The nativities of Naples
Spending the festive season in Vico Equense is an excellent idea: not only can you enjoy the wonders of the Sorrento peninsula during a magical time of year, you can also take advantage of the many opportunities that Christmas in Campania offers. Naples is easily accessible from Vico by both car and the Circumvesuviana railway. One could talk at length about the beauties of Naples, but for now, let’s focus on the nativities, the Christmas tradition for which Naples is famous. It was here in the 1700’s that this craft of sublime beauty started with the tradition of using terracotta statues covered with fabric. The tradition, which dates back to the 1500’s, found great popularity during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon and is still respected today, with characters, places and situations that have been repeated for more than three hundred years. The Nativity is often represented among Roman ruins, because the birth of the Christ child is the sign of the birth of a new civilisation. The Magi are inevitable and add a touch of the exotic to the nativity. Then there are the representations of everyday life, with the tavern, the butcher, the fisherman, and so on, all of whom have a precise symbolic function. The main street of Nativity scenes in Naples is Via San Gregorio degli Armeni. Situated in the old town, here you can admire and buy shepherds. The nativity figures available include traditional figures and also characters from contemporary life that are produced by the craftsmen, from politicians to VIPs, from actors to gossip column personalities. If you want to visit the masterpieces of 18th-century nativity art, go to the Museum of San Martino, where you can admire some beautiful specimens.
Le Luci d’Artista in Salerno
South of Vico, is Salerno, easily reached by train or by car, maybe even passing by the Amalfi coast. Salerno is home to a recent Christmas tradition but one that is already established as a must for Christmas tourism: the Luci d’Artista.
The city is illuminated by a series of lights that make it a magical place, for kilometres one passes through light installations, often entrusted to real artists of light, which create a joyful atmosphere. The finest representations are located inside the Villa Comunale (this year a glittering zoo is on show), from Piazza Flavio Gioia, from Piazza Sedile del Campo. But don’t stop with just suggestions of seeing the lights, you could also decide to explore a beautiful and still relatively unknown city, with its magnificent Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Saint Matthew, the Minerva Garden with magnificent views over the city, the Diocesan Museum with its beautiful medieval ivories. And you could try the local speciality of a cuoppo (a cone) of fried fish, eating it whilst walking through the narrow streets of the historic centre.
Returning to Vico enables you to enjoy that special atmosphere that Christmas offers in the extraordinary setting of the Gulf, with thousands of lights between Vesuvius and the Islands. You could sample the many specialities of a traditional Campania Christmas from Rococòs – great biscuits – to chocolate mostaccioli biscuits to honey covered struffoli (deep fried dough marbles).