San Gregorio Armeno: Street of the nativity scene makers


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"Do you like it or the nativity scene?"
- Eduardo de Filippo

If you Google “things to do in Naples” or “what to visit in Naples”, we can assure that San Gregorio Armeno (aka via San Liguoro or Strada Nostriana) will pop up on the first page

The alley lies in the heart of Naples between via Dei Tribunali and Spaccanapoli. The iconic street has become a tourist hub in the Neapolitan capital. Nicknamed “the nativity alley,” it keeps Italian Christmas traditions and festivities alive all year round.

Even if you visit Naples in summer, when the winter holidays are nothing but a distant memory, you can still visit the picturesque alley to witness true Christmas magic. Here you’ll find Italian artisans hunched over their workshop tables, crafting cork nativity scenes and terracotta shepherds.

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Visiting Naples: How to Reach San Gregorio Armeno?

San Gregorio Armeno is tucked away like a pearl between three Decumani in the city. You can reach it on foot when you visit the historic center. You should get off at the Toledo stop if you’re taking a metro.

Stop at the Church of San Gregorio Armeno

Your visit to nativity alley will be incomplete without a trip to the Monastery of San Gregorio Armeno (named after the bishop of Armenia). The church stands on the remains of the temple of Goddess Ceres Attica. It was built in the eighth century by nuns affiliated with the order of San Basilio after they fled from the chaos in Constantinople. The building features intricate embellishments, paintings, and carvings representing the Neapolitan Baroque period. A hidden gem in the streets of Naples.

Meet the Italian Artisans at San Gregorio Armen

Walking down the nativity street is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you should add to your itinerary under “things to do in Naples.”

Passionate and dutiful locals continue the ancient tradition of crafting handmade nativity figurines. Generations of Italian artisans have worked in this narrow alleyway to create handmade “presepio” or statuettes. Each nativity scene master is well-versed on the subject.

They can tell you the symbolic meaning of the characters they create. Their detailed descriptions and craftsmanship are a true reflection of Italian Christmas traditions.

The Iconic Characters of San Gregorio

Today, the nativity scene blurs the lines between sacred and secular depictions. Each figurine is more beautiful than the first with an assorted collection of traditional nativity characters (like Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and shepherds) and nods to worldly figures (like the Pope, Maradona, Pino Daniele, Fedez, and Ferragni) making an appearance.

You might spot miniatures of world-famous politicians, athletes, and celebrities within the scene as you take a closer look at the decorative displays.

As you walk past the display, you might feel like you are judging a competition as each Italian artisan attempts to stand out. The attention to detail leaves you bewitched as they capture the soul of each character.

Each figurine represents something. For example, the hunter symbolizes death while the fishermen represent life, and the washerwoman highlights the purity of Madonna.

A crowd-favorite is a sleeping shepherd, Benino.

According to legend, the surreal nativity scene is nothing more than the manifestation of his dream. That means it will vanish into thin air once he wakes, and so we must tread softly as we go past the sleeping shepherd to ensure that the miniature world continues to exist.

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Arianna and Maria Take You on a Tour

Our content creator is accompanied by her friend and model Maria.

“It’s true that I’m a Neapolitan.
Yet, I can’t help but get enamored by the beauty of Naples.
Walking around the city makes me emotional,
as if I was visiting it for the first time,
every time I come here.”

The streets of the center are usually crowded with tourists and locals. However, a peaceful silence surrounded the streets today. The girls walk happily, exchanging amused looks as they notice local women looking from windows at the passing tourists.

Aside from clothes and household knick-knacks, you can spot the Neapolitan flag and flags of Maradona (the undisputed idol of Naples) adorning balconies. Someone still has Christmas lights displayed… It’s a treat for the eyes and soul!

The girls are greeted by a gentleman dressed in black as they arrive at the entrance of nativity alley. A dozen croissants hang around his neck, dangling as he recites an original poem for a few euros. After his performance, he sprinkles some salt at the visitors to protect them from the “evil eye.”

It’s an old superstition the locals use to evade the curse and to bring luck in business and in life. Good luck charms are hanging outside shops, in every shape and size.

After this, the girls continue their tour, recording stories for Instagram and interviewing Italian artisans that work at San Gregorio Armeno. They never miss an opportunity to share imaginative stories featuring the people they meet. Arianna and Maria attentively listen to their tales as the narrator takes them back in time.

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The girls head to grab a bite once they purchase a few nativity figurines.

"I love being swept by the scent of pizza, the smell of pepper and almonds from Neapolitan taralli, sfogliatelle, shortbread, and baba".

Whether you have a sweet tooth or crave something savory, the tasty treats served in Naples will never fail to satisfy your cravings. The girls mutually agree to head over to Sorbillo (one of the best pizzerias in Naples, along with Michele). It’s famous for baking traditional pizza, fried pizza, folded pizza, and many other traditional delicacies.

They order a classic fried pizza topped with ricotta, pork cracklings, and pepper. The delicious aroma of an oven-fresh pizza makes a mouthwatering treat, and the girls can’t wait to enjoy it when their order arrives.

The girls end their trip on a high note with many memories to tell, countless photos to share, and the lingering taste of Neapolitan pizza.

If you love Christmas, you should spend a weekend on the coast at GTO Resorts to see the magical lights of Sorrento. Alternatively, you can visit San Gregorio Armeno in the summer to celebrate the festivities without the crowd.
We eagerly await your arrival at the Maya Beach Experience!

Art and Italian Christmas traditions come together to create the magical miniature world of Neapolitan nativity scenes inside the San Gregorio Armeno workshops. All thanks to the passion and artisanship of the locals.