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Ancient and modern traditions: the timeless nativity scenes of the Sorrento peninsula

One of the best times to visit the Sorrento peninsula is Christmas and New Year, as this is an area of Italy where ancient traditions and deep-seated spirituality live in a close embrace, even today. The core message of Christmas – the Nativity – is lived out with aplomb by the local communities, from Advent through to Epiphany.

Each town, from Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento to the smallest villages, erect original nativity scenes every year with an often maniacal attention to detail. Whether they’re made from papier-mâché or sand, dug out of the rock or carried through the streets, each town is adorned with its own nativity scene, from early December to around January 10th.


Stroll past the nativity scenes of Sorrento

A wander around Sorrento during the Christmas season is a joy for the senses, especially if you love nativity scenes. As is tradition throughout Campania, classic scenes that use the techniques of the Neapolitan crib schools of the 18th-century have been scrupulously passed down.

The most traditional scenes are housed in the beautiful Sorrento Cathedral and Basilica of Sant’Antonio. The most scenic scene is set up, in Sorrento style, along Via San Cesareo, in Sedil Dominova. This example is quite unique: the background against which the biblical characters stand out is a noble seat, indeed the only noble seat still intact in the entire province of Naples. The Sorrento Mutual Aid Society, hosted by Sedil Dominova, directed by Maestro Carmine Schifano, comes up with new, surprising creations every year. In 2000 the crib was set inside a reproduction of the Colosseum, while in 2002 the cave of Nazareth was transplanted to the Sorrento of the 1800s.

Massa Lubrense: the olive tree Nativity

The area of Massa Lubrense, home to our 4-star hotel, is known throughout Campania for its novel nativity scene. For the last 25 years, the hamlet of Marciano in Massa Lubrense has seen an especially unusual Nativity. Unusual for its fine craftsmanship, but particularly unusual for its setting: an ancient olive tree. An old-age pensioner, who is devoted to tradition, works for about a month every year to creating towers, houses, bridges and all the necessary trappings of an atmospheric and original nativity scene.

Each year he goes through the painstaking work of putting everything in the right place within the woody embrace of this highly symbolic tree. The end result is surprisingly charming, in keeping with the spiritual traditions of the Nativity.

Staying on the Sorrento Peninsula over Christmas, between December and January, is well worth it. For its incredible nativity scenes, and a thousand other reasons ...

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