A guide to living nativity scenes in Emilia-Romagna

by /// December 15, 2023
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes



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.

Rivalta (PC)

Where: Rivalta, Val Trebbia (PC)
When: Sunday December 24th 2023, from 10 pm
Admission: free

Presepe vivente di Rivalta (PC)
Living nativity scene in Rivalta (PC)

In Rivalta, a charming village on the banks of the Trebbia river, the traditional appointment with the Living Nativity Scene returns this year on Christmas Eve evening.

100 screenwriters stage the Nativity: the arrival of the shepherds, the procession of King Herod, and the arrival of Mary and Joseph with the donkey.

The procession ends with the Holy Mass, and then goes to the manger for the adoration of Jesus.

Reggio Emilia

Where: Piazza San Prospero, Reggio Emilia
When: Sunday December 17th 2023, from 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm
Admission: free

presepe vivente reggio emilia
Living nativity scene in Reggio Emilia

The living nativity scene of Reggio Emilia, organized by the AVSI foundation (Volunteer Association for International Service), is back again this year, a fixed appointment for the city.

The event of the birth of Jesus comes to life through the representation of the most significant moments accompanied by music, songs, dances, and by all the people who follow him.

Discover the route maps and the locations of the scenes represented.

Fiumalbo (MO)

Where: Fiumalbo (Modena Apennines)
When: Sunday December 24th 2023 & Saturday January 6th 2024, from 7.30 pm to 11 pm
Admission: free

Fiumalbo, Presepe Vivente
Living nativity scene in Fiumalbo

This year, as every two years, the suggestive representation of the Nativity and ancient crafts along the village streets returns to the historic village of Fiumalbo.

The inhabitants of this delightful old village, one of the most beautiful in Italy, stage the classic Nativity scenes and ancient trades, with only the lighting of bonfires, candles and torches to make it all the more evocative.

Marzabotto (BO)

Where: Church of Panico, Marzabotto (BO)
When: Sunday December 24th 2023, from 6 pm to 11 pm
Admission: free

On the evening of Christmas Eve at the Church of Panico, those who attend the Living Crib are transported into a magical and evocative atmosphere: one can warm oneself by the fires, walk among the huts, taste local specialties and mulled wine.

Classe (RA)

Where: Casa dei Ragazzi, Via Romea Sud 224, Classe
When: Sunday December 24th 2023 from 7 pm to 11.30 pm and Friday January 6th 2024 from 4 pm to 6 pm
Admission: free

Presepe vivente di Classe (Ravenna) Ph. risveglioduemila
Living nativity scene in Classe (RA) Ph. risveglioduemila

Every year in Classe, a few kilometers from Ravenna, the reconstruction of Christmas night is held: the characters of the living nativity scene are interpreted by volunteers from the Classe community.

On Christmas Eve, at 11.30 pm, the costumed procession goes to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe for the midnight Holy Mass.

On the afternoon of the Epiphany, at 4.30 pm, the Three Wise Men arrive on horseback bringing gifts to Jesus and all the children.

Montefiore Conca (RN)

Where: Montefiore Conca (RN)
When: Tuesday December 26th 2023 from 5 pm to 7 pm, Saturday December 30th 2023 from 8.30 pm to 10 pm and Monday January 1st 2024 from 5 pm to 7 pm
Admission: free

Presepe vivente Montefiore Conca (RN)
Living nativity scene in Montefiore Conca (RN)

In the heart of one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Montefiore Conca, in the province of Rimini, the living nativity scene is back again this year, with the reconstruction of numerous scenes related to the Nativity on three dates not to be missed.

The old town center is transformed into a small Bethlehem, enveloped in an evocative atmosphere of religious significance.

Around the fortress come animals and shepherds, pipers, cultural representations and the reproduction of ancient crafts: a small and exciting open-air theatre, with many opportunities to fill your eyes, and your heart, with the joy of Christmas.


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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