Il Presepio- Italian Nativity Scenes

We are gearing up to celebrate to Christmas in Rome, and while we have propped up a sad imitation tree that did not really survive the year well in the attic, many homes around us have set up ‘il presepio’.

A presepio (or presepe) is a Christmas manger scene that is set up in a central location in the house, or in the piazza, or in St. Peter’s Square right next to the big tree. In English, we usually call presepe “nativity scenes” and assume that they belong in churches. However, it very common to find presepio all over Italy – churches, squares, museums, apartment lobbies, and inside private homes.

When setting up a presepio, you can go with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, or you can glitz it up a bit with motorized accessory characters. The more going on, the better.

Whatever your presepio style, the best place to pick up figurines in Naples.  From Wise Men to pizza makers, Naples has everything to meet your nativity needs.  There is an entire street dedicated to presepe and it sells the nativity goods all year.

Via San Gregorio Armeno is a great stop between pizza meals.


You can go with a simple scene, or a double-decker if you really want to pack in the figurines. The most extensive presepio that I have ever seen was in Sulmona, Abruzzo. It took up most of a room and contained hundreds of hand-crafted figurines. 

Figurines from politicians to pop culture idols.

But don’t forget the baby Jesus! If you happen to be in Rome the third Sunday of Advent, you can bring your baby Jesus figure to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope after the Sunday Angelis. This is a common tradition for the children of Rome, and a great chance to see the Vatican’s impressive nativity scene in person.

Buon Natale!

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