Amalfi, the historic seaside town that gives its name to the celebrated Amalfi Coast of stunning beauty, is not the only location in Italy where an underwater Nativity scene is set up in December, but it is the first place to start that tradition in the 1960s. Not the first Nativity scene, which was created by St Francis of Assisi in 1223 when he engaged real people in it, using a grotto set amid 700-metre-tall rocks in the central Italy’s village of Greccio, in Latium, the region of Rome.
Amalfi had the first idea of an underwater creche, then followed by various localities all over Italy, including Porto Venere on the Ligurian Coast (the Italian Riviera) near Cinque Terre, as well as the Alpine Lake of Lago Maggiore.
In Amalfi this year, on 6 December registration for underwater photography competitions begins. Saturday 7 December, Mass is celebrated in the large space (called “piazzale”) in front of the Emerald Grotto, in Conca dei Marini Bay, near Amalfi.
The Emerald Grotto, one of the most beautiful in Italy, is so called due to the natural emerald-green colour of the light visible inside it, caused by the sunlight entering the cave through an underground passage.
It can be accessed both by sea and on foot by descending to it from the Amalfi Drive road and car park using a lift or a wide staircase. Visitors then enter the cave through an artificial tunnel. Inside the grotto there is a pier with many wooden boats.
On 7 December, after the Mass, the underwater procession in the Emerald Grotto takes place.
Every year over one hundred professional divers – specialists of the armed forces, police and civil protection – and sportsmen plunge from the small inlet’s quay into the dark waters, and start a torchlight underwater procession, lighting up with bulbs and bright dots the path that leads to the inner part of the cave, also accessible to those who are not in the water.
When they arrive at the creche, the divers stop in front of the statues of the Nativity scene and pay a tribute to the Little Child placed in the crib.