Presepe, via Azzurra 10, Bologna. Ph. Antonio Salvatore

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The magic of Nativity scenes in Bologna

Posted on 03 December 2021 From Bologna Welcome

In Bologna, the art of nativity scenes is ancient and deeply-rooted, dating back to the thirteenth century; the sculptures, usually made of wood, terracotta and papier-mâché, are accurate and include clothing, unlike other traditions. In this magical period, statuettes, animals and scale reproductions of typical Bolognese activities come to life and contribute to livening up the most varied craft constructions.

Let's discover them all!


Starting from the historical centre, we start from the Basilica of Santo Stefano where the Adoration of the Magi, the oldest nativity scene in the world and the largest in Italy, is preserved, and continue to the Adoration of the Magi and the Shepherds in the Church of San Procolo. Do not miss the exhibition "An exemplary nativity scene by Pietro Righi (Bologna, 1772-1839)" from 14 December 2022 to 15 January 2023 at the Davia Bargellini Museum and the collection of Bolognese nativity figurines in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna.


In the monumental loggia of the Church of San Giovanni in Monte, visitors will be able to visit the XXVIII Rassegna del Presepio, which, as per tradition, will be set up in Via Santo Stefano 27 from 10 December to 8 January 2023 from 9 am to midday and from 3 pm to 7 pm.

In addition, exceptionally for the Christmas period, from 3 December 2022 to 14 January 2023Lucio Dalla's House will welcome visitors with a special set-up dedicated to Marcello Aversa's nativity scenes. A tribute to the great love Lucio Dalla had for Christmas and in memory of the special bond the singer-songwriter had with the city of Sorrento and the artist himself.


The Basilica of San Petronio displays monumental nativity scene by Donato Mazzotta from 24 December 2022 to22 January 2023, while the Basilica of San Domenico houses the nativity scenes by Bartolomeo Cesi and Alfonso Lombardi. The monochrome terracotta of the Presepio della Mistica Maternità by Thea Farinelli (open all year round, 8.30 am - 12 noon and 3 pm - 7 pm), is on display in the Corpus Domini Church, whereas the churches of San Giacomo Maggiore, in Via Zamboni, and Santa Maria della Pioggia feature splendid wooden works in turn, to be admired together with several other masterpieces by Ludovico Carracci adorning the latter.

A special event takes place every year, in Via Azzurra 10, the Gran Presepe di Via Azzurra. Set up in the courtyard of a private home and visible only from the outside, with lights, music and animation, the crib is a source of inimitable joy for young and old alike. The nativity scene is on display from 1 December 2022 to 6 January 2023 after sunset, when the comet lights up. In the Murri district don't miss the Crib in Via Parisio 50. The work of a passionate lady, who opens the doors of her private courtyard to welcome the curious and visitors, the scene is entirely handmade and available for viewing every day from 11am to 1pm and from 3pm to 7pm. 

Outside Bologna, the crib tradition is just as heartfelt and popular. 

In Monte San Pietro, you can admire the Nativity Cribs of San Lorenzo in the hills, also with guided tours by appointment; in Alto Reno Terme, from 8 December to 6 January, do not miss the nativity scenes in the rooms of the Manservisi Castle, for info Pro Loco 3888824980, or drop by Vidiciatico to admire the life-size wooden nativity scene.

You have until the end of the Christmas festivities!


Still in the Apennines, in the municipality of Castel d'Aiano, from 8 December to 8 January 2023 from 10-12 am and 2-7 pm, more than 100 cribs of different sizes await you throughout the town, telling of the extraordinary imagination of its inhabitants. A map will help you find them all! (Pro loco 333 3000748). On Christmas Eve, admire the living nativity scene in Pietracolora starting at 7.30 pm (with a repeat performance on 6 January 2023). 

In the Imola area, from 8 December 2022 until the Epiphany Dozza is in festivity: on the windowsills and thresholds of painted houses, nativity scenes are lit up. Certainly worth a visit is the Crib of Imola Cathedral, entirely run by volunteers, in Piazza Caduti per la Libertà.

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