Standing tall, if not proud, in one of the capital’s busiest squares, Rome’s Christmas tree is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons. The 70-foot fir has been mocked by residents and visitors alike for its drooping, threadbare branches and its overall lacklustre appearance. The tree is in such a sorry state that it has even earned the nickname ‘Spelacchio’, which, roughly translated, means mangy or bald.
The giant tree, erected in Piazza Venezia earlier this month, came from the Val di Fiemme area in Trentino in Italy’s Alpine north. However, it began dropping needles at an alarming rate and, with a week to go until Christmas, local government officially declared it dead.
In fact, as Rome’s Environment Department explained, the fir was already dead – cut Christmas trees don’t have roots and are simply erected, not replanted.
A spokesperson for the area that supplied the tree, however, was keen to point out that when the tree left the Val di Fiemme area it was in excellent condition. They told newspaper La Repubblica that ‘despite being in fact dead, trees can remain lush for a month and a half or two months’.
They also produced photos of the tree being felled and then tied to the back of a lorry on its way to Rome – looking lush, green and in much better health than it is now.
Spelacchio’s sparse condition has caused controversy in the capital, with some Romans comparing it to a giant toilet brush and newspaper Il Messaggero calling it a national embarrassment. The tree even has its own Twitter account with over 5,000 followers.
“The Christmas tree of Piazza Venezia is the sad mirror of a dying city,” said Rome-native Matteo Memmi. Another resident, Giacomo Gabrielli, compared it to a terminally ill patient, explaining, “It makes me feel compassion, pity and hopelessness – not exactly what you would expect from a Christmas tree.”
Italians have been quick not just to ridicule poor Spelacchio but also to point the finger at mayor Virginia Raggi, who authorised the €48,000 transportation cost to bring the tree to the capital – more than three times the fee for last year’s tree.
“At the next election, we may as well elect the Grinch,” said local Alessandro Gavazzi, apparently criticising Raggi’s lack of festive spirit.
This is not the first time Rome’s Christmas tree has caused controversy. Last year, the capital’s centrepiece was dubbed the ‘austerity tree’ and branded the ‘ugliest tree in the world’.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.