Presepi Viventi, Italian Living Nativity Scenes
Living nativity pageants, presepi viventi, are found in many parts of Italy with costumed people acting out the parts of the nativity. Often living nativity scenes are presented for several days, usually Christmas Day and December 26, and sometimes again the following weekend around the time of Epiphany, January 6, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts.
Top places to see living nativity scenes, presepi viventi, in Italy
Frasassi Gorge has one of the largest and most suggestive nativity pageants in Italy. Held on a cliff near the Frasassi Caves, the Genga Nativity Scene includes a procession up the hill to a temple and scenes from everyday life during the time of Jesus' birth. More than 300 actors take part and proceeds are given to charity. Usually held on December 26 and 30.
Barga, a beautiful medieval hill town in northern Tuscany, has a living nativity and Christmas pagaent on December 23.
Custonaci, a small town near Trapani in Sicily, has a beautiful nativity scene re-enacted inside a cave. A tiny town was buried in the cave by a landslide in the 1800's. The cave has been excavated and now serves as a setting for the interesting live nativity events December 25-26 and early January. More than just a nativity, the village is set up to resemble an ancient village with craftspeople and small shops.
Vetralla, in the northern Lazio region, has the oldest living nativity in the region. According to Mary Jane Cryan of Elegant Etruria, in 2006 they will celebrate with a commemorative coin to remember the 200th anniversary of Cardinal Stuart's visit to Vetralla in 1776. She has an article about more presepi vivanti in her area under the Lifestyles link.
Rivisondoli, in the Abruzzo region (Abruzzo map), has a reenactment of the arrival of the 3 kings on January 5 with hundreds of costumed participants. Rivisondoli also presents a living nativity December 24 and 25.
L'Aquila and Scanno also in the Abruzzo region have living nativities on Christmas Day as do many other small villages in the region.
Liguria has living nativity scenes in the towns of Calizzano, Roccavignale, and Diano Arentino during December.
Milan has an Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings from the Duomo to the church of Sant'Eustorgio, January 6.