A guide to live nativity scenes in Emilia Romagna


A guide to live nativity scenes in Emilia Romagna

Estimated reading time: 2 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.

Living Nativity Scene at the Castle of Rivalta

Where: Gazzola (Rivalta) | Castle di Rivalta (Piacenza)
When: Monday, 24th December 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.

The Nativity Scene of Reggio nell'Emilia

Where: Reggio nell’Emilia | Departure from Piazza San Prospero
When: Sunday, 23 December from 4pm
Admission: free

For five 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.

Live nativity in Fanano

Where: Fanano (Modena)
When: Monday, 24 December and Saturday, 5 January from 6pm
Admission: free
Living Nativity Scene - Fanano (Modena)
Over two-hundred interpreters, ancient crafts on display, historical villas open to the public. For four editions the artisans and citizens of Fanano, the highest village in the Frigano park, have been organising a live nativity scene, that in recent years has attracted a growing number of tourists.

Living Nativity Scene in Brisighella

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

A unique itinerant nativity scene traces the history of the birth of Jesus in one of the most picturesque 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.

Live Nativity Scene in Ravenna

Where: Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe (Ravenna)
When: Monday, 24 December from 7.30pm | Sunday, 30 and 6 January from 3pm
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.

Living Nativity Scene in Montefiore Conca

Where: Montefiore Conca (Rimini)
When: Wednesday, 26 December and Sunday, 30 December from 5.30pm to 7.30pm | Monday, 1 January from 5.30pm to 7.30pm (in case of bad weather conditions, one of the appointments will be postponed to Tuesday, 1 January at similar times)
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 Stronghold.

Living Nativity Scene in Montegiardino

Where: Montegiardino (Republic of San Marino)
When: Wednesday, 26 December and Sunday 6 January 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 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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