The Nativity Scene in Manarola (Presepe)
This year the Nativity scene will take place from December 8, 2017 to January 28, 2018.
Since ancient times, Italians have carried on the tradition of preparing Christmas scenes recalling the birth of the Child Jesus. These days a permanent Nativity scene is created, a composition of statuettes with an abundance of decorations and Christmas lights. In Italy this religious and cultural event is called the Presepe.
In the villages of the Cinque Terre the most fascinating and admired Presepe is the one in Manarola. The official opening of the Christmas Presepe usually takes place on the day of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December (sometimes the opening is moved to 7 December if the 8th falls on a Monday). The Christmas market takes place in Manarola from early morning. Then towards evening, around 5.30 pm, there are the fireworks and the lights of the Presepe are turned on.
Why the 8th of December? Because it is a public holiday in Italy and it has become a tradition in the Italian cities to put up Christmas trees and other decoration on this particular day, with the exception of Milan, where the Christmas preparations take place on 7th December, the feast day of Sant'Ambrogio, the patron saint of the city.
Where is the best place to view the Presepe?
You can see the Presepe from the main square of Manarola, but the best and most beautiful view (which is immortalized in photographs) is from the Manarola - Riomaggiore trail (via Beccara), which crosses the top of the hill starting from the main square of the village. There are three small viewing areas here, located at different levels. You will need to climb 170, 250 or 320 steps to get to them. The most astonishing view of the Presepe opens from the highest area (320 steps). But to reach it you need not only your forces, but also a torch because there is no lighting on the trail in the evening.
All the squares and the paths are indicated on the map.
Opening hours of the Presepe
If you are not in Manarola on 8th December, don’t worry: this Christmas exhibition remains open until at least the end of January (or even up to the beginning of February). There are no further festive fireworks, but the resplendent lights of the Nativity Scene last a couple of months and are turned on each evening 15 minutes after sunset (around 5.00-5.40 pm).This year the Nativity scene will take place from December 8, 2017 to January 28, 2018.
The Presepe in Manarola has been open in the past three years:
December 8, 2016 - January 29, 2017.
December 8, 2015 - January 31, 2016.
December 7, 2014 - February 1, 2015.
The history of the Presepe in Manarola
The first Presepe in Manarola made its appearance in 2007 thanks to thirty years of effort by local railway worker Mario Andreoli, who set up the Nativity scene over the entire hill. The scene is made up of thousands of bulbs and electric cables, with the figures of Mary, the Child Jesus, and Joseph, the shepherds, the pagans, the angels, the stars and various animals for a total of more than 300 statues. The exhibition of the Presepe has grown year by year, and today works with ecologically clean energy.