Fontanini nativity sets: adding Italian tradition to your home this Christmas.

Fontanini is one of Italy's most well-respected "Presepe", or nativity, makers - one of the most popular of Italian Christmas traditions.

Here's how you can include that tradition in your home this holiday season.

Nativity scene.Detail from a Fontanini nativity scene.

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. 

Please be aware that there are many poor copies of these sets on the market.  Outside Italy, Fontanini sell their products only through their long-standing partner, Roman.  All the nativity scenes featured here are genuine Fontanini.

General features.

  • All Fontanini nativity sets are made from child-friendly durable polymer - if you see reviews saying they're made of plastic or rubber, the reviewers are either mistaken or have bought a copy, not an authentic Fontanini.
  • All the figures are traditionally hand-painted in Italy.  One of the features of Fontanini sets is the vibrant colours, which last literally for generations.
  • The stables vary in design from year to year.  They're made from a light wood, and the roof is generally covered with moss.  When you receive your nativity you may find the moss has dried out - sometimes because of rough handling during shipping, it may become detached.
  • To fix that, simply use a glue to attach it back on, or - if the moss looks as though it's completely finished - you'll be able to buy replacement inexpensively at any craft shop.
  • Each set comes boxed, and the characters have a "story card" which adds to the charm of these sets.
  • If you'd like more information about the Fontanini company before you buy, please see this article.

An excellent starter set : the 7.5" nativity scene.

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.

Nativity scene.

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!

In the UK? This is the Amazon version of the 7.5" nativity.  It's not the same as the US design, and contains only the three figures of the Holy Family.  It's also a lot more expensive.

Want to take a look?  Click on this link.

An ideal family choice : the 5" stable scene.

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.

Nativity scene.

In the UK, the 5" nativity is available only as a 5 piece: the Holy Family, plus two angels.  Other figures would have to be bought separately.  To take a look, click here.

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.

A ready established scene: the 17 piece nativity set.

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.

Large nativity scene.

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!

This nativity scene is also available in the UK in exactly the same format.  Be warned, though - it's not cheap.  Click on this link for details.

Why the Fontanini nativity set is so unique.

Floating nativity scene.

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.

If you're looking for something similar but a bit different, try these pages.

Thumbnail nativity snow globes.
Thumbnail nativity.
Calendar thumbnail.

More suggestions for you.

And, if you want to see still more Fontanini figures as well as some pics of their displays, find them on Facebook by clicking this link.

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