With a stunning view of the wide and fertile plain of Rieti enclosed by the Sabine Mountains, and one of the four Franciscan Sanctuaries of the Holy Valley, Greccio was the hamlet chosen by St. Francis to host the first nativity scene in history, perched on a spur of Mount Lacerone at more than 2300 feet above sea level.
The village of the first nativity scene
A medieval hamlet surrounded by lush woods of holm oaks and oak trees with a 12.5-mile path network at the heart of pristine nature: it is not surprising that St. Francis himself loved this place so much to come here often, and to choose it for the first crib in history.
It seems that the village was named after its founders, some Greek settlers who, the legend says, fell in love with this area, so charming and well defended by nature.
During the Middle Ages Greccio was fortified and the hamlet still preserves the old structure, despite the destruction and plunder carried out by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, and later by Napoleon’s army.
There are still some remains of the old castle - like part of its paving - which was built in the 11th century and was originally protected by walls and six towers. Of these towers, today three are left, the highest of which was transformed into a bell tower in the 17th century.
St. Michael’s Church is next to the bell tower, on top of a scenic staircase. The building dates back to the 14th century and was obtained from part of the castle. Although it was destroyed and and rebuilt more than once, it still preserves notable paintings and frescoes from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The old St. Mary’s Church, instead, hosts today the International Museum of Nativity Scenes, dedicated to the tradition that has made Greccio famous all over the world and placed the village at the heart of Christianity.
In order to celebrate St. Francis’ influence on Greccio’s history, the ‘Sentiero degli Artisti’ (Artists’ Trail) was launched in 2011, an open-air museum along the hamlet’s little squares and alleys. It is made of 26 works by international artists painted on the walls of Greccio’s houses. At one point, below St. Michael’s collegiate church, you can see a little chapel dedicated to St. Francis, which preserves the rock on which he used to stand on when preaching here.
To have a taste of what Greccio was like at the time of the saint, you can come here between December and January during the delicious Festival of Franciscan First Courses (‘Sagra dei Primi alla Francescana’) or the Historical Reenactment of the First Crib, not forgetting to visit the extraordinary sanctuary nearby.
Pro Loco di Labro:
+39 0746 63 61 34
Things not to miss
How to get here
From Rieti: Take the Tancia Provincial Road and follow the directions to Greccio, located after Contigliano.
From Terni: Take the SS79bis and follow the directions to Greccio.
From Rome: Follow the directions to E35/A1/Firenze (Florence). Once on the A1 highway (there is little toll to pay), take the Firenze/E45/Fiano Romano/Rieti exit. Take the SS4 Salaria to Rieti.
By public transport:
The closest airports are the two serving Rome (Fiumicino and Ciampino).
From FCO: train to Fara Sabina + Cotral bus to Rieti.
From CIA: bus to Termini train station (Rome).
From Termini: take the B underground line to Tiburtina train station (towards Rebibbia).
From Tiburtina: train to Fara Sabina + Cotral bus to Rieti, or direct Cotral bus to Rieti from the bus station just outside Tiburtina.
In Rieti, take the Cotral bus to Greccio.
Greccio's Pro Loco
Tel: +39 0746 753883
Mob: +39 331 3095244
Piazza Roma, 11