In Tuscany, I love the Tradition of Presepe. The nativity scenes in Tuscan homes are handmade by each family anew every year. It is a creative activity each Christmas to make it a little bit special or different. I love the individual touches and the little ones especially enjoy this. Such a beautiful tradition.
They use a special moss that grows in the mountains to make the grass for the scene and they are filled with lights that the Italians do so well.
Also in the different regions of Italy the statues are crafted out of different geological material – whatever the local area offered. In this local village in Maremma they were crafted out of chalk in the past and then painted. The antique statues are very beautiful and are collector items now.
Naples is the place where they specialize in nativity scenes – called ‘Presepe”. In the Museo Nazionale di San Martino you can see a famous collection of Neapolitan nativity scenes including the largest nativity scene, the Presepe Cuciniello, with 162 people, 80 animals, angels, and about 450 miniature objects, among the finest nativity scenes in the world.
Each year in Napoli I buy a new handmade statue made from pottery or ceramic to add to my collection. I started with the three wise men and then an angel. I guess i should have started with baby Jesus as he is the most important one but at the time the three wise men were the best looking ( ha Ha)!!
I like to buy the statues that are individually crafted and the fascinating thing about them is that they all have different faces – (obviously the sculptors have crafted all their friends). If you are talented in sculpture you could carve your whole family – now that would be scary hey!!
There is a whole street devoted to selling presepe in all shapes and sizes in Via San Gregorio Armeno in the old quartiere of Spaccanapoli, Naples, where the ancient craft of Presepe has been passed down for generations.
Below is a cute little, homemade presepe in the local church of Arcidosso in Tuscany made by one of the local families. The little ones love going to see them all. I had to laugh though in the main church presepe in the village of Castell’Azzara Tuscany, the large cow in the stable was missing his ears and horns and looked like a hippopotamus.