Nativity scenes in Naples are a thing of legend, and for centuries they have been as much part of Neapolitan holiday tradition as customary dishes, decorations and festivities.
These detailed scenes are labor-intensive, with people devoting weeks of planning and research to choose the right materials and map out the perfect scene.
Some create entire towns, alleys, mountains, waterfalls, little shops and more. Special attention is also paid to creating the right lighting and starry nights to create an even more magical atmosphere. But where do people find all the materials they need to make these special scenes? Cork is used for mountains, moss for the meadows, and other materials for starry skies, lights and shepherds.
Via San Gregorio Armeno, a must-see street in the center of Naples that connects Via dei Tribunali and Spaccanapoli, is the place to go for those with a passion for nativity scenes. From November through the holidays, this street is full of streams of people who are searching for that special piece for their nativity scene. This is a ritual that few Neapolitans shy away from, and increasing numbers of tourists have joined in over recent years, enchanted by the narrow streets of the historic center of Naples and these local traditions.
And just a word to the wise for those wanting to join in on the tradition this year: be sure to avoid the more dubious stalls selling poor-quality items. It’s a far better idea to shop in stores featuring artistically and symbolically valuable pieces – including those by Ulderico Pinfildi, a sculptor and nativity scene artist – which embody craftsmanship, good taste and contemporary style.