I Presepi di Napoli

A Neapolitan Bethlehem—Presepio Christmas Crèches in Naples

The street of Via San Gregorio Armeno outside the church is lined with artisan shops where craftsmen labor away at the figurines used in Naples' traditional presepi, or Christmas crèches.

These dioramas of the Nativity, which probably date back to St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century but became most wildly popular here in Naples starting in the 17th century, are still an integral and important part of the Christmas season, assembled in church chapels and on piazze throughout Italy starting in November.

Presepi seem to concentrate more on finely studied figures of peasants and townsfolk than the Holy Family itself. Especially here in Naples, the backdrop is often a suspiciously Italian-looking Bethlehem, complete with Neapolitan pizzerie, workshops, all sorts of food shops (vittles are vital to any proper Neapolitan presepio), and the inns where locals carouse, occasionally joined by contemporary political figures.

The Nativity itself is stuck off in an unobtrusive corner building, which often manages to incorporate a crumbling ruin of a Roman archway so you know it's ancient Bethlehem.

Tips & links

For more info:
Giuseppe Ferrigno
Although Via S. Gregorio Armeno has many workshops (and even more stands during December when it becomes the center of an outdoor Christmas market), to see a true maestro of the craft at work, drop by the bottega of Giuseppe Ferrigno at #10 (tel. +39-081-552-3148).
Tour of Naples Christmas crèches
How long does I Presepi di Napoli take?

Planning your day:It wouldn't take very long to walk through the marketplace, but you can wander and shop until you've had your fill.

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