No McDonald’s at Baths of Caracalla

There’s are dozens of McDonald’s in Rome — the flagship in Piazza di Spagna next to the Spanish Steps, one near the Fountain of Trevi, another at the Termini station, etc. — and there’s one a dozen miles south of the Eternal City that straddles an archaeological museum displaying a perfectly preserved stretch of Roman road. That last one only happened because the road was discovered during construction of the new location and McDonald’s paid to excavate, conserve and display the archaeological remains underneath its restaurant.

What it won’t get to do, however, is build a new Double Arches adjacent the soaring majesty of the actual arches of the Baths of Caracalla. The crazy thing is that it almost did.  Municipal authorities approved plans to build a huge 8,600-square-foot McDonald’s that would have seated 250 people, had a drive-through, a bouncy house and a big parking lot. Construction had even begun. That’s how residents found out about this plan and began to raise a huge stink, complete with on-site protests and vigils that got tons of press.

Finally, Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli announced on Facebook on Wednesday that the ministry had canceled the authorization for construction.  How it got to the point where the state authorities had to reverse the municipality’s approval is a mystery. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi says she knew nothing about it until she read about the protests in the paper and that she supported the Bonisoli’s decision. “The wonders of Rome must be protected,” she wrote on Twitter (to much derision in comments from Romans sick to death of the garbage that is choking the city this hot summer).

There will be an inquiry of dubious efficacy to figure out how this debacle went down, and there’s still a chance McD’s will take them to court to get to build on a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site as planned. It wouldn’t be the first time. For now, at least, the Baths of Caracalla will be reserved for summer operas and McFlurry-free tourists.