A guide to living nativity scenes in Emilia Romagna
Strolling around

A guide to living nativity scenes in Emilia Romagna

by /// August 31, 2021 /// Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Strolling around

Strolling around


Strolling around

Strolling around


I must confess: I have always fancied the living nativity scenes. My father initiated me to these representations when I was young, and, be it for the scenery or for the strange clothes when I first saw one of them, I was left speechless. Still today, Nativity scenes evoke in me the same feelings of that very first time.

Saving the wonder of that moment, I tried to write down a list of the most suggestive living nativity scenes in Emilia-Romagna that you can admire with your own eyes during winter holidays. If by chance I missed some of them, please let me know in the comments below: I’ll be more than happy to add them to the list!

I took for granted that everybody knows what a living nativity scene is, but, just in case you were wondering, here is a quick recap: it’s an ancient Christian tradition, whose first testimony dates back to St. Francis (1223), and consists in the representation of the birth of Jesus (and related events) with human actors.

Castle of Rivalta (Piacenza)

Where: Gazzola (Rivalta) | Castle di Rivalta (Piacenza)
When: Monday, December 24th from 10pm to 12.30am
Admission: free

Entering the walls of the medieval village of Rivalta is like going back into the past, at the times of St. Francis, when religious celebrations featured scenographic elements in order to involve and amaze the worshippers.
For more than twenty years, over a hundred interpreters have been animating the streets of this tiny village during the Christmas holidays. This is the perfect way to rediscover ancient and almost disappeared crafts and to recollect the moments of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Reggio nell'Emilia

Where: Reggio nell’Emilia | Departure from Piazza San Prospero
When: Saturday, December 21st from 4pm
Admission: free

For seven years the AVSI (Association of Volunteers for International Service) has been organizing this travelling nativity scene through the historical city centre. The most significant moments of the Nativity are narrated along the itinerary, animated by music, dances and songs.

Fiumalbo (MO)

Where: Fiumalbo (Modena)
When: Tuesday, December 24th and Saturday, January 4th from 7.30pm
Admission: free

The evocative representation of the Nativity and ancient crafts along the streets of the town returns this year, as every two years, in the historic village of Fiumalbo.
The event starts at 7.30pm when, along the narrow streets and the most characteristic corners of the village, the re-enactment of the ancient crafts is staged.
At 10.30pm, with the arrival of Mary and Joseph at the Nativity hut and the birth of the Infant Jesus, the adoration procession begins, ending with the arrival of the magnificent procession of the Magi.

Brisighella (Ravenna)

Where: Brisighella (Ravenna)
When: Wednesday, December 26th from 4pm
Admission: free

A unique itinerant nativity scene traces the history of the birth of Jesus in one of the most beautiful medieval hamlets of Italy. Just above Faenza, the community of Brisighella has been organising for several years a marvellous living nativity scene. People, here, may feel the Christmas spirit through its actors and scenographic settings.


Where: Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe (Ravenna)
When: Tuesday, December 24th from 7pm to 11.30pm | Sunday, December 29th from 3pm to 6pm | Monday, January 6th from 3pm to 6pm
Admission: free

Living Nativity Scene - Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe (Ravenna)

A little Bethlehem is awaiting you at the foot of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Unesco World Heritage Site. In this magnificent location, every year, a multitude of actors represents artisans, shepherds, musicians and sacred characters of the Gospels, staging a faithful portrayal of the days preceding and following the birth of Christ.

Montefiore Conca (Rimini)

Where: Montefiore Conca (Rimini)
When: Thursday, December 26th from 5pm to 7pm | Saturday, December 28th from 8.30pm to 10pm | Sunday, December 29th from 5pm to 7pm
Admission: 5€; free for children under 12 years old

Two months before Christmas time, the citizens of Montefiore Conca, a village in the province of Rimini awarded as the “Orange Flag” of Touring Club Italiano – start working and engage with the representation of their living nativity scene.
About thirty episodes are set up in as many different sceneries, stretching along the streets of the city centre and culminating in the Nativity, set in the magnificent area at the foot of the Malatestian Fortress.

Montegiardino (San Marino Republic)

Where: Montegiardino (Republic of San Marino)
When: Thursday, December 26th and Sunday, January 6th from 5pm to 7.30pm
Admission: free

Presepe Vivente | Montegiardino

For twenty-three years the citizens of Montegiardino have been collaborating with people from the nearby villages on the realization of the living nativity scene: the result is an atmosphere recalling ancient traditions, with artisans exploring ancient crafts, rovers and wanderers in traditional clothes and Roman soldiers patrolling the streets.




Davide Marino

Davide Marino was born archaeologist but ended up doing other things. Rational – but not methodic, slow – but passionate. A young enthusiast with grey hair

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