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

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The magic of Nativity scenes in Bologna

Updated on 04 December 2023 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.

Discover where to find the most fascinating nativity scenes in and around Bologna

Bologna city

Starting from the historical centre, from 18 December at 17 will be set up Paolo Gualandi Nativity Scene in Palazzo d'Accursio courtyard; then, il will reach the Basilica of San Petronio inside the Chapel of San Lorenzo, with the life-size polychrome terracotta nativity scene by Luigi Enzo Mattei, the 77th sculptor of the Basilica since its foundation. Opening hours: 9 am-12.45 pm and 2.30 pm-5.40 pm.

We continue to 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. We reach the Basilica of San Francesco, in the rear cloister, where a large and very suggestive motorised nativity scene is set up, following the opening dates of the Franciscan Christmas market: from the last Sunday of November to 6 January 2024.

Do not miss the exhibition Giovanni Putti's exhibition dedicated to the traditional nativity scene at the Davia Bargellini Museum, from 8 December 2023 to 14 January 2024, 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 7 December to 7 January 2024 from 9 am to midday and from 3 pm to 7 pm.

The Church of the Celestines, in the square of the same name, houses various artefacts, as well as cribs, all handmade, inviting visitors to discover the church, often forgotten on conventional tourist tours. Open from 12 November to 24 December 2023 daily 10am-1.30pm; 3.30pm-7pm, after 8 December open 10am-7pm.

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 December 8 to January 6 gennaio 2024 after sunset, when the comet lights up. 

And in Murri district, don't miss the Crib in Via Parisio n. 50: the work of a passionate lady who opens the doors of her private courtyard to welcome the curious and visitors among water games, statuettes, trains and Christmas trees every day, from 1 December, 11am-1pm, 3pm-7pm until mid-February 2024New this year: fishing with a gift to remember the visit!

In the province of Bologna

In Baricella, Mr. Mirko Grimandi's passion has taken shape in a fascinating 8x3-metre nativity scene that invites peace, reflection and the rediscovery of old traditions, with not a few references to the land of Bologna. It can be visited at the Oratory of the B.V. Maria Assunta in Cornionolo, in San Gabriele di Baricella, from 4 December to 9 February, h 6-22.

In Sant'Apollinare Church in San Giovanni in Persiceto from 8 December 2023 to 7 January 2024, the crib organised by Italian Association of Friends of the Crib opens on Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 4 to 7 p.m.

In the Imola area, Wolfango's Nativity Scenes arrive in Medicina: thirty of the most important of the two hundred statues on display at the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Via Cavallotti, open Friday 3-7 pm, Saturday 10 am-1 pm and 2-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-1 pm and 2-6 pm with free admission. 

Certainly worth a visit is the Crib of Cathedral, entirely run by volunteers, in Piazza Caduti per la Libertà in Imola, and Cribs Exhibition at the San Giacomo Oratory in Imola from 9 December to 6 January: tue, thu 10am-12pm; sat, sun and bank holidays 10am-12pm; 4pm-7pm.

In the Bolognese Apennines, at Castel d'Aiano, the crib exhibition with the traditional mechanical nativity scene is on display on 8 December. In Rocca Pitigliana, a locality of Gaggio Montano, twenty handcrafted naticity scenes can be visited in a private property, including a life-size one set up in an old renovated wash-house of 15 square metres. Visiting hours: weekdays 2pm-8pm, holidays 12pm-8pm.

Luci e albero di Natale, 2019 ©Pietrobondi

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