The narrow street, so crowded in the days leading to the 25th that pedestrian access is strictly one-way, sparkles with the fairy lights adorning these works of art made with cork, tree bark, and musk. Each scene, along with the traditional components, is complete with figurines showing daily life in the city, from the baker to the fishmonger to the pizza-maker. Prominent public figures also feature, with statues of Berlusconi, now no longer Italy's Prime Minister, reduced by 50%.
The crowds and Christmas lights fill your senses, while traditional street musicians wander the streets from shop to shop playing the zampogna, a type of bagpipe. These zampognari dressed in traditional costume often travel from the mountains of Abruzzo, some one hundred miles north east of Naples, for the season.
Food is of course, as at all Italian festivities, very important at this time of year. Neapolitans revel in their local delights produced especially for the season. Strufoli, recalling a time when delicacies were difficult to attain, is a plate of cooked dough coated in honey, sprinkled with hundreds upon thousands of sprinkles. Roccocò is a hard jaw-breaking biscuit. A soft version of torrone, from nearby Benevento, was first produced for rich noblemen, who tended to be older and therefore had less teeth! The traditional Christmas Eve meal is a feast of seven different fish dishes, and a trip to the Porta Nolana fish market, open all night on the 23rd, is an unforgettable experience. It's not for the faint-hearted, however—vendors chop live capitoni (eels) into cooking-sized chunks before your eyes.
The family get-together is never complete without a game of tombola, similar to bingo. Each number is designated a different meaning by the Neapolitan Smorfia (a book used to analyse symbols in dreams—very useful for the lottery). For example five is the hand, 23 is the fool, 55 is music. Christmas is, of course, number 25.