Spelacchio 2020

Spelacchio: Rome’s Christmas tree returns to Piazza Venezia

Rome gears up for Christmas with tree and festive lights.

According to reports in local media, Rome has had second thoughts about the location of the city’s Christmas tree, which will be set up as usual in Piazza Venezia and not in Piazza del Popolo.

There had been some doubts about this year’s tree, popularly known as Spelacchio, and whether Rome would even continue the custom in 2020.

Until very recently, Metro C works had taken over its usual place in the heart of Piazza Venezia, and the shadow of covid-19 cast further doubts on the crowd-pleasing festive tradition.

This led to talk of a Christmas tree being placed in Piazza del Popolo. However, as Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported last night, the city has decided to retain the tree’s traditional site, in front of the Altare della Patria.

This year, one major difference reports Rome’s daily newspaper Il Messaggero, is that the tree will not be sponsored by Netflix but by the city, which has not organized and financed a Christmas tree since 2017.

On that occasion, Rome was introduced to a specimen so bedraggled and droopy-looking that it became known as Spelacchio on account of its “manginess,” with some local commentators comparing it to a giant toilet brush.

However, Romans soon swapped their mockery for genuine affection towards poor Spelacchio, defending the unfortunate tree and covering its threadbare branches with declarations of love and solidarity.

By the time it was taken down, the tree was festooned in hand-written messages, such as “Spelacchio, you will stay in our hearts forever.” The name has stuck ever since.

Christmas lights in Rome

Separately, Christmas lights are installed around the historic center from Monday 30 November until Saturday 5 December, with Via del Corso partly closed to traffic at night next week.

Rome’s exclusive shopping street Via dei Condotti got a head start after its Christmas lights – sponsored by luxury jeweler Bulgari – were switched on last night.