You might have caught a glimpse of the group of costumed characters with bleating lambs on a corny RAI-TV musical show a few nights before Christmas.
|Claudio the giornalaio played the part of governor|
Over the past quarter century, this live Christmas scene has become a tradition and part of the town’s folklore. Everyone has at least one family member who has played a part in the Christmas story.
Giacomo, my computer guy, was baby Jesus during the first edition and Paolo, who played a Cardinal last year has moved up to become San Giuseppe this year.
Young girls work their way up from “extras” in the market scene to washer women with only a few lucky ones selected at age 16-17 to play the part of Madonna-of-the-year.
|Paola heads the group at the bakery|
For city dwellers, a trip to view one of these country Presepi Viventi, is an excellent antidote to commercialism which often blights the holidays.
Foreign visitors delight in this plunge into the past for it satisfies the romantic vision of Italian lifestyle.
Local people are pleasantly surprised as they see the well preserved medieval quarters of their town, for the first time, in a different light.
|Susanna and Lucilla as 18th century ladies|
|gardens of Palazzo Pieri Piatti are a backdrop to the Nativity scene|
The audience participates in the Christmas story as they walk through the different scenes some designed like Roessler Franz paintings: the wash-house, the market, artisan’s workshops, the osteria, the schoolhouse.
|Giulia was Madonna a few years ago|
|Mary and Joseph , 2012 in church of S. Maria del Riscatto|
Here shepherds prepare ricotta over an open fire and offer children a chance to pat the lambs and taste a slice of bruschetta doused with the areas’s famous extra virgin olive oil.
By retelling the Christmas story using the townspeople as actors, plus lights and music, the organizers have created an historical “Sound and Light” show that is a continuation of those miracle and mystery plays used to explain the Bible in medieval times.
For a full list of the Christmas presepi viventi in the area check the Provincia's website
Many thanks to Dietmeyer Frensemeyer for his photos of the medieval vicoli di Vetralla, where the presepe is held.
N:B: December 2013 Last Minute announcement by Vetralla's Pro Loco announced that the Presepe Vivente, after 27 successful years, has come to an end here in Vetralla. I can recommend that in nearby Tarquinia for the 2013 season.