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HomeWorldLess Mange, More Frills: Rome’s New Mayor Bets on His Christmas Tree

Less Mange, More Frills: Rome’s New Mayor Bets on His Christmas Tree


ROME — Romans have by no means held again in the case of blaming their mayors for town’s a number of shortcomings: tire-swallowing potholes, open-air neighborhood rubbish dumps, marauding wildlife.

But in recent times, metropolis leaders have additionally needed to deal with their constituents’ jitters forward of the annual Dec. 8 Christmas tree lighting ceremony within the central Piazza Venezia.

At least they’ve since 2017, when Mayor Virginia Raggi set off a social media maelstrom after she put in a tree so pitiful that it was nicknamed Spelacchio, or Mangy.

On Wednesday, it was her successor’s flip: At a information convention that night, Mayor Roberto Gualtieri, who was elected in October, introduced his “bellissimo Christmas tree.”

The tree ticked the entire proper bins: large, brilliant, bushy and, not less than at first, a crowd pleaser.

“It gives a great sense of joy; it reminds me of when I was a child,” mentioned Assunta Barbano, who attended the lighting ceremony to cheer herself up, including, “It hasn’t been the best of times.”

But Mr. Gualtieri was much less apprehensive concerning the reactions from these on the ceremony.

Online, the grumbling has begun, with many social media customers appalled by the worth tag: 169,000 euros, or about $191,000, which incorporates the transportation, set up and elimination of the tree, kind of consistent with the price of the one put up final yr.

Some supporters of Ms. Raggi, who’s now a part of the opposition on the City Council, started to denounce the brand new tree even earlier than the ceremony — it’s a very lit “kick in the stomach,” one wrote — however after the Spelacchio debacle, Ms. Raggi additionally sought to dazzle Romans. She hoisted up larger and brighter Christmas bushes, one yr even partnering with Netflix as a sponsor.

Mr. Gualtieri has spent his first weeks in workplace making an attempt to tell apart himself from Ms. Raggi, who was, rightly or wrongly, blamed for a number of town’s ills. He has proven a can-do spirit in a metropolis generally known as being everlasting, a reference — some snidely counsel — to the period of time it takes to do something right here.

He promised that, by Christmas, he would clear up town’s streets and take away the mounds of rubbish that periodically smother Roman trash bins. (Empirical proof means that he has to date missed this mark.)

And final week, he introduced {that a} landmark bridge that had burned down shortly earlier than the elections on Oct. 4 — a metaphor of Rome burning that was not lost on Ms. Raggi’s critics — would reopen on Sunday.

But town has gone to city on the tree.

Compared with Spelacchio, the 2021 tree is taller — 75 toes to Mangy’s 72 — and it’s significantly fuller and far brighter. “It’s very luminous,” mentioned Francesco Bernardi, who’s coaching to be a lawyer in Rome. He gave the tree a thumbs up, however questioned town’s resolution to “use so much energy to light” it, given the worldwide concern with “going green.”

He needn’t have apprehensive: All of the bulbs on the tree are energy-efficient LEDs, a spokesman for the vitality utility Acea mentioned.

Apart from the glittering lights — and there are many these — for his first tree, Mr. Gualtieri has joined with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, which is predicated in Rome, to mirror a special Christmas spirit.

The tree, the mayor mentioned, is “part of an awareness-raising campaign about the United Nations’ sustainable development goals,” bold targets geared toward bettering lives and masking areas like world starvation, local weather change, the atmosphere, schooling and justice.

“There is no better moment or place than the Christmas tree to present these extraordinary objectives and enrich the message of Christmas,” Mr. Gualtieri mentioned.

Seventeen festively wrapped bins, every representing a objective, are organized across the tree. And every one is marked with a QR code that folks can scan to examine the right way to make Rome extra sustainable. (Advice to satisfy Goal No. 12: “Support brands that are socially responsible and ethical, donate old clothes to charity and buy secondhand.”)

To illustrate the sustainable growth targets round Rome, Acea put in light-covered wire Christmas bushes atop colourful stands in 14 neighborhoods.

These are “a road map for how each of us can take simple actions to be part of the change,” Qu Dongyu, the director common of the Food and Agriculture Organization, mentioned in a press release. He invited everybody to “learn more about the sustainable actions that each of us can do in our daily life.”

Enrico Giovannini, Italy’s minister of sustainable infrastructure and mobility, who was additionally on the tree lighting ceremony information convention on Wednesday, mentioned the European Union and Italy had put the targets “at the center” of the continent’s financial restoration amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The goals have come down to policies,” he mentioned.

“It’s a great initiative,” mentioned Simona Marcolli, who had come to see the tree along with her preteen daughter, including: “We already speak of these issues at home. It’s important.”

And the tree? “It’s great,” she mentioned.

Romans have additionally been retaining a watch this yr on a crosstown rival — the Vatican — after a Nativity scene final yr that they excoriated as being too untraditional.

This yr, the Nativity scene was a present from the Chopcca Nation, in Peru. It shows 35 life-size collectible figurines wearing typical Andean costumes. “It’s more classic, more traditional,” mentioned Angela Schinnea, a tour information in Rome.

Her good friend Marisa Maiorana, who works for an import-export firm, mentioned she favored the Vatican Christmas tree — a 92-foot, eight-ton crimson fir from northern Italy. But she mentioned she appreciated the Piazza Venezia tree as properly, although she famous that Romans had begun to name it “bottiglione” as a result of they joked that it resembled an oversize bottle.

“It’s true” that Romans complain about the whole lot, mentioned Simone Livulpi, who simply graduated from faculty with a communications diploma.

“It’s a way of being,” he mentioned. “We tend to be whiny about everything. Even if there’s no reason to.”



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