The Manarola crib, the elixir of life

The idea for this nativity scene – located on the “Tre Croci” hill in Manarola in the Cinque Terre – came from the hands, genius and imagination of Mario Andreoli, as well as from will and tenacity, and from his cellar, which everyone affectionately calls sacristy.

Mario’s “lay sacristy” is a must during your stay in the Cinque Terre.

As soon as you enter, on the right, you are faced with a collage of photographs stuck on the wall. These depict all the figures – from the worlds of politics, show business and ordinary people – who have passed through here over the years, whom Mario always greeted with a smile. The magic of the nativity scene was devised within these walls.

The statues created by the artist’s skilful hands are all made of recycled material, which Mario manages to give a new life to. Turning waste into art is one of his many talents. In this particular cellar, you can also taste his wine, the sciacchetrà (his pride and joy is the red one, the cannaiolo, “the one for the ladies”, as he often says).

Mario’s main characteristic is certainly his tenacity; despite the passage of time and advancing age, he manages to light up the village hill every year with his scenic creations, thanks to his willpower and the help of a few volunteers.

The lighting of the crib is one of the most anticipated moments of the year. Being able to witness this event is a unique emotion: lights and colours combine with the beauty of the landscape to create a bewitching spectacle. A true day of celebration, for young and old alike, attracting visitors from all over the world every year. Illuminated statues are now part of the landscape. Like the dry stone walls and paths that cross the Cinque Terre.

This magical tradition will turn 62 years old in 2023: from when the crazy experiment started, which, with car batteries, first illuminated some of the hillside crosses in the darkness of a village where public lighting was not yet available.

The secret to the long life of the elixir of Manarola’s nativity scene is not only its tireless creator, but also the association “Il presepe di Mario Andreoli”, set up in order to pursue this enchanting custom.

Next 8 December, don’t miss the opportunity to witness the lighting of the famous nativity scene, which can warm all hearts even at the coldest time of the year.