Umbria with its living and artistic cribs

Artistic and living cribs in Umbria

The Presepe, or Christmas crib, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted Christmas traditions: in many Italian homes you will find faithful reproductions of the Holy Family of Bethlehem and many Italians are fond of going on tours around the nativity scenes set up by churches, municipalities and private businesses.

The tradition of the crib has its roots in Umbria: it was Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1223, to make the first crib in Greccio, near Rieti. Francis had recently returned from Palestine and, moved by the sight of Bethlehem, wanted people to recall the birth of Jesus Christ and the humble surroundings into which he had been born, in Italy.

Since then the tradition of the crib has continued to flourish, over the years becoming a true art form.

Not far from the birthplace of Saint Francis, since 1992 at San Gregorio (a small hamlet in the municipality of Assisi), a live nativity tableau has been organised with attention paid even to the smallest detail. Set inside the castle walls and in the surrounding countryside: every year new characters and trades are added to the nativity scene, adding to its charm. 

Moving south, you can visit the crib of Rasiglia, near Foligno. The village's streets are brought to life with the sounds of the arts and trades from the beginning of the twentieth century: carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers, weavers, apothecaries and the old market will accompany you company along the route towards the grotto of the Nativity. 

Still in the Foligno area, you can see the Nativity tableau of Marcellano, near Gualdo Cattaneo: around one hundred characters bring to life the re-enactment of the Nativity, reproducing scenes of life from ancient Palestine. When night falls, torches and oil lamps are lit, the Christmas star appears in the sky and suddenly the grotto where Mary and Joseph found shelter and where Baby Jesus was born, lights up. 

If you want to see a Christmas crib that will give you "goose bumps" go to Massa Martana during the Presepi d'Italia (Christmas Cribs of Italy) event which takes place over the Christmas period. The nativity scene carved out of ice, presented alongside other stunning Christmas cribs on display, changes its subject matter every year and is about 16 square metres in size. 

Instead if you are a nature lover and you want to see enchanting spots under the Christmas lights head for the Terni area. In the heart of the Piediluco's Lake the suggestions you will feel while admiring this Lake, so small “to fit in one’s hand’s palm”, turn it at night into a magic spot so to make it look a Crib in itself.

These are just some of the artistic and living cribs that are waiting for you in Umbria: come and discover them closely!