The village of Pallerone is where we shop on most days. We could walk there if we wanted to squeeze ourselves between the guardrails and the road, a slice of safety about 20 cm wide, but declined due to, well, imposing girth I suppose.
We looked for an overland route, but to no avail.
In any case, Pallerone has a fascinating Nativity Scene, Crib, or what they call in Italy a Presepe Artistico located right in the heart of town, which is to say the small stretch of houses along the main street. The peasants within the presepe scene go about doing their business like good peasants, day and night hacking away at trees, sewing, fishing, and generally banging at things with hammers or sledges. In a corner, away from all the hacking, hammering and swatting, Jesus lays calmly in a manger and as the sun descends the angels fly in to dangle overhead. When they’re done dangling, a star with a flaming tail bravely moves across the sky to settle over little Jesus. All this occurs with a mechanical precision that is both fascinating (engineering-wise) and campy.
Which is to say I liked it a lot.
Along with the presepe comes a little museum which shows how the figures are built and animated, shown in the photo above. Also on display is the original motor that controlled the 1937 version of the presepe that was built for the “Salone delle Feste” and shown at the Castello Malaspina in Massa. From a newspaper article on display in the museum I learned that:
the current structure was inaugurated on 22nd of December, 1968, in the presence of the Bishop of Apuania and of the leading local authorities. In just 12 days it was visited by over 15,000 people and a special train from Genoa was even hired for the occasion.
Now 15,000 people represents 15 times the local population. So, in other words, it was a big hit.
The presepe is on display in an artificial grotto on the side of the church. You can visit it year around. It condenses a day into 7 1/2 minutes. An even more condensed version of the presepe day is shown in our little video below: 3 minutes and 11 seconds worth. Enjoy and…Merry Christmas.