If you areplanning a trip to Liguria during Christmas, I recommend adding to yourwish list a visit to the town of Manarola and its nativity scene.
Manarola is one of the towns known as Cinque Terre.
I have already written an article about Cinque Terre, but it is good to make a small refresh.
Cinque Terre are 5 ancient fishing villages wedged between the indented coastline of Liguria and the sea. They are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Their unique atmosphere is due to the isolated position that protected them from modernity, keeping them exactly as they were in the past.
Thanks to their colorful buildings, the narrow and steep streets and the spectacular sea views these villages look like movie sets.
The uniqueness is so appreciated worldwide that in 1997 Cinque Terre were included by UNESCO in the World Heritage list.
Manarola is the second village of Cinque Terre, leaving from La Spezia.
The town has grown around the main street, from which narrow stone-paved alleys reach the houses and gardens perched on the promontory.
One of its most peculiar elements is the white pyramid that rises above the roofs. It’s not a religious or Masonic symbol, but a trigonometric signal for sailors.
In Manarola, as in the other villages of Cinque Terre, you can enjoy beautiful sea views. I think the most popular place in town is the panoramic square at the end of Via Belvedere.
Cinque Terreare particularly visited during the summer, since it’s the best season to enjoythe seaside life and the beautiful hiking trails, such as the famous Viadell’Amore. But these towns can be really suggestive even in winter.Christmas makes everything more magical, indeed!
This is particularly natavity scene
Nativity scenes are a popular Christmas tradition in Italy.
We call them ‘presepi’ and we reproduce them almost everywhere: at homes, churches, even under the sea! We use every kind of material, techniques or style, taking advantage of our creativity.
Mr. Mario Andreoli, an employee of the Italian railways, has taken this tradition to another level.
Every year, since 1976, he sets up a unique nativity scene on a hill slope above Manarola,
He designs, assembles and places nearly 300 life-size light shapes depicting Mary, baby Jesus, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, but also shepherds, peasants, angels, fishermen and more.
This unique nativity scene is made of recycled materials and needs thousands of light bulbs and electric cables, but it is an eco friendly installation, powered by a photovoltaic system.
The 4000 square meters of steep ground on which it is set up are not easy to reach. However, the final result is worth the strain.
First of all, it is reported to be the biggest light nativity scene in the world. Then, the lighting ceremony is a special event both for the local community and tourists. It usually takes place on December 8th and Mr. Andreoli himself presses the button that turns on the lights.
On the same day, Manarola hosts a religious torchlight procession, a small Christmas market and a great fireworks show above the sea. It’s a rich day, in which this quiet village is filled with life, colors and music.
In my opinion, Christmas has the power to enhance the beauty of this lovely town.
If you can’t attend the lighting ceremony, don’t worry, this year the nativity scene of Manarola will be lit every evening, until January 27th, 2019.
You can have one of the best views walking along the path between Manarola and Riomaggiore. There are 3 small observation areas, at different levels. To reach them you have to climb for hundreds of steps, so wear appropriate shoes and take a torch with you, as the trail is not lit during the night. I suggest you to find someone who knows the trail and can bring you safely to the right spots, such as a local guide.
Otherwise, the nativity scene can be easily seen also from the central square of Manarola.
But the most esclusive observation point is…from the sea!
Can you immagine something more suggestive than seeing the lights of the nativity scene perched on the promontory of Manarola from a boat that gently slips on the water, surrounded by the night?
The panoramicroad from La Spezia leads to a small paid parking just outside the town.You must leave your car there, since Manarola, like the other villages ofCinque Terre, is closed to traffic. Unfortunately, the parking lot gets full quickly. For these reasons, the car is not the best choice to reachManarola.
Instead, by train is way simpler. There are frequent regional trains that lead to theCinque Terre stations, especially from the city of La Spezia.
Manarola andits nativity scene are just one of the various enjoyable things to see in Liguriaduring Christmas. Many are the traditions and the events linked to this special period of the year.