What Happened to Rome's Christmas Tree?

The Christmas tree in Rome's Piazza Venezia is already dead. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

It seems as if no one will be singing "O Christmas Tree" in Rome this year.

Standing in Rome's Piazza Venezia — one of its busiest plazas — is a gangly and sparse tree, one that only Charlie Brown could love. The city's residents have dubbed it Spelacchio, which means "balding" or "mangy." It was compared to a toilet brush not long after it was installed in the plaza on Dec. 8.

The tree has more than just an image problem. It's actually already very dead.

A sad big tree

The 70-foot-tall spruce was declared dead on Monday by city officials, confirmed to Corriere della Sera, after the Roman city council paid almost $60,000 to transport it from Italy's Trentino province in the north.

The suppliers of Spelacchio supplied photos to La Repubblica to demonstrate that the tree was perfectly healthy when it left for Rome.

"Despite being technically dead, trees can remain luxuriant for a month and a half, two months," a spokesperson told La Repubblica.

"It left our valley in optimum condition. What happened is that it wasn't unloaded correctly once it arrived in Rome, which is an extremely delicate operation because there's a risk of breaking the branches."

Spelachhio Christmas tree's ornamnets
Spelachhio's 600 ball ornaments do little to hide the tree's bare branches. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Spelacchio's threadbare branches are supplying plenty of needling directed at Rome's mayor, Virginia Raggi. A member of the Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment party, Raggi's management of the city has been criticized for failing to collect garbage and buses that apparently catch fire. Last year, Raggi's choice of an "Austerity Tree" was soundly bashed for possibly being the ugliest Christmas tree in the world.

And since Raggi's party is looking to win national offices in next year's elections, opponents have welcomed Spelacchio as a political Christmas present.

"The Five Star Movement can't even manage to get a Christmas tree right, imagine how they would govern the country," Elvira Savino, an MP from Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party, told the Telegraph.

Raggi has opened an investigation into how the tree came to be in this state.

The Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican
The Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican has plenty of holiday cheer. Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Romans dismayed by the lack of Christmas cheer in Piazza Venezia — and that they must spend the holiday watching the tree lose more of its needles — can take solace that the Vatican's tree in St. Peter's Square is lush and well-decorated. That tree, a red fir, came all the way from Poland, making Spelacchio's current state all the more frustrating.