There’s an ancient street in the historic centre of Naples where Christmas preparations never stop. Via San Gregorio Armeno, also known as ‘Christmas alley’, is famous for the sculpted nativity scenes (i presepi) which its artisan workshops produce and which are popular across Italy and beyond.
I was there on a sunny day in April on a fascinating Vespa tour of the Mediterranean city with archaeologist Emiliano Tufano. We walk along the narrow, cobblestoned street into Ferigno, one of the open workshops where craftsmen are making i pastori. Pastori literally means ‘shepherds’ but is the generic term used for all of the crib scene figures.
I watch an artist sculpting a sheep carried by a shepherd. He’s using a dummy of a shepherd to ensure the sheep will fit across a shepherd’s shoulder. He tells me that it takes two hours to make a figure like a sheep and about twenty hours to make a larger figure such as a shepherd or king. Like all of the nativity scene figures here the sheep will be painted to look as realistic as possible. A Ferigno nativity scene costs from around 500 euros.