The Ministry for Cultural Heritage, which is responsible for protecting Italy's archaeological sites, announced on Wednesday that it had overruled the authorization for the fast-food chain to build a restaurant between the third-century Baths of Caracalla and the city's ancient Aurelian Walls.
McDonald's had hoped to build an 800-square-metre branch on privately owned land currently occupied by a garden centre, and won a permit to do so from the district council of Rome's Municipio I.
Yet the plans provoked outcry when they were publicized in the local press, prompting city mayor Virginia Raggi to join calls to suspend the project.
She welcomed the national government's intervention, tweeting: “Onward with the Culture Ministry to stop the construction of a fast-food restaurant in the Baths of Caracalla archaeological site. Rome's wonders must be protected.”
Avanti con @_MiBAC per stop costruzione fast food nell'area archeologica delle Terme di Caracalla. Le meraviglie di Roma vanno tutelate.
— Virginia Raggi (@virginiaraggi) July 31, 2019
The planned McDonald's was to have included a drive-through and a McCafé, with total seating for 250 customers and jobs for between 50 and 80 people.
But the American chain's plans didn't go down well in Italy, with consumer rights group Codacons calling it “indecent” and threatening to go to court to block the project.
The McDonald's by the Vatican gets plenty of business. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
McDonald's already has dozens of branches in the Italian capital, including one a stone's throw from St Peter's Square and another by the Spanish Steps. Another is preparing to open next to the ancient Pantheon, according to local reports.
Previous efforts to stop the chain from expanding have proved fruitless, and when they have succeeded the company has been known to respond with multi-million-euro claims for compensation.
Italy has the fourth-highest number of McDonald's restaurants in Europe, with some 578 branches operating in the country in 2018, statistics show. The only European countries which had more McDonald's were Germany with 1,489, France with 1,463 and the UK with 1,292.
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