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 Syracuse Free Walking Tou

Syracuse Free Walking Tour

Every Tuesday & Friday afternoon (summer months and Christmas period)

Sicilian Christmas cribThe art of making artistic Christmas cribs is a very ancient tradition in Sicily, which has seen great masters at work on the island. The tecniques are often handed down from father to son. Some of these nativity scenes, centuries-old, are still existing today and open to visitors. A lot of different materials were used to realize the cribs: wood, ivory, terracotta, bone, coral, wax but also silver and gold. The scene was often represented in the typical sicilian countryside or among classical ruins.

 Some of these cribs are inside churches and visible the whole year. Others are exhibited only during the Christmas period. Now have a look at the locations of the most ancient and the most beautiful sicilian Christmas cribs. If you are looking for living nativity scenes, with human actors, we have written an extra article about it on  this webpage.

The sicilian "town of cribs" is Caltagirone, in province of Catania. This town, famous for  ceramics, has had famous families of craftmans (Bongiovanni and Vaccaro), which realized terracotta cribs since the 18th century. Every year a lot of events are organized in Caltagirone during the Christmas period and during the week-ends, the town is crowded with tourists who visit the churches with their Nativity scenes. In Caltagirone, in the last years, a lot of ethnic and fantasy Christmas cribs were built besides the originary ancient Nativities. The most ancient is the historic crib of the 18th century, made by the Vaccaro family and exhibited in the cathedral of San Giuliano.  There are also other traditional cribs (crib of arts and craftmanships, biblish crib, crib with sicilian puppets,  Betlehem crib), cribs for kids (tales crib, Walt Disney crib, train crib) and ethnic and modern cribs (missionary crib, wonder crib, animated cardboard crib). It is also possible to visit the international Christmas cribs museum , the Christmas market, the ceramics shops and the beautiful baroque churches. Caltagirone is in the Unesco world heritage list. The updated program of events of Christmas in Caltagirone is published on the official page of the tourist office.

In eastern Sicily, also Palazzolo Acreide , near Syracuse, is worth a visit. This town is also in the Unesco world heritage list. In Palazzolo it is possible to visit the Casa-Museo "Antonino Uccello". It's a museum of sicilian popular traditions with a huge collection of tools, clothes and traditional objects. There is also a collection of handmade Christmas cribs figures. Every year a living crib is also organized in Palazzolo, often in the medieval castle quarter.

Sicilian Christmas cribIn the province of Ragusa, on the southern side of Sicily, we suggest to visit Modica, the "town of hundred churches". In the Santa Maria di Betlemme church, it's possible to admire a beautiful ancient crib made out of natural materials (wood, cork, plants) and located in a reconstruction of a typical sicilian canyon, the "cava". Shepherds and figures are dressed with typical sicilian farmer clothes of the 19th century. This nativity scene was realized in the year 1882 by the masters of Caltagirone. On the external wall of the church, it's also possible to admire the "Berlon arch", an adoration of the shepherds scene of the 15th-16th century. During the Christmas period, in Modica are often organized exhibitions, choirs and concerts.

Few Kilometers from Modica is Scicli. In the beautiful baroque San Bartolomeo church is an ancient crib of the year 1576.

In the province of Catania, in Acireale, it's possible to se an artistic crib of the 18th century in the chiesa di Santa Maria della Neve. It's realized in a lava grotto and the figures are out of wax . This crib is open to visitors from the beginning of December to the first week of January. An entrance ticket is required (2012 rate: 2 €). Further informations and the timetable are available on the website of the Municipality of Acireale or calling the number +39 0 95 7645379.

On the westside of Sicily, in Palermo, it's possible to visit the museo etnoantropologico "Pitrè". It contains an interesting exhibition of ancient sicilian cribs, especially of the area of Trapani. There's also a representation of the massacre of the innocents.

Every year, in Palermo, in the istituto San Giuseppe in corso Tukory 204, is also held an exhibition of  "Christmas cribs from all over the world" with more than  250 pieces from different nations.

A great crib tradition is also on the western side of Sicily, in Trapani. The local masters used to realize their cribs with coral. Inside the local museum "Pepoli", two rooms are dedicated to the permanent exhibition of cribs. The museum is opened every day except Monday. The entrance fee is 6 €.

And now enter in the sicilian Christmas atmosphere with its traditions, cribs, songs and typical cakes.

Photo credits: A.Conti/Flickr, S.Leggio/Sicilystockphoto.com Immagini sotto licenza creative commons

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