One of the true delights of being here at Christmas time is the Presepe in Dogliani. Clay and I decided to go at the last minute the night before Christmas eve. We had heard that there was something going on in the old section of town, but we were completely dazzled by the display we stumbled into. The entire town is staged as a scene from biblical times. No electricity, all signs of modern life are removed. The streets are lit by torches and mini campfires. All of the street level doors are open. Four-hundred local residents were dressed in period costume and the entrance fee was donation only. We walk down the candlelit streets, peering through doors to see the inhabitants dressed in period costumes, performing scenes that depict the life of the times: candle making, wine making, shoe repair. In one home, we see a family sitting at the dining table eating dinner. The next building is an osteria, serving wine and meals to patrons. At the end of the street, there is a school room, showing children sitting at tables, doing lessons, with a teacher standing in the front. The main square is filled with people busy chopping wood, lighting fires, making tea. One shepherd is tending to his goats in a corral while another feeds two camels. The culmination of the evening is a brightly lit star which “shoots” down a zip line and leads the parade of the wise men into the manger to visit baby Jesus in the nativity scene. We join the crowd who is jostling to file in catch a glimpse of the blessed family. A blond toddler is wrapped in blankets, lying in a bed of straw, sucking on a pacifier (the one allowance of modernity), surrounded by Mary and a group of children dressed as angels.
The entire town participates in the annual Presepe which last for two nights. During the rest of the year, old town Dogliani lies dormant. The “presepe vivante” (living nativity scene) is common in many towns but the one in Dogliani is the best historical re-enactment I have ever seen. This is an incredible treasure that Dogliani has been performing for forty-years. We cannot recommend more a visit to Dogliani during this time of year, this is a festival waiting to be discovered by the masses, it is incredibly authentic and magical in every sense of the word.