Naples, Natale, Il Presepio and Wines from Campania

Last week, I had the honor to translate for the curator of a new exhibit at the Italian Institute of Culture on the Neapolitan Creche. There are many different Creches by Neapolitan artisans on show which truly are worth a visit.

The creche of the Presepio as it is called in Italy is a nativity scene. It started with figures from the Holy Family but soon branched out to add colorful scenes of everyday life in Naples with local characters represented in figurines. According to the curator, an art historian, this tradition began in the 1700s in Campania. At first it was the province only of the wealthy but by the mid 1800s it was commonplace to find families from all different social stratum creating creches at Christmas. It is a family activity and people of all ages work on the presepio together.

My friend Giancarlo from Milan used to have running water and electricity in his creche. It was incredible. He would spend weeks making it and everything had to be perfect.

I have never visited the famed commercial street where merchants hawk their wares, San Gregorio Armeno but it has been on my list for many years. A friend in Milan used to make

To see some great pictures of the exhibit, check out I-Italy, they have a great slide show and an in-depth article on the exhibition.

I haven’t spent enough time in Campania, visiting the countryside, cathedrals and drinking enough of its wine. Luckily for me, my friend Terry Hughes of Domenico Selections is a true fan and has introduced me to some great wines from Campania.

I particularly like the wines from Terra di Vento, Petrale 2006, a lush aglianico and Faiano 2009, a Fiano. He also introduced me to a Grillo that brought tears to my eyes.

Both the whites and the reds from Campania are splendid, especially those vineyards on volcanic soil which gives great minerality to the wines, a quality I very much appreciate.

I won’t be having a seven fishes dinner this evening but I will be drinking a wine from Campania with my own Christmas tradition.

Merry Christmas to all. Buon Natale.

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