Nine quirky Christmas nativity scenes you can see in Italy

Nativity scenes appear in homes, churches and public buildings across the country in December, each one a little different. But while they may be a staple of the Christmas season, there's nothing traditional about these quirky examples...

Nine quirky Christmas nativity scenes you can see in Italy
Photo: Christopher Brown/Flickr

1. The world's largest

Let's start with the world's largest nativity, in Cinque Terre. Each year, the picturesque town of Manarola in the Liguria tourist spot is illuminated with over 15,000 lights – a tradition which began back in 1961 with a single cross. It's not only an incredible sight but is also eco-friendly, made entirely of recycled materials.

2. The Vatican's life-size effort

The scene in Rome's Piazza San Pietro is probably the most famous. This year, the traditional nativity scene is accompanied by the cross and debris from Norcia's destroyed basilica, in a tribute to the victims of the earthquakes in central Italy. As per tradition, the baby Jesus will be added to the scene by the pope himself on Christmas Eve.

3. Pasta

It's Italy. Of course someone made a pasta presepe. This one can be seen at Rome's annual 100 presepi exhibition, displaying nativities of all materials and sizes from around the world.


A photo posted by Elena Toni (@ele_nina1103) on Dec 13, 2016 at 3:45am PST

4. A modern version

This version imagines how Jesus' birth might have been different had it happened in 2016 – selfie sticks and all.


A photo posted by ( on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:55am PST

5. On the water

The 'floating nativities' of port town Cesenatico are the only ones of their kind in the world. The boats display around 50 life-size statues throughout December, portraying a scene typical of the fishing village. Each year a new statue is added, and at night, lights bring the whole scene to life.

6. Nutella

This improvised version may be less elaborate than the others, but it's the most delicious on the list.


A photo posted by Pasquale Sabatino (@pasqualesab72) on Dec 19, 2016 at 9:45pm PST

7. On the road

We love this brightly coloured car nativity, spotted in Reggio Calabria in the south of the country.


A photo posted by Yallers Calabria (@yallerscalabria) on Dec 20, 2016 at 12:11am PST

8. Live

You might do a double take when you first see one of Italy's presepi viventi – not only are they life-size, but they are made up of real people, each acting out a character in the rural scene. There are several living nativities across the country, but this one in Matera is one of the most famous and most beautiful. Walking through a 5km route to the town centre, visitors pass shepherds and artisans who will direct them to the actual crib.

9. Sand

In Jesolo near Venice, a nativity scene made entirely of sand is inaugurated each year. This year, the scene honours the many refugees who make the journey to Italy each year, seeking shelter like the holy family.

Photo: christopher_brown/Flickr

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La Bella Vita: Exploding myths about Italian food and how to make words smaller

From making sense of Italian grammar to understanding what's seen as 'authentic' Italian food, our weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Exploding myths about Italian food and how to make words smaller

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

*If you signed up for La Bella Vita newsletter but did not receive it this week please email [email protected]

Everyone in Italy is talking about Italian food this week. Not unusual, I know. But this time, it’s mainly because the government has announced plans to put Italian food forward for Unesco intangible cultural heritage status. This led many people to ask exactly which dishes would be included in the bid – and how exactly do you define ‘Italian food’, anyway?

One highly influential and controversial contribution to this debate came in the form of an interview published in the Financial Times with Italian food historian Alberto Grandi, who “has dedicated his career to debunking the myths around Italian food”. In it, Grandi made bold claims including that panettone and tiramisù were postwar inventions which relied on industrial processes or ingredients; carbonara is more American than Italian; and pizza was unknown in most parts of Italy before the 1970s.

It’s safe to say these ideas didn’t go down well at all with most Italians. In the below article, reporter Silvia Marchetti explains why the interview caused such a big public outcry and why she believes such claims ignore “millennia of rich food heritage”.

Why claims Italian cuisine is a ‘modern invention’ have angered Italy

Whatever you think of Grandi’s argument that the popular idea of Italian cuisine today is based chiefly on postwar advertising and political propaganda, there’s one thing everyone can probably agree on: there really are an awful lot of misconceptions out there about what constitutes traditional or authentic Italian cuisine.

Here are a few such ideas that you’ve probably encountered, and a look at why they can be safely discarded:

Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

Neapolitan pizza. Is there any truth to claims that pizza was unknown in most of Italy until the 1970s? Photo by Nik Owens on Unsplash

And if you’re in Italy at the moment, have you noticed that things feel a little different lately?

Not only are the days brighter, but once the temperatures rise over 15C towns and cities seem to burst back to life after being (slightly) quieter over winter. Aperitivo hour moves outside, there are more motorini zipping up and down the streets, and there’s a spring-cleaning frenzy as homes are cleaned from top to bottom and wardrobes overhauled in preparation for la bella stagione.

Here are some of the sure-fire signs that spring has arrived in Italy:

Eight signs that spring has arrived in Italy

Easter is coming up and it is of course a very important celebration in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, marked across the country by countless processions and events, plenty of good food, and hopefully some good weather too. Here’s a rundown of everything to expect during an Italian Easter:

The essential guide to Easter in Italy

One thing that makes Italian such a beautiful – and complicated – language is the large number of different suffixes which tack on to the ending of words and change their meaning. A common type is the diminutive suffix, which is the type of word ending that makes a thing smaller, or maybe cuter (think gattino, libricino, or fiorellino).

But as pretty as they sound, these endings don’t always seem to have much logic behind them. Here’s what you need to know about ‘shrinking’ Italian words.

Etto, ino, ello: How to make Italian words smaller

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Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]