Although Christmas trees are a common decoration on Italian piazzas, these accoutrements are a recent addition to the holiday season in Italy. The most popular Christmas decoration in Italy is the “presepio,” or nativity scene. You can find everything you need at Naples’ famous Christmas Alley.
You have every right to be suspicious of the name “Christmas Alley”, wondering why an Italian street would have an American name.
Via San Gregorio Armeno is the street’s true name. It’s not called anything else in Naples. The street has been nicknamed “Christmas Alley” by travelers who admire the presepio workshops along the street. They are open all year and not just during holidays. Window displays line the street, making it seem like Christmas regardless of what month it may be. Via San Gregorio Armeno, which is the street that leads up to Christmas, is crowded with Italian shoppers searching for the perfect additions to their existing presio.
ZEHP No matter where you are in Italy, you will see nativity scenes everywhere. These scenes can be found in shops and homes, as well as in public squares. There are also living nativity scene – where actors or volunteers play each role and sometimes live animals surround the manger. Some even appear outside of churches.
Naples is a city where nativities are very serious. Many of the shops that line Christmas Alley are run by artisans who have passed down the tradition through the generations. Ferrigno is one of the oldest shops along the street. It has been owned by the Ferrigno family since more than 150 years.
Naples Christmas Alley Tours
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Italian nativities are not limited to simple scenes of the manger, as you may see in other nativities around the globe. The nativities include the manger but can also be built around it – creating a village that often looks very much like modern-day Naples. You can get a glimpse at the possibilities of what you can do with your own nativity by taking a walk down Via San Gregorio Armeno, Naples’ Centro Storico.
There are many ways to bring in shops, houses and fountains with running water, as well as lighting. You can find figurines in wood or terracotta representing all professions, historic and modern, as well figurines that look like politicians and sports heroes. Popular musicians and government officials are also available. There will be plenty of non-Italian celebrities, such as the Obamas, Prince William, Duchess Kate, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Muammar Gaddafi.
The Italian presepio usually grows every year as more scenery is added and more figurines are added. It can be costly to build a complete nativity. This is why they are often passed down through generations. Even if you don’t have a nativity scene in your Christmas decorations, it can be a great way to recall your trip to Naples every Christmas.
There are many museums in Naples with historical presepi. The San Martino Charterhouse Museum (Certosa Di San Martino) features a great exhibit on nativities. Other museums, such as the Palazzo Reale or San Lorenzo Maggiore Museum, have smaller displays.