The crib with most papal visits is a really unexpected one. Created in 1972 by Giuseppe Ianni, a street cleaner, it has rapidly become one of the key destinations of the crib & nativity tour that you can enjoy in Rome and in Rome only!
Located in a Rome Waste Management office near the Vatican, this manger scene was set up by the incredible passion of a single person, Giuseppe, now retired but always willing to share all the details of his work with whomever passes by, and then continued and expanded by the whole AMA company.
In just 3 months Ianni and his colleagues, at first skeptical about the project, were able to reproduce a faithful miniature version of the Nativity in Bethlehem with the typical buildings of Palestine of 2,000 years ago. To testify to the importance of this small masterpiece and evidence of its worldwide popularity are the 2,300 stones coming from all over the world and embedded in the outer walls and at the base of the crib used for this work.
The 100 houses that have been masterfully crafted in tufa stone and slabs of flint, each of them with its own lighting, are detailed pieces of work with doors, windows and balconies. A smoking chimney, 3 rivers, 7 bridges, 4 springs, 2 moist walls and 4 aqueducts adorn the most typical of Rome’s cribs.
The first papal visit took place in 1974, by Pope Paul VI, the last pope to visit it was Benedict XVI in 2006, but the pope that was really in love with this Nativity was John Paul II who came here for 24 consecutive years, from his very first Christmas as Pope in 1978 until 2002. In 2003 Ianni received a phone call from the JPII’s personal secretary who invited him and his crew to visit the Pope’s crib. Ianni understood that Wojtyla couldn’t leave his apartment for health reasons and made a small portable version for JPII’s last Christmas….
Other key figures who visited the Manger scene are Mother Theresa of Calcutta in 1996 and the Custodian of the Nativity Grotta in Bethelehem Father Ibrahim Faltas.
No Rome mayor since 1979 missed the traditional Christmas appointment with Giuseppe and his co-workers. But also our head of State Giorgio Napolitano couldn’t help visiting it (2007), as well as the Italian Republic’s most powerful politician and Prime Minister (7 stints as head of the Italian government): Giulio Andreotti (1991).
In the room that hosts this charming Nativity, four large frescoes can also be admired, as well as dozens of pictures portraying many of the stars that went there to pray or simply admire the work.
It is estimated that 2 million people visited the crib so far. During the Christmas holidays there are lines as long as 2 hours, but you can also visit it all year long since it is always open. Free of charge, of course!