The Christmas Presepio (by Nathan Louis)

The Presepio comes from the Latin word meaning to enclose and today it means manger, a Christmas nativity scene.

Presepi come in all different sizes.

There is the common one of just Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and the kings.

Then there is a slightly more complicated one with more figures in which you may see the inhabitants of Bethlehem.

And then there is one you will see very very rarely that includes the whole town : the market

the travelling hair dresser

the fisherman

the dancers

the marionette show

and strangely enough there are even Christian monks and priests (with red umbrellas.)

There are a couple of curious things including a pasta seller (pasta did not exist at that time),

the clothes are all out of date (the costumes are the styles of about 200 years ago instead of 2012 years ago), there is mozzarella and ricotta for sale (they did not exist in Bethlehem at that period).

The architecture looks like Italian farm houses.  And maybe you will spot the Roman arches, aqueducts and columns, in ruin, when at that time the Romans were in one of their most powerful periods, under the mighty Augustus Caeser.

You do not have to be even a little bit religious to like this kind of presepio as what it shows is a day of a big celebration.

Most Italians without their presepio big or small cannot celebrate Christmas.

And neither can I.

Nathan Louis, author and photographer


First visit to Italy

This is me with a sheepdog on the transhumance in the Abruzzo.

I am Nathan and this is my children’s blog.  I’m seven heading for eight.

If an American child arrived in Italy, he wouldn’t know first what to do.  In Rome, I would recommend a day at the Colosseum or a day at the children’s museum.  Another nice place to be is Ostia Antica, right outside of Rome, where we go for picnics.  It is the ancient harbor of Rome but is not anymore because the sea is now farther away.

But if you’re in the Abruzzo you would start with following the sheep on a transhumance.

Or if you are in Trentino-Alto Adige you start with an apple strudel.

If you are in Puglia you will need a sack of taralli to eat.

But if you want to see Lucca, stay in a beautiful villa.

If you are on the Amalfi Coast, a good day at the sea would be nice and have a lovely fish to eat for dinner.

And if you are in Venice have a trip in a gondola.

If you are in Cerveteri, you can visit the Etruscan tombs.

One of the best places to stay is in Castelluccio because less than 20 people live full-time in the town.  One of the best foods for meat eaters are sausages and for vegetarians there are lentil soups.  You can walk in the fields where they grow.  In the summer there are wild beautiful flowers.

If you go out to dinner, I would recommend the Cortile — that’s our neighborhood restaurant.  Please don’t go to McDonald’s because all they have is junk.  Please don’t chew gum because too many people spit it out on the sidewalk.

Italy is fantastic and I hope you enjoy it.