NOI (“us”) TV is our local TV station and it’s worth watching as not only does it give the local weather report and road conditions but tells us of what’s on around too.
It was through my wife’s watching NOI TV that we didn’t miss one of the most spectacular presepi viventi (living cribs) in our area. It’s at Ruota which, although nestled in the Montagna Pisana (Pisan Hill), is still in Lucca province, being in Capannori Comune.
I thought that all the presepi viventi in our area had stopped by Christmas day but the one at Ruota is always held on St Stephen’s day (better known in the UK as Boxing Day). This year it’s celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary!
The event started around 2.30 so we left shortly after lunch. At Pieve di Compito we parked our car, paid a ticket of 4 euros each, which included the shuttle bus service (the road winding up to Ruota, which literally means “wheel”, is particularly narrow), admission to the presepe, a concert and tasters.
Ruota is a delightful village high up on the Pisan Mountain which I’d previously passed through on the way down from the mountain from the Pisan side. Dante has this to say about the mountain and the rivalry between Lucca and Pisa (in canto 23 of the Inferno):
al monte per che i Pisan veder Lucca non ponno
Which means that the mountain’s there so that the Pisans don’t have to see the Luccans. (I would also add that the Luccans don’t have to look on the Pisans too!).
I have done several walks in the Pisan Mountain and it’s great trekking country.
The concert in Ruota’s beautiful church was delightful. Organised by a local music school it included everyone from children to mature musicians. Among the pieces played was a fair spate of Christmas carols with audience participation and also some Mariah Carey and jazz. The theme tune from “Cinema Paradiso” played on guitar and harmonica was particularly touching.
I recognized the tenor sax from his appearance in Kuhn’s Christmas Eve concert. Have sax will travel…
Something about Ruota’s church: dating back to the eleventh century its exterior still retains Romanesque features. The single apse interior and apse, however, have been altered over the centuries.
I was stunned by the magnificent painting of the Madonna enthroned with Saints Bartholomew, John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene and Apollonia, by Vincenzo Frediani and dating from 1488. I found it as good as anything that quattrocento Florentines like Ghirlandaio had produced. It’s incredible how little churches in remote mountain locations can harbour such beautiful works of art. But then this is Italy…
The wooden sculpture depicting the Madonna and Child from the mid fourteenth century was also quite wonderful.
After the concert we joined the nativity procession as Joseph and Mary unsuccessfully called upon various traders to seek shelter.
The young couple tried various places:
Finally they found a stable and the baby Jesus was born.
The narrow streets and stone houses of Ruota proved absolutely right for a traditional presepe setting and for all of those present it provided a great Boxing Day treat. We are so privileged to be able to assist at these charming events which help to bring back the true significance of Christmas into our hearts.
Here are further highlights from this enchanting presepe showing also some of the traditional crafts represented from an age which, for Italy, isn’t that far back at all: