Italy halted construction of a McDonald’s that would have opened next to the Baths of Caracalla in 3rd century Rome

Rome put the kibosh on a plan to open a drive-through McDonald’s next to the Baths of Caracalla, a historic 3rd-century site in the center of the Italian capital.

The American fast food chain started the project after approval from the Culture Department in 2018. But a media backlash prompted the city government to end the planned location, which has reportedly joined 54 other restaurants. McDonald’s in Rome, but would have been the first in the ancient quarter. The city center is protected by UNESCO World heritage site.

After the intervention of the city, the Italian Minister of Culture, Alberto Bonisoli, backtracked in revocation of the building permit. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi welcomed her decision, writing on Twitter that “the wonders of Rome must be protected”.

McDonald’s has taken the dispute to court and now Italy’s highest administrative court has upheld a lower court verdict preventing McDonald’s from continuing construction of the fast food restaurant, reports the London Time.

The Baths of Caracalla. Photo by Chris 73 (cropped), Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) Licence.

The decision also allows the government to prevent future developments near important historic sites due to “the importance of protecting cultural heritage”, reports the Art journal. This includes the “safeguarding of areas or real estate that have not yet been declared of cultural or landscape interest”.

McDonald’s was previously barred from opening a store in Piazza del Duomo in Florence in 2016, but was allowed to move in despite protests outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 2017.

Another outpost in Rome was set up even after the remains of an ancient Roman road were discovered during construction in 2014. The space was redeveloped to simultaneously serve as a museum, opened in 2017 with a gallery at the glass roof presenting the ruins that can be entered from the restaurant as well as from the street.

Delivery of the planned McDonald's located at the Baths of Caracalla.  Courtesy of McDonald's.

Delivery of the planned McDonald’s located at the Baths of Caracalla. Courtesy of McDonald’s.

Caracalla McDonald’s was to open in a 32,000 square foot former garden center Originally built in 1970. It would have included a playground and educational botanical garden, with the restaurant itself expected to be 8,600 square feet. The project was to cost 1.3 million euros ($ 1.47 million).

“As always, and in this case, McDonald’s has followed all national, regional and local laws and regulations,” the fast food giant told the Art journal. It plans to open 200 new McDonald’s in Italy by 2025, adding to the 600 existing locations.

Built from 212 to 216 AD by Emperor Caracalla, the baths were a wonder of the ancient world, with marbles, mosaics and carvings. Within walking distance of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1980 and is now a popular tourist attraction.

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