By Friday morning, only a few branches, some baubles and a stump remained of the tree installed the day before in the Galleria Umberto I.
The thieves had removed the rest of the metres-high tree, decorations and all. Photos show a clean cut, suggested that the culprits may have been equipped with a chainsaw.
— Ultime Notizie (@ultimenotizie) December 22, 2017
— CorriereMezzogiorno (@corrmezzogiorno) December 22, 2017
The tree had been donated to the glass-roofed arcade by the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, one of Naples' oldest establishments, just the day before.
It was “a present for Naples”, the café said in a video inaugurating the decorations.
It's not the first time that the Galleria Umberto has had its Christmas tree stolen, but this is believed to be a record for the shortest time a tree has lasted, according to Ansa.
In previous years police have found stolen trees – or bits of them – in the city's dense Spanish Quarters, waiting to be used in the traditional bonfires that Neapolitans lights around January 17th to celebrate Sant'Antonio Abate.
In 2015, a gang of youths got as far as stripping the arcade's tree of decorations and dragging it to the exit before fleeing when they were spotted by some soldiers. The tree was reinstated, this time secured to the ground with steel cables.
Other residents have taken to locking Christmas trees behind gates or with padlocks to prevent thefts.
There's nothing else for it but to put up a fence around the Galleria Umberto's tree, commented Green Party regional councillor Francesco Emilio Borrelli – which would end a local tradition of people writing down their Christmas wishes and hanging them on the branches. Or, he suggested, neighbouring businesses should pay for private security guards to protect Christmas decorations.