Rome mourns early death of Christmas tree 'Baldy'

Residents of the Italian capital are decrying a plaza Christmas tree they've dubbed Spelacchio, which means mangy or baldy, as a symbol of their city's decline.
Tourists take pictures near the controversial Christmas tree at Piazza Venezia in Rome, Dec 19, 2017.
Tourists take pictures near the controversial Christmas tree at Piazza Venezia in Rome, Dec 19, 2017.PHOTO: AFP
Baldy's bare branches have turned the Rome Christmas tree into a laughing stock.
Baldy's bare branches have turned the Rome Christmas tree into a laughing stock.PHOTO: AFP

ROME (AFP) - "O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how pitifully bare are your branches!"

Romans on Tuesday (Dec 19) were mourning the untimely death of the Eternal City's tree, affectionately nicknamed "Baldy".

With a week still to go until Dec 25, the tree in the Italian capital's main square of Piazza Venezia has become such a laughing stock that it led the city's mayor to launch an investigation into what prompted Baldy's premature demise.

"Rome's tree is dry, dead on arrival. It's a metaphor for the state of the capital," one local wrote on Twitter, while another wondered: "What time does the funeral start?"

According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, a preliminary enquiry found that the tree was not properly covered during transport from the Dolomites in northern Italy, where it had been grown.

A wide range of Romans - including environmentalists and professional gardeners - have opined that a tree of a more robust variety also would have survived for longer before starting to shed.

Poor Baldy is a Norway spruce, while the European silver fir would have been a much safer bet for a tree, these self-professed Christmas tree experts said.

Many have compared "the fir tree agony" - which has cost the city some €48,000 (S$76,000) - to the governing Five Star Movement (M5S), which won the mayorship in 2016 but has struggled with a transport and rubbish crisis.

"As if the mess they have created over the past year and a half was not enough, we must put up with this misery," tweeted another Roman.

Il Messaggero declared it a national embarrassment, saying that "in Russia, they've dubbed our dying tree a 'toilet brush'."