The lead up to Christmas is reassuringly religious in Tuscany as the region’s cities, towns and villages embellish their streets with artistic renderings of the nativity scene. Known as presepi, communities spend inordinate amounts of time designing and making these seasonal cribs, hallmarks of their devoutness to religion, artistry and love of Christmas.
Here’s our guide to Tuscany’s top nativity scenes.
Cerreto Guidi celebrates the festive season with a 22-metre-long nativity scene entirely crocheted by hand. It took two years to make by 50 crocheters from all over Italy who “met” on the Internet. Also worth seeing: the bell-tower crib surrounding the whole of the base of the church of San Leonardo bell-tower. Until January 8.
Castelfiorentino bursts with 70+ cribs lining the old town centre. The highlights? There’s a rather bizarre scene powered by three mountain bikes as a semi-tribute to cyclist Gino Bartali’s family from the town. There’s also a weather-oriented nativity scene furbished with mist in the morning, snow during the day and the odd sudden storm. Until January 8.
The town near Vinci is inspired by local lad Leonardo in its mechanized crib that takes up an entire hill, all outside and built in masonry. The attention to detail is maniacal. Until January 8.
The old town centre of Pescia vaunts more than 30 scenes, but this year’s highlight is the first nativity procession by the river on December 18, 2016 and January 6, 2017. Expect medieval recipes at the local eateries and real-life shepherds tending to their flocks. Until January 8.
As a mark of remembrance of the Central Italy earthquake in August 2016, Pontassieve is holding its annual nativity play in a tent amid rubble and ruins. On December 17 and 18, at 4pm, head to piazza Boetani to watch the advent action and donate to the earthquake victims.
San Casciano Val di Pesa
San Casciano Val di Pesa’s nativity scene is a town in miniature with its piazza, church, shops and marketplace, all set in a tumbledown house. See the entire diurnal range, from day to night, with a shooting star, even snow and moving figures. Until January 8.
San Miniato boasts two kilometres of nativity scenes all perched along the town’s ridge. Enjoy the advent calendar scene (until January 15) and the collective crib made by 40 artists arranged on the windows of the old seminary. Every day a new artwork is added, appearing in its full glory on Christmas Day.