I find the holiday season in Rome a joy: crisp air, stylish big-city Italians cupping hot cappuccino in corner cafés, and hurried shoppers bundled up with panache, thoughtfully pausing at grand manger scenes. The season here stretches for over a month — not to maximize shopping days, but to fit in the season's many holy days.
As home to Vatican City, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome is rich with Christmas's most sacred traditions. Manger scenes, called presepi, originated just a little north of Rome in Assisi some 800 years ago, when St. Francis taught the story of Jesus's birth with props. For a bit of manger history, visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. There you can see five wooden planks, said to be from the original Christmas manger.
Creative crèches are on display all over town, ranging from old and traditional to avant-garde. Dip into any church in town from early Decemb