A variation of the original crib is that of the living crib, a solemn event during which people dressed in period costumes give life to a procession along the streets of the villages and to a real representation in a cave or hut set up. Both traditions, very popular in Tuscany and in Terre di Pisa, take place between December 25th and January 6th.
SAN PIERO A GRADO
First stop is the Romanesque basilica of San Piero a Grado, between Pisa and the mouth of the Arno River, where legend has it that St. Piero landed on his journey from Palestine to Rome. The living crib is held on December 24 and December 26 in the area adjacent to the magnificent Romanesque basilica, and is composed of 200 figures. At the entrance you are welcomed by the customs of Bethlehem where visitors are counted and can leave a sign of their entry by changing money that will be used to buy products in the reconstructed craft stores.
ABBEY OF SAN SAVINO
The next stop is the Abbey of San Savino, in Montione (between Pisa and Cascina), where the living nativity scene takes place on the afternoon of January 5th, the day before Epiphany.
More than one hundred figures in costume retrace the Nativity of Christ, from the census of Herod to the arrival of the Magi, proposing the life of the country with markets and ancient crafts. The whole village lives the crib in an intense way, so much so that the equipment, scenery and costumes are entirely designed and built by the community.
The itinerary continues in the spa town of Casciana Terme, immersed in the Pisan hills. Here the crib takes place on Sunday, December 15: it reproduces the daily life of a village of other times with the houses of Mary and Joseph at the time of the Annunciation. The route, which ends at the Court of King Herod, is illuminated for the occasion only by candles and flashlights to make it more impressive and fascinating.
CASTELFRANCO DI SOTTO
The procession of the crib starts from Piazza Bertoncini to Piazza Garibaldi with over 100 participants, dance groups and jugglers. Places and characters from Palestine two thousand years ago are reconstructed, with shepherds and prophets, Roman soldiers, together with the market and the artisan stores of the time. Everything is illuminated only by the fire of the bivouacs and lanterns, which together with the presence of animals and a chilly evening help to create an evocative setting.
SAN MINIATO BASSO
The living nativity of San Miniato Basso with over 300 participants is one of the most engaging living nativity scenes in Tuscany. It takes place on December 26 and January 6. After crossing the streets of the village, once called “Pinocchio” (it seems that Carlo ‘Collodi’ Lorenzini was inspired by these lands for the famous puppet), the procession heads to the square between the Church of SS Martino and Stefano and the Church of the Transfiguration to give life to the scenes of the expectation and birth of Jesus.
Before or after the living crib, we recommend a visit to San Miniato which boasts an interesting museum system and a remarkable food and wine tradition being the city of white truffles and slow food city with excellent food and wines from local producers.