Christmastime in Rome

The Nativity Scene

There’s no place like Rome for a nativity scene, called in Italian a presepio or presepe. Both terms are correct, according to the Accademia della Crusca, the research institute and authority on matters of the Italian language. (Take that, France. Italy has one, too.)


There’s even an annual exhibit here of nativity scenes from around the world, this year transferred from its usual spot at the Piazza del Popolo and called “100 Presepi in Vaticano.” I tried to see it, but the line went around the corner and my overnight stop in Rome left me little time.

However, a lot of churches announce with a sign out front that they have a presepio within, so I did manage to see a few. And, boy, they’re not messing around. These are no little mangers with the odd sheep or dog, heap of straw, and a few humble folk kneeling around a baby. (In the States, the humble folk sometimes are made all the more humble by the fact that paint is chipping off their ears.) Here, you often get a whole Bethlehem town tableau.



This next one’s complete with a creepy voiceover of the Hail Mary played on a loop. (Don’t miss it. Hit the arrow.)



Still, my favorite is this one I saw a few years ago in a bakery in Sicily, carved out of bread (and next to the most enormous cannoli I’ve ever seen).


On the more profane side...

Rome is still in full Christmas regalia.

Among the characters on the Via dei Condotti, I spotted one Scooby Doo and tought I taw...

I wonder if the city changes its street decoration each year. The last time I was here at Christmastime, which was several years ago now, the prevailing shape was the medusa, the Italian word for those tentacled jellyfish which, presumably, take their name from the Ovidian myth.


the medusa motif

Via Babuino near the Spanish Steps, lit up with a touch of "green"...


Near the pantheon...



At and around Piazza Navona...


Meanwhile, on the Corso...Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven, and chestnuts roasting.

{Earlier, Another Brick in the Wall played over speakers for shoppers in Campo Marzio. Not altogether festive, but Pink Floyd (together with Joe Cocker) has long been dear to the Italian heart.}






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