Christmas 2018: Nativity scenes around Tuscany

Artistical, live, mechanical and even in caves!

From 07 December 2019 to 12 January 2020


From 7 December to 12 January almost every corner of Tuscany hosts a nativity scene. There are live nativity scenes, but also mechanical, artistic ones, or even in caves, and of huge or miniature size and even crochet ones... there are basically all kinds of manger scenes! Christmas nativity scenes are an ancient tradition that dates back to St. Francis of Assisi. It was precisely the poor saint who after a trip to the Holy Land, in 1223, asked for and obtained permission from the Pope to recreate a representation of the nativity scene. Since then, every Christmas the magic of Christmas cribs repeats itself: figurines of shacks, Joseph and Mary, shepherds, dangling angels and sheep are beautifully displayed in homes, churches and in the most disparate settings. Among other things, Tuscany is where Terre di Presepi was founded, a teaming network of many towns of the region where Christmas manger scenes are erected. Just to give you an idea, last year almost 100 thousand visitors were recorded. As you may have guessed, presepi in Toscana are almost everywhere, so we want to give you a few tips on where to find the nativity scenes that we think are the best and most original.



Well, where shall we start? Given that many of you will be heading towards the capital, we suggest you take a look at our ideas on Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Florence , but bear in mind that there are beautiful nativity scenes also in the areas around the lily city. Let's start from the south-west suburbs of Florence and from the artistic nativity scene at the Bassi near the Parish Church of S.S. Nome di Gesù, which is on display from 7 December to 12 January. Just imagine that every year it is seen by an average of as many as 20,000 visitors. What's unique about it? First, it is not simply a representation of the nativity but also the Annunciation, the census and the flight into Egypt. There are about sixty live characters, a mechanism that recreates the alternation of day and night, a narrator’s voice and also dialogues between the characters. In short, this Nativity manger in Florence is worth a visit! Let's move now to Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo. As expected, the land where the great inventor was born, was bound to display a mechanical nativity scene full of contraptions! To be precise, the Vinci nativity scene is located in the village of Petroio and is characterized by many water features: waterfalls, streams, ponds and even goldfish! But if you really want to go for the full monty and see plenty of them in one go, then you absolutely have to walk Via de presepi in Castelfiorentino: 50 nativity cribs along the streets of the village where you can see many different variations...from traditional ones to other more unusual.



Did you know that in Tuscany you can also find nativity scenes in caves? Needless to say, they are really impressive. Where can you find them? The most famous is the Equi Terme live nativity scene, in Lunigiana in the province of Massa Carrara and the Pescaglia nativity scene in the province of Lucca. In both cases we recommend you wear warm clothing and shoes suitable for slippery grounds...basically, you can leave your 6-inch high heels at home! Equi Terme is a village perched on the Apuane Alps. The Equi Terme nativity scene will be staged 24-27 December and will have as a unique backdrop the entrance of the cave. The Tuscany nativity scene at Pescaglia (Lucca) is created by the local caving club in the Buca delle Campore. There are no words to describe the spectacle of the lime concretions and the blue lake. To get there you need to walk along a 600m long path in the forest but we guarantee you that it is really worth the effort!



Among the 2019 nativity scenes in Tuscany we cannot fail to also mention a few in the top-rated province of Siena. So let's start from the presepe at Staggia Senese, also known as the nativity crib of PoggibonsiIt is certainly one of the most complex mechanical nativity scenes in Tuscany: it is mechanized by 200 movements completing a full cycle from dawn to dusk in 5 minutes, there are moving figures and at night you can hear the baby crying whilst the baker is making bread. Another nativity crib worth visiting near Siena is in Poppi, Casentino. Actually, in the village of San Fedele you will see several of them, what could be better?



Let's now consider the province of Pisa and precisely Cigoli, the town that takes its name from the pseudonym of the painter Lodovico Cardi and is located in San Miniato. It is one of the most beautiful artistic nativity scenes in Tuscany and thanks to the Club of young crib makers', which has been in charge of it since 2001, has this year reached its 28th edition with many mechanisms and an area of a nothing less than a hundred square meters! It basically covers the whole area adjacent to the Shrine of the Mother of Children. It is beyond doubt, therefore, that the Cigoli nativity scene, on display from 7 December to 12 January, should be included among your list of Tuscany nativity scenes to visit. Since you are there, combine the visit with the living presepe of San Miniato Basso, one of the best nativity scenes in Tuscany and that takes place on 26 December through to 6 January. Along the village streets you will see more than 300 reenactors performing as children, Joseph and Mary, shepherds, but also Roman soldiers, angels, artisans and there will also be several real animals! We are wrapping up this review with the crib in Prato, one of the most anticipated Tuscany live nativity scenes that every year attracts many visitors. It takes place on 24 December and 6 January in the town of Iolo. Along the streets of the town you will admire 200 reenactors and, to the delight of little ones, also many animals such as donkeys, cows and even hens! In short, a live nativity scene in Tuscany worth watching!


What else can we say? Is that all? No way…! There really are many more, it’s impossible to name them all. We have given you some suggestions but you can find out more on the website of Terre di Presepi which lists opening times as well.

Can you already hear the jingle bells? Well, do not waste time then, plan a few days in Tuscany during Christmas.... the magic of the nativity scenes will make everything even more enchated. And if you really want to add something else to your experience, book one of our food and wine tours. The excellent Tuscan delicacies and a few glasses of good wine will help you endure even the coldest of days!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff