|A window display of presepio figures|
From early December, churches in Bergamo will have their presepio (nativity scene) on display.
The tradition of recreating the birth of Jesus with a presepio dates back to the 13th century in Italy. Many families will also have a presepio in their homes and you will see shops selling either a complete presepio -- or figures and materials so that you can make your own -- in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
An interesting trip from Bergamo is a visit to the Museo del Presepio at Brembo di Dalmine to the south of the city.
Founded 35 years ago, the museum in Via XXV Aprile has more than 800 different nativity scenes in a variety of shapes and sizes from all over the world on display.
There are many examples from the 17th century, which was considered a golden age for the production of the presepio in Italy .
There is also a library of books, stamps, pictures, postcards and photographs depicting the presepio.
The museum is open every day between December and January from 14.00 to 18.00 and on Sundays from 9.00 till 12.00 and from 14.00 till 19.00. During the other months it is open from Thursday to Sunday only.
The Museo del Presepio is situated not far from the A4 autostrada to Milan , which you should leave at the Casello Dalmine exit.
For information about buses to Brembo di Dalmine visit www.bergamotrasporti.it.
Look out for shops selling figures to enable you to make your own presepio when you get home.
One of the most famous places for production is Naples, where there is an entire street in the centro storico, Via San Gregorio Armeno, lined with shops that sell figures and props for the presepio all year round.
Producers have now even branched out into making figures of celebrities, sportsmen and politicians to place in the presepio along with the traditional characters, so don’t be surprised if you see a Barack Obama or a Silvio Berlusconi among the shepherds.
Presepio or presepe
You will see the words presepio and presepe both used to refer to a nativity scene in Italy. The words both literally mean ‘crib’.