the Gran Sasso region
If you visit Abruzzo during the Christmas period you will have the opportunity to see many living nativity scenes, but here we have selected the best for you: Pacentro and Rivisondoli.
In Pacentro, one of the most beautiful Italian villages, in the province of L'Aquila, the Nativity is staged in the streets of its beautiful historic centre. Immersed in the heart of the Majella national park, the event "A Pacentro as in Bethlehem" culminates in a point of great effect, a real cave that recalls the manger where Jesus was born. Another unmissable event is the living crib of Rivisondoli which combines the revival of crib scenes with a strong skiing tradition to spend the Christmas holidays in the name of tradition and winter sports.
7. Sardinian living nativity scenes: the best nativity scenes
Sardinia has a great tradition with living nativity scenes, so much so that in 2018 the living nativity scene of Assolo was reported as the record-breaking nativity scene with over 200 figures. But in Sardinia, many other beautiful villages or towns deserve to be visited during the Christmas period to witness, in particular, the scenes of the living nativity scenes.
On December 26th and January 6th, in Calagianus, in upper Gallura, a living nativity scene is set up every year with actors intent on recalling the ancient crafts traditionally present in the nativity scene, but this time in full size. On the first day, we witness the classic revival of the scene of the manger while on January 6 we can await the arrival of the Magi.
6. The living nativity scene in the Neolithic caves
One of the most iconic and anticipated events of Christmas in Molise is the living nativity scene of Montenero di Bisaccia which takes place from 24 December to 06 January in the Neolithic caves, sandstone caves dating back 10,000 years ago.
The living nativity scene of Montenero was organized for the first time in 1984 and is an important event which every year involves numerous volunteers; it attracts numerous tourists from all over Italy. The scenario is very suggestive and thanks to it the protagonists with their costumes enchant throughout the Christmas period.
5. The best live nativity scenes in the Vesuvius region
Unlike many other regions, in Campania, the crib is deeply felt as a traditional Christmas rite, so much so that making a selection of the best cribs to visit can be complex. Every province of the Vesuvius region has dozens of representations of the nativity that deserve to be visited among breathtaking locations such as the Sorrento peninsula and medieval villages.
In Pietralcina, in the province of Benevento, the town that gave birth to Padre Pio, the oldest part of the town is transformed into a real 1:1 scale nativity scene. If you visit this part of the town, it will take you on a real journey through time, performed on 27, 28 and 29 December 2022. In Mercogliano, in the province of Avellino, the village of Capocastello turns into Bethlehem with alleys, houses and shops that transform into the scenes of the crib, that everyone knows. On the Amalfi coast, in Pimonte, a splendid village in the Lattari Mountains, a nativity scene is staged in the style of the famous 19th-century Neapolitan nativity scene.
4. The best Apulian living nativity scenes
Also in Puglia, the tradition of the living nativity scene is deeply felt both for the strong devotion and because the suggestive locations found in this region offer beautiful stages.
Alberobello, in the province of Bari, is one of the best living nativity scenes in Puglia. The town is known for its trulli, typical houses with unique roofs and famous all over the world. With its morphology, Alberobello lends itself very well to being transformed into a life-size nativity scene. The living nativity scene of Alberobello can be visited every evening from 26 to 29 December. Further south, in the province of Lecce, in the village of Tricase, one of the longest-living nativity scenes in southern Italy is set up. Staged since 1976, every year the representation attracts citizens and tourists from all over Italy. The living crib of Tricase can be visited from December 25th to January 6th.
3. The living nativity scene in the city of stones
This guide to the best living nativity scenes in Italy could not miss Basilicata with the city that best lends itself to this type of representation: Matera. Its typical houses carved into the rock and the limestone colours make it the perfect setting to bring to mind the tradition of the living nativity scene. The living nativity scene of Matera can be visited on 8, 9, 10, 11, and 18 December and 6, 7, and 8 January 2023. This year the Matera Convention Bureau association is staging the 12th edition of the historic "Living Nativity in the Sassi of Matera” with the title "LISTEN TO MY VOICE". The Sacred-Theatrical Representation will be staged inside the theatre “G. Guerrieri" in the historic Palazzo dell'Annunziata in the heart of the historic centre of Matera.
In Basilicata, however, several living nativity scenes are also staged in the province of Potenza, such as the one in Sant'Angelo di Avigliano, a splendid village in Basilicata, which in just one day, next 30 December, will make you relive the emotions of the living nativity scene.
2. The living nativity scenes between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas
Even in Calabria, the land of Riace bronzes and chilli peppers, the tradition of living nativity scenes is deeply felt, so much so that every province has beautiful places in which to create the magic of this splendid Italian tradition.
The most evocative is undoubtedly that of Morano Calabro, in the province of Cosenza, where an ancient village is equipped, close to the archpriest church of SS. Peter and Paul. The village will be accessible in the late afternoon of 25 and 26 December and then on 1, 5 and 6 January. The grotto was created in an old warehouse in Largo San Pietro. Also in the province of Catanzaro, there are also two beautiful and suggestive Living Nativity Scenes, which are held in Simeri Crichi and Gasperina.
1. The best living nativity scenes overlooking the Mediterranean
Sicily is mostly a summer destination, but during the Christmas period, it becomes an all-around winter destination with its popular traditions and above all the long history linked to living nativity scenes. Among the best and most famous is certainly the crib of Custonaci, known throughout Italy. The representation of the Nativity is staged inside the Grotta Mangiapane di Scurati in Custonaci, near Trapani, which is famous for the dozens of cinematic representations it has hosted.
Very similar to that of Custonaci, it is certainly the living nativity scene of Paternò, in the province of Catania, but the one that stands out is undoubtedly that of Gangi. In this village of the Madonie, the living nativity scene develops along the narrow streets of the town and not in a single place. Among the alleys, the typical Palestinian life of the past is staged, with costumes and settings from the historical period in which Jesus was born.