Italy bans drive-thru McDonald’s at the site of the ancient Roman baths | Smart News


Built in the 3rd century, the large Roman bath complex also featured outdoor swimming pools, as well as a temple, garden, and library.
Bruce Ingwall via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After several years of litigation, Italy’s highest administrative court ruled that McDonald’s cannot build a drive-thru restaurant next to the ancient Roman Baths in Caracalla. The decision, which cited “the importance of protecting cultural heritage”, upheld the ban on building an inferior court and also promised government authorities the right to stop future development projects around other heritage sites, report James Imam and Christina Ruiz for the Art journal.

Completed in AD 216, the ancient baths are heated by underground wood-fired ovens and also include a garden, library, temple, and outdoor exercise spaces. The area, located near Caffarella Park, the Appian Way and the Roman aqueducts, is protected by several cultural preservation programs, including the historic center of Rome, a Unesco World Heritage site.

McDonald’s had planned the restaurant and the 250-space parking lot for an 8,600-square-foot site previously occupied by a garden center, reported Barbie Latza Nadeau for the Daily beast in 2019. Rome’s city council initially cleared the project in early 2019, but then revoked it a few months later after public outcry. At this point, construction had already started and the US-based fast food chain appealed the decision. In June 2020, the Lazio Regional Administrative Court dismissed the company’s appeal, as reported Wanted in Rome at the time.

According to Art journal, McDonald’s said in a statement that it has a “positive relationship” with the city of Rome, as evidenced by its 54 existing restaurants in the city, and that it “as always, and in this case, has obeyed all laws national, regional and local, and regulations.

McDonald's sign under the Piazza di Spagna sign

McDonald’s currently has 54 restaurants in Rome, like this one in Piazza di Spagna.

Matt and Cyndi Maxson via Flickr under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, construction of the baths began during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus in AD 206 and was completed a decade later by his son, Emperor Caracalla. During peak hours, up to 1,600 bathers used Caracalla’s hot and cold baths, as well as the outdoor swimming pools. The use of marble, carvings, mosaics and other lavish decorations has earned the site a reputation for beauty and luxury. Despite destruction by looters and an earthquake in the centuries that followed, the baths remained in use until the 6th century, when the place was sacked by the Ostrogoths during the Gothic War in 537 CE. The design of the Baths of Caracalla inspired Renaissance architecture and even New York’s Penn Station, with its coffered ceilings and Corinthian columns.

This is not the first time that McDonald’s has embarked on the franchise controversy in Rome. In 2017, some local business owners raised objections to the opening of one of its restaurants next to the Vatican, as Reuters reported in 2017. Cardinal Elio Sgreccia called the opening “ mega sandwich shop “from” shame “.

“It would be better to use these spaces to help the needy in the region, spaces of reception, shelter and help for those who are suffering, as the Holy Father teaches”, he declared.

And in 2019, Rome denied the restaurant chain a request to open a location next to the Pantheon, per Wanted in Rome.

Under the new court ruling, the court declares that the Lazio region and the Italian Ministry of Culture can stop new projects to protect heritage sites or areas “which have not yet been declared of cultural interest. or landscaped ”. Heritage protection group Italia Nostra calls the clarification “extremely important for the future protection of our cultural and archaeological heritage”, and says it will contribute to more coherent planning across the country, reports the Art journal.

Nonetheless, McDonald’s still has big plans for the country. Dario Baroni, the company’s chief executive in Italy, said in December that he planned to open 200 new restaurants there by 2025, as reported by Reuters at the time. This would bring the total to over 800 locations in Italy.


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