I have received a few notes from people who will be in Naples over the
Christmas holidays. They ask about things to do, places to go, music to hear, where
to eat, etc. "What do Neapolitans do?" asked one such enquiry.
Well, if you happen to be in Naples only on the 24th and 25th and wander around
looking for things to do, you may be disappointed. Those two days are perhaps
the greatest stay-at-home days of the year. Neapolitans stay at home and eat,
and unless you can manage to wrangle yourself an invitation, you will be lonely.
On the other hand, if you are willing to look a bit before and after those dates,
there are a few items of interest. Many places in Naples will have a typical
"presepe"--Nativity Scene--on display over the holidays (including, obviously,
the 24th and 25th, so the situation is not all that bleak). Among these are some of the
major churches in the city:
--church of Santa Chiara
--church of Santa Maria in Portico
--church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi
--church of Santa Maria del Parto
--church of San Domenico Maggiore
--church of San Gregorio Armeno
Also, the Church of San Severo a Pendino on via Duomo will have a special exhibition of "Presepe Art".
Then, you can have a look along via San Gregorio Armeno. This is the main Christmas street in Naples.
Shops featuring handcrafted Nativity Scenes line both sides of the street. Don't forget the Presepe
display at the San Martino museum where the finest such exhibit in the world is on permanent display.
A word about these exhibits. As you walk along, say, via San Gregorio Armeno, you will no doubt be
acutely aware of the globalized secularization of the holiday that has taken place over the last generation.
Santa Claus is everywhere, as are awful versions of "Jingle Bells". The local papers have been lamenting
how much all this has affected local traditions. It now seems that more than 60% of Italian school children
now associate Christmas more with Santa Claus than with the traditional presepe. About one-fourth of
children can no longer identify the main characters in the tableau. (Presumably, they know who the
Christ Child, Mary and Joseph are. Perhaps they are shaky on the names of the Three Wise Men.
(Traditionally, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, but I had to look it up, so let's not be too harsh on the
kids.) In any event, the displays in churches are the best ones to give you an idea of this most
characteristic of Neapolitan Christmas traditions. It is well worth the time to see more than one of them
since they may vary considerably.
This is a list of some of the musical events in Naples over the Christmas
Dec. 20 --a choral mass in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore,
time: 8.30 pm.
Dec. 20 --concert, International Orchestra of Italy, at the Teatro
Sannazaro, time: 9 pm. details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 21 (9 pm) & 22 (6 pm) --Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, at San Carlo,
Info at: www.teatrosancarlo.it
Dec. 21 --advertised only as "Christmas Concert", at the Gambrinus
Caffè in Piazza Plebiscito. No time listed.
Dec. 21 --classical Neapolitan Song & Poetry, in the Galleria Umberto,
time: 6.30 pm.
Dec. 21 --the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra, in the basilica of San
Lorenzo Maggiore, time: 9 pm. Info at: www.napoli.com/assocscarlatti
Dec. 23 --Tales & Music for Christmas, concerto for voices and instruments, at
church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo, via San Biagio dei Librai 18, time: 7 pm. Info
or email email@example.com
Dec. 28 --Ensemble Vocale di Napoli, music of Gesualdo da Venosa, at the
Capodimonte museum, time: 8 pm. Info at:
Dec. 28 (9 pm) & 30 (6 pm)--vocal recital, Juan Diego Florez, tenor. Music of
Beethoven, Bellini, Tosti, Donizetti, at San Caro. Info at:
Dec. 30 -- outdoor choral concert in Piazza del Gesù Nuovo. No time listed.
If you are truly at loose ends, you can wander over to the Galleria Umberto
across from San Carlo and practice your Italian by reading the notes on the
"wishing tree," the Christmas tree set up on the ground concourse, and already a
traditional target for those wanting to leave notes for "Babbo Natale"--Father
Christmas--and Gesù Bambino, the Christ Child.