Rome’s ‘baldy’ Christmas tree destined for museum: report

It was mocked by Romans as being “the world’s saddest Christmas tree”, but the 65ft Norway spruce which captured international attention is destined for a museum as opposed to a rubbish dump, according to a report in Il Messaggero.

Rome's 'baldy' Christmas tree destined for museum: report
Tourists take pictures near the controversial Christmas tree at Piazza Venezia in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The tree died and lost its needles just two weeks after being erected in Rome’s main Piazza Venezia. Dubbed “Baldy”, it became such a laughing stock that mayor Virginia Raggi ordered an inquiry into what killed off the tree, which had been transported from the Italian Dolomites at a cost of €50,000, so prematurely. An initially report concluded that it had not been properly covered during transit.

There were calls for “baldy” to be removed, but it remained throughout the Christmas period, and has garnered so much affection that Rome’s leaders are reportedly considering preserving what’s left of it in a museum.

“The tree could be moved to another place – a square or more likely indoors, like a museum – where it will be secure. But considering that it’s been over a month since it left the forest in Trentino, in its current state, it won’t last much longer,” Il Messaggero reported.

But a few bureaucratic obstacles need to be overcome before the tree’s fate beyond January 6th can be determined, such as changing the contract conditions with the company hired to bring the tree to Rome and ensuring someone is responsible for ensuring its safe passage to a museum.

The tree's nickname became shorthand for Rome's wretched public services, for which critics have blamed mayor Virginia Raggi of the Five Star Movement. She also came under fire after rubbish piled up on streets in parts of the capital in the days after Christmas due to collections being disrupted by the holidays and bad weather.

And it wasn’t the first time the city’s Christmas tree has been derided, with last year’s being labelled “the ugliest in the world”. But Raggi leapt to its defence, arguing that both the tree and its lights had been donated to the city, allowing the council to put the money saved towards projects to help residents.


Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.