Words by Michelle Fabio

The presepi, or Nativity scenes, of Naples are probably the most famous in the world, and the markets along Via San Gregorio Armeno give us the opportunity to build our own from the straw up. From 8 December, the Immaculate Conception, to 6 January, the Epiphany, the historic centre of Naples is alive with small statues and figurines just waiting to become part of your personal presepio.

Nativity scenes have been a Christmastime staple in Italy since 1223 when artist Giovanni Vellito created the first one on the request of St. Francis of Assisi. Now the streets of Napoli have hundreds of them, each with a unique presentation. 

Displays range from the traditional with only the major characters like the Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wisemen to the more modern with figures like football stars, television personalities, and politicians--even last year's United States Presidential candidates were fair game with likenesses of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani for sale.

The Santa Chiara complex in Piazza del Gesù is at the heart of the Nativity scene Christmas markets; other great places to see presepi are the San Martino Museum and the churches of Santa Maria in Portico, Gesù Vecchio, and San Nicola alla Carità. The entire area is worth visiting as the historic centre of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the following videos, you can see some of the markets as well as how to make your own presepio:

Yet, don't miss:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7A_-8Dr9Yk

Will you be making a presepio this year?