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Times of contemplation: Christmas nativity scenes by the sea in the northern Adriatic

Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Trieste

Is it really the case that you can only enjoy summer by the sea? No, sea lovers would vehemently reply. Hardly anything is as Christmassy as a winter beach and the almost shy murmur of the sea after the loud winter storms. Nevertheless, it is not Staad, the Christmas season. In the golden and long since chilly twilight, when the lights on the beach promenade begin to twinkle, they come to life: the nativity scenes in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

A winter on the beach, when the frenzy of summer has passed and the tourists, like migratory birds, have not yet returned. When Graisani and Lignanesi are reclaiming their villages and yet everyone is looking forward to spring and the return of their guests. Under the ice-cold, often azure blue sky, there is a sandpit that not only promises summer fun, but is also the heart of the region’s Christmas tradition – the sand crib of Lignano Sabbiadoro.

It has been 120 years since the summer paradise of Lignano Sabbiadoro emerged from the hidden village by the sea. When the crib opens its doors on December 8th, there will be countless admirers young and old. And some of them will come because their boats are moored in the nearby marinas such as Marina Punta Verde, Marina Uno, D-Marin Punta Faro, Punta Gabbiani or Aprilia Marittima, where the marina’s own spa invites you to shoo the winter out of your mind.

The sand crib in Lignano – a project with a 20-year tradition

It is now a small tradition when the works of art made of fine-grained sand are brought to life for the 20th time by the two designers Lara Gozzo and Maestro Mario Vittadello. Bringing the crib to life requires intensive collaboration between the “Sand Academy” Accademia della Sabbia, the Dome Aghe Savalon d’Aur association, the municipality of Lignano Sabbiadoro and Lignano Sabbiadoro Gestioni (LISAGEST), which also manages the town’s beach. This is how the ephemeral works of art made of sand and water are created, which this year celebrate the connection between sea and lagoon, beach and people.


Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Lignano sand crib
© Lignano d’Amare


Emanuele Rodeano, President of LISAGEST says: “I was born in Lignano and it fills me with pride to be involved in the organization of Christmas in Lignano since 2019. Lignano is a big tourist town, but also a small town with its own community.

Christmas brings this community together, it is an opportunity to meet again after a busy summer season and at the same time it is a signal to all tourist friends that Lignano is also alive in winter and has something fascinating to offer for those who want to enjoy the magic of Christmas on the beach in winter. Austrians in particular are increasingly attracted to this event and come in greater numbers year after year. This year, thanks to the town twinning in Klagenfurt, we have also realized a sand nativity scene and there is an information stand about Lignano and the region in their market.

In winter, we Lignanesi take back our city, the rhythms slow down, we meet again, even if for me, as for others, the planning for the next season begins immediately. I love Lignano in winter with the swell and the dark bora and in summer with the sultriness and the confusion. I owe a lot of who I am to the city and that’s why I’ve made myself available to my community several times.


Aprilia Marittima – The baby Jesus on the water

Barely a few kilometers away, in Aprilia Marittima, where there is also a SeaHelp base (, the baby Jesus can be seen in another special nativity scene: Given Aprilia Marittima’s focus on water sports, what could be more natural than placing the baby Jesus in a floating nativity scene? The work can be seen around the clock from the Piazzetta dell’Imbarcadero. After dark and in the evening hours, clever lighting ensures that a reflection of the crib can be seen on the water.


Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Aprilia Marittima
© Aprilia Marittima


Grado – The place with 100 nativity scenes

Between Grado and Lignano Sabbiadoro and further along the coast to Trieste, the Christmas season is a time of joyful enjoyment in specially set up Christmas villages, with delicious regional delicacies and the special love that the inhabitants of Friuli Venezia Giulia give to their nativity scenes. None of the villages misses the opportunity to erect its own, very special nativity scene. Grado mutates between the old fishing port of Porto Mandracchio and the winding alleyways between December 8th, the traditional start of the nativity scene season, and January 14th into the nativity scene capital, with more than 100 exhibits also hidden in the districts of Fossalon, Boscat and, of course, Aquileia.


Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Grado
© Archivio PromoTurismoFVG


If you want to experience the wonderful world of Christmas for yourself and even from on board, moor here in the Darsena San Marco, in Porto San Vito, the Marina di Aquileia or the Marina Primero or in the center of Aquileia in the Marina Resort Navigare 2.000, newly added to the FVG Marinas network.


Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Natale Grado
© Fabrice Gallina


Trieste adorns itself

There is much more to say about the art of nativity scenes and maritime tradition along the Friuli-Venezia Giulia coast. Finally, a detour to Trieste, the city of winds, takes you to another special nativity scene. There, in the center and very close to the city marina San Giusto, there is even a talking nativity scene and only a little further on, the nativity scene museum awaits visitors.


Christmas cribs in the North Adriatic: Trieste
© Fabrice Gallina


For anyone who still needs a reason to set off for Friuli Venezia Giulia – whether equipped for winter on board or by another means of transport – the words of Biagio Marin, the great poet from Grado, are recommended: “My village, my little nest and gull’s nest, sitting light-footed on a blond hump, for you I would create a world of songs and never stop singing. “ Do you need any other invitation than this to discover the world of cribs in Friuli?

If you want to visit the sand cribs in Friuli Venezia Giulia, you can find all the dates and opening times at

Information about the FVG Marinas network in Friuli Venezia Giulia and tips on where to find the perfect mooring for summer and winter can be found at

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