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Visit Naples and you will be transported in another reality in its historical city center and between Via dei Tribunali and Via Spaccanapoli you will reach the famous San Gregorio Armeno, or the street of the Nativity Scene.
The Christmas atmosphere is palpable all year round in this street. Thanks to the dozens of workshops operated by the craftsmen specialized in handmade nativity scenes. Not just any Christmas ornament: they hand craft every part of the classical Napolitan Nativity scene, but also satiric statues and figurines, caricatures, political personalities, Vip and athletes. Also Modern day scandals, events and stories to put a smile on everyone’s face. Like for example, the most recent Wise men all wearing face masks, Vaccine certificates in hand.
Because it’s a lifestyle, here in Naples: to always look at the brightside and be happy! And people here, put their way of living into their work, for all to see.
→ If you are in Naples you cannot miss a visit to the nearby ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii
But this street is also a great find, historically.
San Gregorio Armeno is actually an ancient street from Roman times. That was sanctified, along with the dedicated Temple, to the Goddess Cerere, a fertility Goddess.
People back then, would offer up clay figurines in devotion to Cerere. Therefore, the workshops along this street have always all been destined to the same use, from the beginning of time.
The name of this street is born in the 10th century, when on the foundations of the ancient Roman temple was built a Christian Basilica, which hosted relics of Holy Gregory, bishop of Armenia.
With the diffusion of Christianity, the craftsmen of San Gregorio Armeno weren’t commissioned to make figurines of Pagan Gods anymore. Instead they started to receive orders from people to create, sculpt and carve scenes from Christ’s Nativity.
Visit Naples and San Gregorio Armeno, for Christmas. A festive, traditional experience, you will not find anywhere else in Italy. It will start a little later than when it usually does, at the end of October.
A great thing to do while you visit Naples is stop by San Gregorio Armeno’s Monastery. Built around a beautiful cloister with a baroque garden and fountain, this complex is more a museum or an art display than a normal monastery. The structure hosts the nuns’ quarters on the first floor, where you can also find the kitchen, the pharmacy, and the Abbess halls, beautifully decorated in Rococo.
The Monastery is open to visits every day of the week. We highly recommend a visit here! The entrance is only 4 Euros per person!
Even though there are so many things to see and do here in Via San Gregorio Armeno, it’s not just a street in the busy life of Naples, it is a line with the past, where century-long traditions are passed down year after year. A corner of art and curiosities, history, religion and lifestyle. All wrapped in a Christmas gift to you!
Speaking of Christmas gifts, you should absolutely take advantage of the opportunity, to take home with you a piece of Via San Gregorio Armeno, perhaps a handmade Nativity scene, or other local products from the workshops in the street. In fact, they not only sell Christmas ornaments and Nativity scenes of every shape and size, they also enjoy selling Naples typical, traditional products, from snacks to Knick knacks and good luck charms.
Being the people of Naples traditionally incredibly superstitious, you will notice that many of the workshops in Via San Gregorio Armeno have something in common.
A Red Chili, carved in every material (famously red corral, but more eco-friendly materials as well). In a form of ornament, keychain or anything else. It is called Corno porta Fortuna (good luck horn, literally). Along with the horseshoe, it is the ultimate good luck charm in the Neapolitan lifestyle. To this day, the red chili horn is thought to keep the jinx away (unless the tip of the chili breaks) and also for the favorable, positive influence on gamble and business.
Of all the shops, you absolutely have to visit the most famous: Rosario’s workshop and Gennaro (Genny) di Virgilio, where this job is passed down from generation to generation, from father to son. Genny Di Virgilio runs his family’s shop now. Creating figurines of every kind, using his father’s utensils and artful skills along with prime material for the highest possible quality, maintaining the traditions passed down to him from his peers, with the same dedication, passion and precision.
But every shop follows the same principal, to keep the traditions alive. There is also the Ferrigno family’s workshop, where you will feel like being in an art gallery.
In this place you will find that the father-son tradition of craftsmanship is particularly strong. The figurines created for the Nativity scenes in their workshop are so peculiar and artistic, that they are considered collector’s items all over the World. The little statues Marco Ferrigno creates today, are made with the same materials his family has used for the last 150 years: The terracotta clay, wood and the silks from Saint Leucio, a medieval village in the province of Caserta. For its extraordinary abilities the Ferrigno family workshop has won First place in the annual “Premio S. Gregorio Armeno”, for 3 consecutive years and also the “First Award Europe”, for the best workshop in the artistry Nativity scenes.
But there really are tons of amazing workshops that follow the same history and traditions connected with their personal Artisan craftsmanship.
In order for it to work, this talisman has to be gifted to you and not something you buy for yourself. And it has to be rigorously handmade, for the good vibes contained in it be amplified by the craftsman and passed down to the horn and its owner.
But where does the myth of this Good luck horn come from?
The history of the Neapolitan Red chili horn starts in the Middle ages. The material used at the time was red corral, being Naples a Sea town, it wasn’t hard to find. Initially it was used for protection for pregnant women, to keep the evil away. And the color red symbolized Strength and Vitality.
Trust us, as soon as you walk through the shops in the street, you will easily spot red chilis hang from the posts and the ceilings and the entrances. This is a great idea for thoughtful gifts from your Christmas in Naples! Why not buy a few, or a few dozen, for friends and family?
But all this shopping can sure build up an appetite! You’re in Naples, the home of Pizza.
Why not sit at one of the local Pizzerias?
Pizza here is delicious, prime ingredient and ancient secrets to make the perfect dough. And you can enjoy a full meal for half as much you would normally spend in other places. For just 10 Euros, you can eat a Pizza near San Gregorio Armeno, in the World famous Pizzerias like Gino Sorbillo (Sorbillo), and Enzo Ciacialli (dal Presidente).
Pizza aside, you could also enjoy a traditional Pasta and Fagioli with porkchops and ragù at a Trattoria near Via dei Tribunali.
After lunch, why not treat yourself to a nice Espresso at the famous Bar Nilo, a typical sports bar in Naples? (Sports are another important aspect of the life here in Naples).
Naples is a real life theater. Filled with stories and wonders, all meticulously told through the statues and figurines and Nativity scenes, in perfect Naples style, reinacting the life, costumes and customs of a more gentil, satiric, ironic and colorful time. All on display in San Gregorio Armeno and its magical workshops, for Christmas.
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