Romans are up in arms over the tree that has been dubbed ‘Spelacchio’, which roughly translates as mangy or baldy. — Reuters pic
ROME, Dec 20 — “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how pitifully bare are your branches!” Romans yesterday were mourning the untimely death of the Eternal City’s tree, affectionately nicknamed ‘Baldy’.
With a week still to go until December 25, the tree in the Italian capital’s main square of Piazza Venezia has become such a laughing stock that it led the city’s mayor to launch an investigation into what prompted Baldy’s premature demise.
“Rome’s tree is dry, dead on arrival. It’s a metaphor for the state of the capital,” one local wrote on Twitter, while another wondered: “What time does the funeral start?”
According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, a preliminary enquiry found that the tree was not properly covered during transport from the Dolomites in northern Italy, where it had been grown.
A wide range of Romans — including environmentalists and professional gardeners — have opined that a tree of a more robust variety also would have survived for longer before starting to shed.
Poor Baldy is a Norway spruce, while the European silver fir would have been a much safer bet for a tree, these self-professed Christmas tree experts said.
Many have compared “the fir tree agony” — which has cost the city some €48,000 (RM231,833) — to the governing Five Star Movement (M5S), which won the mayorship in 2016 but has struggled with a transport and rubbish crisis.
“As if the mess they have created over the past year and a half was not enough, we must put up with this misery,” tweeted another Roman.
Il Messaggero declared it a national embarrassment, saying that “in Russia, they’ve dubbed our dying tree a ‘toilet brush’.” — AFP
Read more at http://www.themalaymailonline.com/features/article/rome-mourns-early-death-of-christmas-tree-baldy#Uk2kuvZPj0HOC8CJ.99
Some of Victor Emmanuel’s descendants are calling for his remains to be moved to the Pantheon, the ancient Roman monument where Italy’s first two Savoy kings lie.
Emanuele Filiberto, his great-grandson, told Italian media that members of his house shouldn’t be buried in “just any tomb”.
“It’s not anachronistic to hope that kings be respected,” he said.
But the request was branded as “mockery” by the Jewish community in Rome. Many pointed out that the Pantheon is very close to the ghetto – the city’s Jewish neighbourhood where, in 1943, about 1,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to Nazi death camps. Only 16 survived.
Even the manner in which the king’s remains were physically transported to Italy has sparked anger – on a military plane, paid for by the state.
“A disagreeable choice,” said Massimo D’Alema, a former Italian prime minister.
“We need to be careful about the symbols we are sending,” said Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement, who is running in the next election and could become Italy’s new prime minister. “We are reopening a wound in our history.”
Three years after the king fled Italy – leaving his homeland, and significantly the Italian army, in chaos – he abdicated in favour of his son.
A month later, in June 1946, Italy voted to become a republic.
It was also decided that all members of the Savoy family would be barred from setting foot in Italy ever again – a ban that was overturned in 2002.
Who was King Victor Emmanuel III?
1900: Victor Emmanuel III becomes King of Italy
1922: He asks Mussolini to form a new government, paving the way for the fascist regime
1938: The king signs laws restricting civil rights of Jews
9 September 1943: Victor Emmanuel III flees Italy
9 May 1946: The king abdicates in favour of his son
2 June 1946: Italian referendum, Italy becomes a republic
28 December 1947: Victor Emmanuel III dies in exile in Egypt
His remains were returned at the weekend after a formal request by his family in 2011.
On Monday they paid tribute to him at a family mausoleum near Turin in a small private ceremony.
Victor Emmanuel was reburied next to his wife, Elena of Montenegro, a woman who was 1.80m tall and used to call him “mon petit roi” (my small king).
His grandson, Victor Emmanuel, who would be the king if Italy still had a monarchy, says he still hopes his grandfather’s body could be moved to the Pantheon – “where kings belong”.
His niece Maria Pia says he was “adorable”.
“I used to call him little grandpa. He was affected by rickets – his legs were so short that when he stood up from his chair he had to do a little jump, like us children.”
The rest of the country will probably remember him in a very different way.