Christmas cribs and Nativity scenes in Rome

Rome hosts a variety of Christmas cribs and Nativity scenes, from traditional to unconventional, during the festive season each year.

100 Presepi

The 2018 edition of 100 Presepi, Rome's international nativity crib exhibition, has moved to Via della Conciliazione in the Vatican after 42 years at its former location in Piazza del Popolo. 100 Presepi is now hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation in a move described as "important and prestigious" by Mariacarla Menaglia, the daughter of the late Manlio Menaglia who established the annual exhibition in 1976. Each year 100 Presepi hosts some 150 Nativity scenes from Italy and more than 40 other countries. In addition to contemporary reproductions of traditional 18th-century Neapolitan and Sicilian cribs, and 19th-century Roman mangers, there are modern versions made from wood, papier-mâché and terracotta, as well as unconventional materials such as sand, rice and metal. The 43rd edition of 100 Presepi is being held at Sala S. Pio X on Via della Conciliazione until 13 January. 


Vatican Nativity scene

This year the Vatican's giant Nativity scene at St Peter's Square was built using 720 tons of compacted sand from Jesolo near Venice. Professional sand artist Rich Varano was the artistic director of the project which measures 5.5m high and 16m wide and is protected with an overhead canopy. Varano spent two weeks constructing the life-size scene, accompanied by three sand sculptors from the Czech Republic, Holland and Russia. Alongside the Nativity scene is the Vatican's Christmas tree, a 23m-high red fir, following a tradition begun by Pope St John Paul II in 1982. The Nativity scene and Christmas tree can be visited in St Peter's Square until 7 January.


Living Nativity at Porta Asinaria

There is a presepe vivente, with real people, at Porta Asinaria, in Piazza di Porta S. Giovanni, beside the basilica. The living Nativity scene can be visited every afternoon from 16.00-20.00 from 23 December to 13 January. Highlights include the arrival of an expectant Mary with camel on 23 December, with Baby Jesus making an early appearance on 24 December, while the Magi are expected on 6 January in time for the Epiphany, or the Feast of The Three Kings. The initiative, which involves 200 volunteers taking turns, is undertaken by the parishioners of S. Giulio, in Monteverde, to help raise funds to repair their church's roof. There is no entry fee but visitors are invited to make a donation.


S. Maria in Via

A traditional-style crib can be found each year in the church of S. Maria in Via off Largo Chigi, in the city centre, which for the last six decades has housed the work of Italian members of the global crib-building association Amici del Presepio.


Street cleaner's crib 

A more unusual manger scene can be found near St Peter’s on Via dei Cavalleggeri 5. The street cleaner’s crib, owned and cared for by Rome’s rubbish collection company AMA, has a floor containing over 1,400 different stones brought by pilgrims from all over the world. The presepe dei netturbini can be visited for free each day from 8 December until 6 January. Mon-Sat 09.00-12.30 / 13.30-18.00, Sun 09.00-11.30.