Europe

New life for Rome's 'baldy' Christmas tree Spelacchio

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Media captionTourists and locals described Rome's Christmas tree as "mangy"

Its threadbare appearance drew international ridicule and saw it likened to a toilet brush.

But now it seems Rome's famously rubbish Christmas tree may live on in the city's MAXXI modern art museum.

In December the lacklustre Norway Spruce was affectionately nicknamed "Spelacchio", which translates as "Mangy" or "Baldy".

Locals and visitors alike were shocked when it appeared to be on its last legs midway through Advent.

The tree cost the Eternal City almost 50,000 euros ($60,140; £44,330) to bring from near the Austrian border.

Cynics said its decrepitude mirrored Rome's own state of disrepair in recent years. "It hurts even to look at this Christmas tree," one Italian woman declared.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The controversial tree in Rome's Piazza Venezia

The spindly specimen had its supporters, though - including on Twitter, where its own @Spelacchio account took root.

"They say they want to put me in a museum. Move over Caravaggio," one tweet enthused, referencing the 16th-century Italian painter.

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As its divisive reign ends with Epiphany, when Christmas trees everywhere are taken down, Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper says a museum berth is not the only option.

Rome council is reportedly mulling a plan to turn the tree into a wooden house where breastfeeding mothers could feed and change their babies.

Another scheme could see it live on as thousands of pencils for Rome's schools, Italian press say.

The tree's fate is expected to be announced in a press conference on 8 January. Whatever comes next, the thousands of drawings, memories, and encouraging messages left on its ailing branches suggest its place in history is secure.

"We will not forget you," reads one. "Stay in Rome," begs another.

The most unlikely sentiment is among the most repeated: "You are beautiful."

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