World News

Rome’s Ugly Christmas Tree to Be Reborn as a Baby Nursing Station

Posted January 11, 2018 8:16 p.m. EST

ROME — Rome’s much-derided Christmas tree, scornfully nicknamed Spelacchio, or mangy, for its forlorn appearance, was removed from the central Piazza Venezia on Thursday evening.

But the 72-foot Norway spruce, which began losing its needles immediately after it was installed in early December and then became a social media sensation, is not bound for a mulch heap.

Instead, the tree is going to be repurposed — cut up and its lumber used to build a hut in a city park where mothers can nurse their children.

A piece of the trunk will also be used for a not-yet-determined “artistic enterprise,” city officials said.

The tree’s defoliation initially prompted ridicule and disdain.

But after that first wave of insults, popular opinion took a turn, and Romans began leaving messages of support — thousands of them — on the tree’s branches. #Jesuissplelacchio became a trending term.

On Thursday, a lone note — suggesting that Leonardo da Vinci would be deeply distressed to learn that Spelacchio had become more famous than the Mona Lisa — was affixed to the tree’s pedestal.

“Today we are dismantling this tree that represented so much for Roman citizens, as well as for citizens of countries around the world,” Pinuccia Montanari, the city’s councilor responsible for environmental sustainability, said at a farewell ceremony for the tree on Thursday. She said that all the messages that had been left for Spelacchio would be compiled in a book.

The festivities were dampened by light rain, and also by a review carried out by Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority into the cost and methods of the tree’s transportation to Rome. City officials will now have to explain why they spent considerably more than they had in the previous two years to move and install the tree, although they had used the same company.

“As the days passed, ‘Spelacchio’ won over the heart and affection of most people,” Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, said in a statement.

“Now it will have a new life,” Raggi said. “We want to make this international star a concrete example of creative reuse, because everything can have a new life. A concrete way to show the world that Rome wants to be sustainable and committed to recycling.”

As city workers turned off the tree’s lights, a Rome resident began to chant: “Resist. Resist. Spelacchio. You live with us in our hearts.”