Rome’s ‘mangy’ Christmas tree gets new life

Rome’s world-famous Christmas tree, affectionately known as Spelacchio, is to be given new life.

Rome's Christmas tree is to be recycled and turned into a wooden cabin for parents and children, with playing and changing facilities, according to an announcement by the city.
Spelacchio, translating roughly as “mangy” or “baldy,” has been through many ups and downs on its journey. The tree was erected in Rome’s Piazza Venezia in December and was the city’s only major tree, as the tradition of the Colosseum tree was discontinued in 2016 due to cost-cutting measures.
The Christmas tree was a gift from Val di Fiemme in the Trentino region in the north of Italy. Despite being a gift, the cost to transport the giant tree to Rome came in at €48,000; three times more than the tree from the previous year. Rome city council was left trying to explain this cost difference, despite the tree coming from the same place and with the same company.
To make matters worse, Spelacchio was pronounced dead on arrival. Residents noted its shabby appearance and drooping branches. The Romans were not happy, and social media outrage soon ensued. The tree was even compared to a giant toilet brush.
As well as giving the nickname “the mangy one,” Romans assigned metaphorical significance to the tree, with messages suggesting that it represented the council’s failings. Others compared Rome’s efforts with more impressive trees around Italy, including the Vatican’s 28m-high red fir, nicknamed “Rigoglio” for its luxury.
Yet affection for Spelacchio grew, and residents began flocking to the shabby icon to touch it, take photos and leave messages, some steeped in irony. “There’s a mangy one in all of us,” said one note.
When Christmas came to an end, the question arose what to do with Spelacchio once it had been taken down. The proposed options included putting it on display in a museum, turning it into pencils for charity and using it as timber for wooden cabins. Barcelona may hold the status as one of Europe’s hippest cities right now, but it seems that Rome is up there for its resilience.
On 8 January a press conference was held in Rome's town hall to decide Spelacchio’s fate. The next day it was announced that the tree would be chopped up and turned into a wooden cabin with baby changing facilities and play areas for children. One part of the lumber will be kept for display, according to Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi. The loving messages will reportedly be turned into a book.
Rome’s Christmas tree was taken down on 11 January, an event marked with a special ceremony. To quote one message from its base, “Spelacchio, you will stay in our hearts forever.”