Our childhood always brings us those kind of memories that will last forever, even where we are 80 years old and we sit in our favorite chair, in the sitting room.
Mine was not different, actually. My parents had the habits to take me there, put in front of this majestic scenery (everything seems bigger when you are a child) and stand with my mouth open and my eyes staring at this miracle I wasn’t able to understand.
I re-discovered those emotions visiting two boroughs I’m very familiar with: Longiano and Portico di Romagna.
The tradition of “making the presepe” is absolutely Italian: after Saint Francis, who built the first presepe of the history, Italians started to replicate it every year before Christmas, combining the pagan tradition of the Christmas tree and the religious tradition of the Presepe.
The Presepe in Romagna
As far as incredible it may seem, Romagna has a strong presepe history, maybe because of the long and strong domination of the Pope domination. The typical way of building a Presepe is to realize big statues: most of the representations you will see in Romagna (both in the coastal towns and in the surroundings boroughs or in the mountains) are really impressive.
And most of them are mechanically animated. And this is another historical element. So no matter which one you are visiting, you will enjoy the marvelous details of the figures, the scenary around (a real typical desert village with all the characters moving and doing some artisan activities), the lights (sun and moon alternating during the play) and the dresses of the statues.
Longiano: the art of presepe
Presepi (it’s the plural word for Presepe) are a very good reason to visit the little boroughs in Romagna, especially if you want to go deep in this tradition and understand what is behind it.
Longiano is linked to the Malatesta family, as many towns that goes from Cesena (the main center) along the Via Emilia. Driving along this backbone, along the Pianura Padana flat land, you will see the hills pointed by castles, guarding towers and fortresses, around which Malatesta or other families built boroughs and established their power.
Longiano is one of them. Every year since 1990, this medieval borough storytells the spirituality of Christ birth, transforming every little spot of the in a Presepe scenery. Everyone is called to express his creativity, creating every year a new scene: windows, corners, caves. Every place is a perfect location to host the Presepe.
Longiano also hosts special artistic and historical Presepe in some of the best location in town.The mechanical historical Presepe in the church of Santo Crocifisso, once a cloister, is the main one to start with. The solemnity of the scene, which changes every year, is stunning: the holy family (every statue moves in special moments) is in the center, behind the desert (the theme of 2014) and some other protagonists such as shepherds, village women and the Magi, while sun and moon alternates. I had the luck to enter the backstage: the whole structure, created in the 40’s, stays on wooden pillars with a plenty of electrical devices that makes everything work. Most of the mechanism are original one, so the light of the sun is made with a lamp in an old tomato tin. So amazing!
This year, as usual, one of the main artist exhibits in the Tito Balestra Foundation (I will dedicate a post later on). The Crib Light of contemporary artist Peppino Mitarotonda expresses Jesus as a ray of light. A circle on the sand with the holy family in the center and the shepherds around, which look like the Chinese clay warriors. A simple vision but so impressive.
Not far from the center town, at Massa, the little Romanic church hosts the Presepe of creatures of Giovanni Tamburelli. Jesus lives with bizarre and weird creatures, animals of our Mother Earth and his playground is nature.
Portico di Romagna: the Presepe diffuso
In my short travelling to visit some of the Presepe you can see in Romagna, I couldn’t help visiting the Presepe diffuso. Here also local people participate in making the borough even more attracting as it is during the year. People here love their town and care for it in every single detail: doors, windows, and the marvelous ancient bridge of the Maestà. Here the presepi tell the habits and traditions of this borough, living along the ancient border of Romagna and Tuscany.
Info and Tips
If you want to visit the Presepi, you will surely need one day. I advise you to start from the one of Portico, in the mountains and then go towards Longiano, ending your day in one of the nice restaurants that are there.
Please check here the opening time, because they may not be opened all day long, Longiano dei Presepi.
All the Presepi are free entrance and it’s worth a visit especially for the little shops in Portico and the artisans market of Longiano.
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Disclosure: I would like to thank the Longiano Municipality and Cristina Minotti, Tourism Assessor, for hosting me in this visit and to Emiliano, Head of the Longiano Tourism Board. Also thanks to the Cameli Family for inviting me to visit the Presepi of Portico di Romagna.