Roman backlash at McDonald's boom
When McDonald's hoisted their Golden Arches in sight of Rome's Spanish Steps 20 years ago, there was one happy outcome: a food and wine critic from Turin called Carlo Petrini was so infuriated by this particular barbarian invasion that he launched the Slow Food Movement, a personal crusade against the Big Mac and everything it represented.
But lest mindless optimists should imagine that Slow Food is winning that war, McDonald's today snips the ribbon at its eighth restaurant in the heart of Rome, its 10th in the greater urban area – and this one is only a burger flip away from the Trevi fountain, where Anita Ekberg went bathing in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, one of the most crowded and popular tourist hot spots in the city.
The licensing of the latest enormous franchise, which will have seating for 209 on two floors, has infuriated champions of the heritage of the city centre. Viviana di Capua, president of the centre's residents' association, commented, "I announce that citizens, residents and business people will come together to take common action in the face of emergency confronting the centre.
"It cannot be ravaged like this with huge businesses. On the contrary, the pressure on the centre needs to be eased. And the loading and unloading of goods is not remotely compatible with this pedestrian zone. Residents and shopkeepers are going to come together to protest about this lack of respect for the area and the public environment."
Via delle Muratte, location of the new McDonald's, is a narrow pedestrian lane just 300m long. It already houses three snack bars, an ice cream shop, two take-away pizzerias, a roast house and two restaurants.
The proprietor of one of the established restaurants, Antico Forno, Gianni Riposati, said: "They are destroying our identity. There is a great deal of unhappiness about the degradation of this area. What need is there of a McDonald's bang in the heart of the historic centre?"
The complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears. It is the boast of Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni that he has brought many millions of new tourists to the city: between January and June more than 6 million foreigners stayed in Rome's hotels, an increase of over 11 per cent on the previous year. Concerns about "heritage" and "integrity" have a quaint air in the midst of such a boom.