Christmas For Members

Where to see Italy's most magical Christmas displays in 2022

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected] • 15 Dec, 2022 Updated Thu 15 Dec 2022 17:32 CEST
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A previous edition of the Luci d'Artista exhibition in Salerno. Italy is renowned for its Christmas displays. Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP.

When it comes to imaginative Christmas decorations, Italy is second to none. Here are some of our top picks for this year's most captivating exhibits.


Unofficially running from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th to Epiphany on January 6th, Christmas is a big deal in Italy.

You can always count on the country pulling out all the stops when it comes to Christmas decorations, with each town putting its own unique spin on seasonal displays.

Whether it's spellbinding light shows, fantastical exhibits, or imaginative presepe nativity scenes, you're sure to find something to delight and surprise you.


Here are some of the places you'll find Italy's most enchanting Christmas decorations this year.

Magical light installations

Every year Salerno's Luci d'Artista light installation wows visitors from all over Italy and beyond. Expect sparkling trees, a blanket of bright blue stars, golden tendrils of lights suspended over the streets and even an illuminated unicorn.

If you're anywhere near the often-overlooked Italian region of Molise, the Magia di Luci displays lighting up the town of Larino are well worth a visit, and this year there's also an ice skating rink.

READ ALSO: Seven of Italy’s most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

Rome's botanical gardens are hosting the first edition of the (ticketed) Incanto di Luci exhibition featuring, among other things, a 'stairway to the moon'.

And the northern city of Turin has its own Luci d'Artista light display, not to mention the beloved fairytale nativity scene designed by artist Emanuele Luzzati that's been a feature of the holidays since 1997.

Giant Christmas lights

The illuminated nativity scene in Manarola in the Cinque Terre takes up 4km of hillside and features 300 life-size figures requiring more than 8km of electric cables.

Every year the exhibition is inaugurated with a torchlight procession followed by a fireworks display that attracts travellers from all around Italy.

Meanwhile Gubbio in Umbria boasts the 'largest Christmas tree in the world', with its fir made of lights covering the length of an entire hillside.

The tree, now in its 42nd year, is 650m high and is made up of more than 550 energy efficient LED lights.


Mesmerising light projections

Lake Como's Città dei Balocchi ('Toytown') light projections enchant spectators with moving images cast onto the facades of historic buildings and churches.

This year's Città dei Balocchi has moved from Como itself to the lakeside town of Cernobbio and its parks of Villa Erba and Villa Bernasconi.

READ ALSO: Ten words you need to know for an Italian Christmas

An ice rink, a ferris wheel, a VR ride and a train are some of the features of this year's 29th edition of the event.

Not to be outdone, the city of Arezzo in Tuscany has its own light projections that draw crowds, along with a Christmas market with stallholders hailing from Germany, Austria and South Tyrol.

A 'giant' nativity scene

The Presepe Gigante di Marchetto ('Giant nativity scene of Marchetto') in Piedmont was founded in 1980, though by 2012 it had started attracting more visitors than could fit and so relocated to neighbouring Mosso, which hosts the exhibit today.


READ ALSO: What to do in Rome over the Christmas holidays

The scene features over 150 life-size statues of villagers in traditional clothing spread all over the village; visitors can follow a trail that ultimately leads to a stable where they'll find the traditional nativity characters.

The exhibit was inspired by the idea of allowing children (and adults) to wander around a life-size diorama and imagine themselves as characters in the set. Admission is free and open from 10am to 10pm until January 8th.

Presepi on (and in) the water

The floating nativity scene in Cesenatico, an Adriatic port town in Emilia Romagna, is best seen after sunset.

That's when the 50 figurines bobbing up and down on the sail boats in the canal are illuminated and come to life.

The same holds true for the underwater nativity scene in Laveno Mombello on Lago Maggiore, which only becomes fully visible when lit up at night.


The lagoon around Burano, the colourful Venetian island known for its lace, also becomes populated around Christmas with nativity figures mounted on stilts hovering just above the water's surface.

And in Comacchio in Emilia Romagna, floating presepi can be spied under the bridges crossing the town's canals.

'Living' presepi

You'll find presepi viventi or 'living nativity scenes' in towns throughout Italy, with local volunteers dressing up and performing the key nativity roles.

Perhaps one of the most impressive of these is the annual presepe vivente in the Piedmont village of Dogliani Castello.

From 8.30pm on the nights of December 23rd and 24th, around 350 villagers dress up in first century garb and play the parts of blacksmiths, carpenters, shepherds and innkeepers.

READ ALSO: Six quirky Italian Christmas traditions you should know about

Street lighting is shut off and replaced with torches, and Mary and Joseph walk through the streets asking for a place to stay, leading a procession.

Another impressive presepe vivente is that of Matera's, the distinctive cave town that has been used as a shooting location for many a film depicting ancient Jerusalem or Bethlehem.

Scale model nativities

If you prefer your nativity scenes child-sized, the presepe in Cavallermaggiore, Piedmont might be the one for you.

This set stretches over 300sqm and features a combination of figurines from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, ranging from about 30-50cm in height.


READ ALSO: The food and drink you need for an Italian Christmas feast

It's also mechanised, with the intricately-formed characters performing tasks like spinning wool and washing clothes; visitors can wonder in and around the set to admire the moving figures up close.

And if you're in Naples over the Christmas period, you'll want to make sure you check out San Gregorio Armeno, a street specialising in nativity sets as well as figurines of politicians and celebrities. It's open year-round, but particularly comes alive over the winter holidays.





The Local Italy 2022/12/15 17:32

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wickedwicki 2022/12/16 12:06
And Padova for light displays! They started doing these during Covid and this year they are amazing! Some on the new Unesco listed city walls ;)

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