What they saw, with a mix of dismay and amusement, was a strangely-shaped fir tree with a number of its longest branches missing in the middle.
Rome’s Christmas tree last year, dubbed "Spelacchio" -- which translates to "mangy," due to its threadbare appearance -- became a source of public teasing for the city’s mayor and council in national and international media. This year’s tree does not look like much of an improvement, and was immediately dubbed "Spelacchio #2."
Last year’s sorry specimen of a tree, seen as a symbol of the capital’s poverty, took on a persona of its own, complete with its own parody twitter account which tweeted its own death. The butt of many jokes, it won affection with Rome’s residents and visitors in the end when city council officials pronounced it dead.
This year, it has reappeared as the "star" in a recently-released Italian advertisement for Netflix, the sponsor of the tree.
Embattled Rome mayor, Virginia Raggi, will be at the tree lighting ceremony Saturday.
Lampooned about the tree and criticized about her her sluggishness dealing with the capital’s endless problems -- including last year's Christmas tree -- Ragi joked on her Facebook page that "Spelacchio" deserved the best actor award for Christmas 2018.
With Netflix -– not the city of Rome -- footing the 376,000 euro cost for this year's Spelacchio, and considering the media buzz it has already generated, the mayor and the city council might just get the last laugh.