Is Rome’s Spelacchio the saddest Christmas tree ever?

Eternal City paid £42,600 for wilting spruce that has gone viral for all the wrong reasons

(Image credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Rome’s official Christmas tree has been compared to a toilet brush after it shed most of its needles within days of being installed in the heart of the city.

The gigantic spruce was intended to be the festive centrepiece of Piazza Venezia, but its wilting, threadbare branches have turned it into an eyesore, with a week still to go before Christmas.

Unimpressed locals have christened the tree "Spelacchio" - “baldy” - in reference to its rapidly thinning foliage. The decidedly un-festive spectacle soon became something of a viral hit:

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Even more galling to the city’s taxpayers, the threadbare tree cost the city €48,000 (£42,600).

On Monday, Rome council officials confirmed that the tree was technically dead on arrival, having been severed from its roots in the Dolomite mountain range in north-east Italy and transported to the capital, but that no-one predicted its rapid decline.

The embarrassing episode has sparked a “long distance war of words” between Roman officials and the region who provided the tree, says Corriere della Sera.

Stefano Cattoi, Val di Fiemme’s director of forestry, insisted the spruce was in “excellent health” when it left the region, and that a healthy spruce could last up to six weeks after being felled. “We don’t want to point the finger it anyone,” he said, “but something happened to that tree.”

For their part, Rome’s council has denied any mistreatment that could have caused Spelacchio’s sudden decline and has “launched an inquiry into its untimely demise,” The Local reports.

Depressingly, Spelacchio is not due to be dismantled until after Christmas, meaning “the city is set to watch its tree wither” for the next week, NPR reports.

The Eternal City has had a run of bad luck with its Christmas trees, says The Local, with its lacklustre and under-decked 2016 offering dubbed “the ugliest in the world”.

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