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Creativity and tradition in Umbrian nativity scenes

The Nativity in many original interpretations

Year after year, the art of the crib never ceases to amaze and excite the most curious visitors. Let us guide you on this itinerary to discover some of the most  unusual Nativity scenes in the region.

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Stage 1
Nativity in the Well in Orvieto

In the heart of the medieval centre of Orvieto, during the Christmas period, a true underground jewel is preserved: a Nativity scene created in the Pozzo della Cava (Well of the Quarry), with life-size mechanical characters placed in the caves of the suggestive underground complex. Scenic elements, lights and costumes, linked by ever-changing themes, tell the story of the Nativity between tradition, fantasy and contemporaneity.

The new edition of the Nativity in the Well, entitled “The Song of the Hero”, will be held from 23rd December 2023 to 7th January 2024 and, in the wake of the success of previous years, will also be the continuation of the “Cycle of the Excluded”. The excluded from the Nativity in the Well are those characters who, although they did not witness the birth of Jesus live, are chosen to become narrators of the scenes depicted. The name of the 34th edition of this Nativity scene is linked to this year’s character: Herod the Great, King of Judea who lived at the time of the Nativity, whose name means precisely “song of the hero”.

For more information on the event, click on the XXXIV Nativity in the Well «The Song of the Hero» page.

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16th-century monumental Nativity scene in Calvi dell'Umbria

Calvi dell’Umbria is home to a monumental Nativity scene that is a true artistic jewel. This representation of the Nativity is located inside the Oratory of St. Anthony, at the Ursuline Monastery. This polychrome terracotta crib consists of over thirty statues made between 1541 and 1546 by Giacomo and Raffaele of Montereale. It is located inside an apse where the statues are arranged in four superimposed registers: in the first one is the Holy Family, in the second one are the Three Wise Men, then a procession on foot and on horseback, and lastly in the one furthest up is the vault of heaven with four angels.

Calvi dell’Umbria itself is a town worth visiting during the Christmas period: renamed as the “town of Nativity scenes”, since 1982 the walls of the houses in the old town centre have become perfect canvases to welcome the hand of numerous artists, who have created over fifty open-air murals, all dedicated to the theme of the Nativity.

The monumental Nativity scene of Calvi dell’Umbria knows no time or season: it can be visited all year round during the opening hours of the Ursuline Museum (www.calviturismo.it/museo/).

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Piediluco’s floating Nativity scene

Among the most original versions of the artistic cribs in Umbria is the one in the village of Piediluco, which every year sets up a real floating Nativity scene on the water.

The crib takes the form of striking white statues, which were originally made of papier-mâché, while today they are made of polystyrene.

The beauty as well as peculiarity of this Nativity scene is that it is set up directly on a boat in the middle of the lake. The statues therefore seem to emerge directly from the water and, amidst the morning mists or red sunsets, create truly evocative scenarios.

The village of Piediluco itself, perched on the hill, is no less impressive: especially at night, when the Christmas lights are turned on, it turns into a backdrop that, besides reflecting on the waters of the lake, seems to transform all of Piediluco into a spectacular Nativity scene.

To discover the history of this crib, consult the Piediluco’s floating Nativity scene page of the Associazione Piediluco Arte (Piediluco Art Association).

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Ice Crib in Massa Martana

Flagship of the National Exhibition of Artistic Crib “Presepi d’Italia” (Italian Cribs), the Ice Crib in Massa Martana is one of the most unique in Italy.

A dazzling nativity scene with its statues sculpted directly on large blocks of ice by the hands of real artists. The crib is kept at a temperature of -17°C to keep its beauty and details intact.

Made since 2013 and inspired each year by religious scenes, personalities or works of art, this year’s crib will measure 13 square metres and, to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Francis’ Nativity scene, will be inspired by Giotto’s fresco “The Greccio Nativity Scene”, preserved in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

The National Exhibition of the Artistic Crib will open its doors to visitors from 24th December 2023 to 7th January 2024.

By visiting the page of the “XX Edition of “Presepi d’Italia” - National Exhibition of Artistic Crib you will have access to further details about the Nativity scene and the many other works on display.

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Nativity scene of Casacastalda

Casacastalda, a small hamlet in the municipality of Valfabbrica, will create for the third consecutive year a nativity scene truly worthy of the Guinness Book of Records! The nativity scenes sketched in previous editions eventually appeared on the side of the hill in front of the village’s belvedere. Although they are very minimalist, they have been created with no less than 800 metres of LED lights. But the uniqueness does not end there: the designs represented are always different and are chosen every year through a real competition organised by the Pro-Casacastalda association, which launched this spectacular initiative.

We just have to wait until December 8th to see which will be the record-breaking Nativity scene of this 2023 edition, which will remain lit until 6th January 2024. For more details on how to participate and on the making of the artistic installation, please visit the Nativity scene of Casacastalda 2023/2024 website.

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