An itinerary along the coast in Romagna to enjoy all the magic of Christmas, thanks to nativity scenes, the symbol of perseverance and tenderness, of birth and hope.
Small or large, simple or more elaborate, nativity scenes are a key feature of our culture and art, but above all, a sign of faith.
An itinerary on sand and sea, to discover the manger scenes that are created, year after year, based on new themes and ideas: these are always different, but always spectacular. They are usually inaugurated on 8th December and can be visited until mid-January, with some even on display until the end of the month.
Cloaked in the magic of the holidays, each year the promenade and canal harbour area host magnificent sculptures displayed on an area covering 700-900 m².
Tonnes of sand are shaped with water to create these sculptures, with artists coming here from all over Europe. Shepherds, artisans, merchants and the Three Wise Men stand between sumptuous buildings and unique scenery. Walking around the sculptures, side by side with the key figures of the Nativity, is a thrilling experience.
On closing day, from 5:00 pm onwards, traditional destruction of the sand pieces begins, to which all children are invited to come along and become “wreckers” for a day.
The surrounding area hosts a colourful and lively crafts market, with stalls selling handmade Christmas items and refreshments.
The splendid sculptures of this Sand Nativity Scene, which can usually be visited until mid-January, pay homage to the seafaring origins of Torre Pedrera, recreating the manger scene around fishing activities. Alongside the nativity scene, Christmas markets bring the beach to life.
If you happen to be on the Riviera of Rimini on the morning of New Year’s Day, right alongside the manger scenes, don’t forget to take a dip in the sea on 1st January: intrepid swimmers tackle the cold temperatures of the water for a truly bracing swim.
With its life-sized statues, the Sand Nativity Scene in Bellaria Igea Marina represents scenes of daily life, shepherds and farmers, with a city built on the traces of history, with small streets, inns, palaces and religious buildings in the background.
The Ice Nativity Scene in Piazza Don Minzoni, in the heart of Bellaria, is quite unique: the largest in Italy of its kind, it is housed in a box refrigerated at a constant temperature of -12°C. It takes about 30 days’ work to complete, with sculptors, using more than 30 blocks of ice.
The lights of the Seafaring Nativity Scene and the Christmas tree in Cesenatico are usually turned on the first Sunday in December and stay up until the middle of January.
The Seafaring Nativity Scene is a manger scene floating on the water, and is hosted by boats that are the ancient prototypes of the typical boats of the upper and middle Adriatic and are part of the floating section of the Seafaring Museum (Museo della Marineria).
This truly unique nativity scene is not only beautiful because of its setting - Leonardo da Vinci’s fascinating canal harbour - but also because of the fusion of the key elements and features of the nativity with seafaring traditions.
We recommend visiting at sunset, when it is at its most fascinating, and staying until dark. The lights of the boats shine in the pink sky and their colours reflect in the water in a scene that will take your breath away.
The Salt Nativity Scene in Cervia, which can usually be visited from a few days before Christmas to the Epiphany, is located inside MUSA - Salt Museum, in the “Tower” Salt Warehouse: a site that houses a very important piece of Cervia’s history.
The sculptures that make up the Salt Nativity Scene were created in 1992 by Agostino Finchi, a salter whose passion and skill came together to make more than 15 figures that make up the traditional nativity. The small statues, which are all between 10 cm and 40 cm tall, are made using a rather complex artisan technique - the guided crystallization of salt - a procedure that requires daily care and attention.
Also, in Cervia, on the canal harbour in front of the Salt Warehouses, usually from early December to early January, visitors will also find the Nativity Scene on the Water, set up on an old “burchiella” - the typical flat-bottomed iron boat used by salters to transport salt. The statues, which are life-sized, are in fiberglass and are covered entirely in Cervia salt.
Unlike the others, this artistic nativity is in the heart of the town centre. It was designed by the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera to mark the centenary of Milano Marittima and features charming multisensorial entertainment, creatively elaborated with a rich play on colours, lights and music that narrates, in an emotional and evocative manner, the Nativity by re-elaborating the works of Giotto and his peers.
The images are projected into a “frame” on the facade of the Church of Stella Maris to narrate key moments of the nativity, from the Annunciation, to the Adoration of the Three Kings.
Christmas in Comacchio shines brightly: in the old town centre the Christmas trees soar out of the water along Maggiore Canal, whilst the nativity scenes are hosted under the town’s historic bridges.
In turn, each bridge hosts a nativity scene and each of these features different characteristics.
There’s one that reflects the traditional customs of Comacchio using the valley’s typical materials - such as reeds, marsh grasses, nets and fishing tackle - and one made using material collected along the coast that was left behind by the tides.
One is located on some of the marshes’ typical boats and uses almost life-size statues, and another is set up in the centre of the typical local boat used to save bathers in distress from the sea – the “moscone” or small rowing catamaran. And there’s yet another one on the Comacina, the traditional boat used locally to transport light materials.
We shouldn’t forget the nativity dedicated to local fishermen and the figure of Fiocinino.
Finally, the Manifattura dei Marinati (local history museum) houses a nativity scene made by hand using recycled wood that shows a slice of life in Comacchio in the early 20th century.