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Cesenatico's floating nativity scene

Canal Harbour becomes theater for the Nativity play


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Where is


Via Carlo Armellini, 18, 47042 Cesenatico FC, Italia (1m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

One of the pulsing arteries of Cesenatico is the Canal Port. Its beauty is enhanced by a picturesque element that does not go unnoticed: it is the collection of historic boats that are moored at the height of the Maritime Museum. With their bright colors, they make up the floating section of the museum. It is curious to think that their wooden planks fitted into this canal like a stage in a theater, and how each year they welcome an ancient and ever new spectacle. The boats themselves were chosen as the perfect place for the Cesenatico Nativity scene.

Why it is special

If you think about it, it could only be so: a people of sailors had to have a floating nativity scene. And so in December, lights are set up to illuminate and define the scene, and the actors arrive: wooden statues covered in cloth clothes reinforced with wax. They are life-size so they can be admired from the banks of the canal, and they are spread out over several boats, which is very impressive because it makes it clear how all the characters set out to pay homage to the Holy Family.

Not to be missed

The characters we see are not all "Christmas" characters. Many are, if you'll forgive my saying so, the rightful owners of the place: fishermen, sailors, musicians and a whole host of figures representing the trades and scenes of life in Cesenatico in the past. Sacred and profane merge into one big show, and it is wonderful to admire it in daylight to catch as many details as possible. Of course, when night falls and the stage lights come on, the real magic begins. Reflections, shadows, the lapping of water and the biting temperature make the show incredibly impressive.

A bit of history

The boat nativity show took shape in the 1980s in response to a need: to let people discover the beauty of Cesenatico in winter. In all honesty, they fully succeeded! While the first nativity scene in 1986 was smaller in size, new statues are made every year to enrich the show and make it more vivid and realistic, and, above all, to create, as Gualtiero Gualtieri said, "a great monument to the sea, to tradition, to the heritage of beautiful things that, especially in recent years, our town has been able to accumulate and enhance."


The more pragmatic may be wondering how boats support the weight of so many statues. A good question that even the artists involved in designing the nativity scene have asked themselves. The solution is rooted in the clothed sacred statues. The actual carved parts, in this case in wood, are only the visible ones: head, hands and feet, in some cases. The body of the statue is but a light framework. Giving the necessary volume to the depiction are the fabrics of the clothes stiffened by wax. As ingenious as it is simple.

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Alessandra Lana

I feel great affection for traditional boats; they remind me of the stories of my grandmother, a native of chioggio, and her brother, a funny sea dog. If we then add the magic of the nativity scene, I feel the embrace of family reunited at Christmas.