Rome Christmas tree row over ‘ugly’ solar panels

After Spelacchio comes a new controversy.

Rome’s Christmas tree was in the news for the wrong reasons again on Tuesday amid complaints over two giant solar panels at its base in the central Piazza Venezia.

The tree, a majestic 23-metre high fir from Varese in northern Italy, will be lit up by solar energy courtesy of multi-utility ACEA.

The festive lights on nearby Via del Corso as well as Christmas trees elsewhere in the city will also be powered by the solar panels, which are set to be re-used after the holiday season.

The approach by the city is both green and economical and is intended to avoid running up gigantic electricity bills amid the ongoing energy crisis.

City hall argues that “in this historic period, Romans have millions of euros of bills to pay” and that the use of solar energy can be seen as a message of solidarity and environmentalism.

However, with just two days to go before the lights are switched on, the black photovoltaic panels have already earned criticism from politicians and the public.

“I am receiving messages from people who have tried to install solar panels but have been blocked by the superintendency, then seeing that the city can place two huge ones in Piazza Venezia seems like a mockery” – Fabrizio Santori of the right-wing Lega told La Repubblica newspaper – “The issue of renewable energy is important but we need respect for the scenery.”

The solar panels have also been criticised by the populist Movimento 5 Stelle in the capital. Linda Meleo, who served as transport councillor under former mayor Virginia Raggi, said: “There were other methods to light the tree with clean energy without placing the two panels there which are objectively ugly.”
 
The Christmas tree will be illuminated by Rome’s mayor Roberto Gualtieri at 18.00 on Thursday 8 December, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a public holiday in Italy.
 
In 2017 Rome’s Christmas tree made headlines around the world after it was christened “Spelacchio” due to the ‘manginess’ of its threadbare branches. After the initial outrage over the tree, which was compared unfavourably to a toilet brush, Spelacchio won the hearts of Romans who festooned it with messages of affection and sympathy.
 
In 2011 a white papier-mâché Christmas tree installed by former mayor Gianni Alemanno was widely criticised. It was removed within hours of its installation but not before a Rome politician captured the general mood by calling it “the epitome of bad taste”.
 
Photo La Repubblica