Here's how you can include that tradition in your home this holiday season.
If you've ever been in Italy in December you'll know how low-key Italian Christmas decorations are. It's a much less commercialised time than in either America or the rest of Europe, largely because of the country's deeply religious background.
Nativity sets are the one exception to that - the time when Italian people really go overboard. It's not just the stable scene - they create entire villages complete with shops, artisans, animals - and many, many angels.
But obviously, the main focus of even the most elaborate nativity village is the stable scene itself - and that's where we start too.
Here's a selection of Fontanini's beautiful Christmas nativity sets available for you to buy. If you're in the US, click on any of the images to buy. From the UK you'll see a link in the text underneath the pic.
If you - or whoever you're buying for - are just starting to build up your nativity scene, this set is a good place to begin. It comes with a nicely designed stable, and 6 pieces - the Holy Family and three sheep.
It's relatively inexpensive, it's a good size, and this particular stable has an open side so it's easy to add more figures to it, if and when you want to.
We've found this is a great gift for a young family who would like a starting point for their nativity collection, and would like to choose other characters to add in, year after year.
Just as Italians do - choose characters who remind of other members of the family!
One of the great advantages of this set is that you can add to it year on year - the Fontanini 5" range has a total of two hundred figures available. So if you want to build an elaborate nativity scene on an Italian scale this is a great place to start.
This set is slightly more elaborate than the 7.5" nativity we feature, having 11 figures within the stable: the Holy Family, an angel, the three kings, the ox, donkey and two sheep - plus the manger.
We've found it to be an ideal gift for a couple who are perhaps just starting out their life together. Luxuries such as this are not high on their priority list but Fontanini nativity figures are collectable and make an ideal starting point for a family heirloom.
So as well as settling your Christmas gift ideas for years to come, you'll be providing a beautiful piece of history for your family.
This is one of Fontanini's largest nativities. It contains the stable and 17 separate pieces in the 5" series.
Those characters are: the Holy Family, the donkey, ox and three sheep, two angels, the three wise men, two shepherds and 'Rachel' - a local woman carrying an offering of fruit in her basket.
Because this nativity contains all the main characters, it's more expensive than the others we feature. However, it does mean you don't need to spend extra money buying those characters separately.
On the other hand, you can take advantage of all the other - over 200 - cast of village characters from Fontanini to build up a colourful and complex scene to add into the stable in years to come. It makes a great start to an heirloom collection.
So you get the best of both worlds!
If you'd like to see more detailed information about the Fontanini company, and why their products are so popular, click on this pic.
A tiny company in northern Italy, Fontanini employ only skilled craftspeople who hand-paint every nativity scene.
None of Fontanini's nativity sets are mass-produced. Each one is unique.
Because they want to maintain their status as niche producers, they only export in relatively small numbers and to a very small number of companies within the United States.
It is very difficult to obtain Fontanini figures anywhere else, apart from within Italy itself.
All those factors make Fontanini products very collectable and a wonderful addition to family Christmas decoration collections as 'heirloom' pieces.
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