Via San Gregorio Armeno. Christmas Alley as it is known, it is the undisputed world capital of the Nativity and home to the artisans and merchants who specialize in the art and the craft of the Neapolitan Presepe. From the religious to secular, the sacred to the profane, the presepe is a snapshot of Neapolitan life past and present. A centuries-old tradition elevated to new heights by Neapolitan artists of the Baroque period, it continues to evolve as successive generations of artists put their own stamp on this time-honored craft.
A tiny alley in Naples Centro Storico, along with the fish market at Porta Nolana, Via San Gregorio Armeno is the heart and soul of the Neapolitan Christmas. And by the first week of December, it is jam-packed with shoppers seeking to add to their nativity scenes and thousands upon thousands of curious tourists. Open year round, I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy it without the crowds. But San Gregorio Armeno has a one of a kind vibe at Christmastime that never fails to entice. An ancient, narrow alley from the street plan laid down by the Greeks of the 5th Century BC. Either side lined by tall, dark palazzos creating an eerie dusk-like quality that glows with twinkling Christmas lights and street and shop lights. A sea of temporary stalls carved into every alley, every palazzo, every conceivable open space adding another dimension to the permanent shops that ply their trade year round.