Christmas year-round: Nativities of Naples

Nativity scenes are part of the Christmas tradition for many of us, and they range from gilt-trimmed masterpieces to naked trolls. In the historic center of Naples, Via San Gregorio Armeno is home to workshops and storefronts selling an array of elaborate creches, or presepi in Italian.

The narrow pedestrian street is Nativity Central in Italy, carrying on a tradition established some four hundred years ago, in the Baroque era. From individual figurines and furnishings to elaborate full-village scenes, from finely crafted and expensive pieces to the very inexpensive–the array is fascinating. They go far beyond the typical scene of the holy family with wise men and shepherds. These scenes include the whole town–the innkeeper, the greengrocer, the mayor, homemakers and housekeepers, in lively scenes where you can imagine them sharing the story they’ve heard from the shepherds. “Did you hear about the baby? Did you hear about the angels? Can you believe it? Let’s go take a look!”

Christmas is a year-round affair on Via San Gregorio Armeno, so enjoy it whenever your visit to Naples comes along. At the end of the street is San Lorenzo Maggiore, a historic church that contains a museum focusing on the historic center of Naples. This neighborhood oozes history from every seam, so plan to spend some time exploring.

A selection of nativity scene characters for sale.

And whether you call it a creche, crib, presepi, or nativity, browse the workshops and enjoy the tradition of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ in a thousand variations on the theme.

(Remember those naked trolls I mentioned? Check out Nativity Scenes Gone Horribly Awry at a blog called “List of the Day”.)