It’s Christmas all year round on Via San Gregorio Armeno, in the heart of Naples’ charmingly chaotic historic center. This unique alley, one of the most popular attractions in the city, is lined with artisan workshops showcasing displays of the handmade figurines used to populate the city’s elaborate traditional nativity scenes.
Walking and bike tours of the city center generally include a stop to browse Via San Gregorio Armeno’s crowded displays of figurines representing everyone from the Holy Family to pop stars and contemporary sports heros. On a Vespa or Fiat 500 tour, you can explore the alley and other attractions in the historic center: the teeming Spaccanapoli thoroughfare, Castel Nuovo, Teatro di San Carlo (the oldest opera house in Italy), the Duomo, and elegant Piazza Plebiscito.
Naples is famous for its cuisine, and many tours of the historic center combine sightseeing with tasting local street food, including the city’s iconic pizza. The ruins of Pompeii are just outside the city, so you can easily tour both this famous archaeological site and the historic center, which is also home to the National Archaeological Museum, where artifacts from Pompeii are collected.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kids especially love to browse the endless displays of figurines lining Via San Gregorio Armeno.
- The alley and its artisans, many of whom spend their days carving and painting figurines in their workshops, make for great photos, so be sure to bring your camera.
- Walking tours of Via San Gregorio Armeno in the historic center are outdoors; wear sunscreen and a hat in summer.
- Touring the largely pedestrian historic center in Naples requires a considerable amount of walking, so choose comfortable footwear.
- Wear modest attire that covers knees and shoulders if planning on entering Naples’ churches and cathedral.
- Via San Gregorio Armeno is narrow, steep, and paved with cobblestones that may be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair.
How to Get There
Via San Gregorio Armeno is in the historic center of Naples, a short walk from both the city’s port and main train station. The alley is pedestrian only, but you can get close via public transportation by taking the metro to the Dante stop and walking from there.
When to Get There
San Gregorio Armeno is lined with displays and stalls staffed by artisans selling Nativity scenes and figures all year round, but the Christmas holiday season can be an especially busy time. To avoid the worst of the crowds, visit outside the month of December.
The History of Neapolitan Nativity Scenes
First displayed in monasteries in the 16th and 17th centuries, Nativity scenes made their way into aristocratic homes, eventually becoming a tradition for all. Many people put up their nativity scene December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, but wait until Christmas Eve to add baby Jesus. Displays often go beyond a manager scene and can represent the life of an entire community or village.