Rome to light up Christmas tree on 8 December

Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia will be lit up on 8 December as city collaborates with FAO.

Rome's Christmas tree arrived in the Italian capital during the early hours of 30 November, with technicians at work to set it up in its traditional base in Piazza Venezia.

News of the tree's arrival came as a surprise to Romans who have been accustomed in recent years to advance hype surrounding the annual custom.

This year, the first Christmas for Rome's new mayor Roberto Gualtieri, the 25-metre high fir from the northern Trentino region arrived without any prior announcement from city hall.

In 2018 and 2019 the American streaming giant Netflix sponsored the tree however, as in 2020, this year the bill falls to Rome, costing the capital €169,000 according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

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The 2021 tree will be dedicated to the battle against food waste and world hunger by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which will place 17 giant gift packages - symbolising its 17 Sustainable Development Goals - at the tree's base, newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.

Spelacchio

Rome's Christmas tree was christened "Spelacchio" several years ago due to the 'manginess' of the 2017 specimen whose threadbare branches drew negative news headlines in Italy and around the world.

After the initial outrage over the tree, which was compared unfavourably to a toilet brush, poor Spelacchio eventually won the hearts of Romans who festooned its branches with hand-written messages of affection and sympathy.

Most Romans would agree however that Spelacchio was not the city's worst Christmas tree of all time - many would give that dubious honour to the white papier-mâché Christmas tree installed by former mayor Gianni Alemanno in 2011.

The short-lived tree was removed within hours of its installation but not before a Rome politician captured the general mood by calling it “the epitome of bad taste”.

Until 2015 Rome had two main Christmas trees, one in Piazza Venezia and one at the Colosseum. However this custom was discontinued on cost-cutting grounds by former mayor Virginia Raggi.

This year's Christmas tree will be illuminated by hundreds of lights at 17.30 on 8 December, as per tradition, on the religious feast of the Immaculate Conception or L'Immacolata as it is known in Italy.

The Christmas lights along the city's main thoroughfare, Via del Corso, will also be switched on at the same time. Photo Wanted in Rome