How will Rome’s new Christmas tree hold up on social media?
ROME — For weeks now, Romans have been breathlessly awaiting the presentation of the Italian capital’s official Christmas tree, a year after the resounding social media debacle that felled last year’s fir.
That tree, a Norway spruce that immediately lost its needles, had been nicknamed Spelacchio, or Mangy, for its threadbare appearance, and had been mercilessly, and humorously, derided throughout the holiday season. Mayor Virginia Raggi, no stranger to controversy, had also been swept up in the scathing social media maelstrom.
So it’s no wonder that this year’s tree has been under especially close scrutiny. The official presentation is scheduled for Saturday, but its journey has been tracked for weeks.
In late November, intrepid reporters from Rome trekked to the Lombardy town of Cittiglio, 416 miles north of the capital to a garden nursery whose identity had been kept secret for weeks.
There, they chronicled the tree’s axing and preparation for the trip to Rome, which involved detaching the larger branches of the 75-foot tree, to be re-affixed upon arrival in Rome.
The Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero wrote in a front-page article that the tree had been “disassembled and reassembled like a piece of Ikea furniture,” leading some Romans to call the tree #Spezzacchio, a play on the Italian verb “to break.”
It didn’t take long for the new tree to establish a presence on social media, though Italians can’t seem to agree on a hashtag.
For many critics of Rome’s mayor, a member of the populist Five Star Movement, the mangy tree was a symbol of everything wrong with the capital, where garbage goes uncollected, potholes transform many streets into slalom courses and buses occasionally burst into flames.
Spelacchio’s official account — created last year — appears to have been co-opted by this year’s entry, and despite the polemics last year, the old name seems to have stuck.
Ms. Raggi proudly posted on Twitter recently that “@spelacchio is Back in @Roma,” using a tagline adopted by the tree’s sponsor, Netflix.
The new tree’s reviews on social media have been mostly positive.