It’s well known that McDonald’s outlets in Europe are more aesthetically pleasing than their American counterparts, but a new one in Italy has an interior that’s guaranteed to upstage any existing location. A visit to the McDonald’s in the city of Marino, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, offers a true cultural experience: an ancient, subterranean Roman road that’s fully integrated into the fast-food chain, complete with a glass floor through which patrons can glimpse the walkway while waiting in line. It opened last week, inviting even those without an appetite for McFlurries or McNuggets to stroll the 147-foot path, Rome’s Superintendency for Archaeology announced in a release.
The eatery represents McDonald’s first “restaurant-museum,” the release also notes. The road, which was built between the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE, has been excavated, studied, and preserved in an underground gallery that features educational panels describing what archaeologists have learned about it. Workers digging to commence construction on the restaurant last year uncovered traces of the ancient road — a tale that’s not uncommon in Italy. Rather than halting the project, McDonald’s Italia decided to fund the restoration, which cost around €300,000 (~$315,000), as the New York Times reported. The work occurred under the supervision of the culture ministry and archaeological experts.
“We decided with McDonald’s to protect and promote this important site, which would have otherwise fallen again into oblivion,” Alfonsina Russo, the ministry’s archaeological superintendent for the area, told the Times. McDonald’s Italia has also promised to pay for its continued maintenance.
The road once branched off the bustling Via Appia and reveals traces of wagon wheels that rumbled over its stones, which are made of local volcanic rock, according to The Local. It likely fell into disuse between the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, a hypothesis supported by archaeologists’ findings of three ancient skeletons of adult males buried in the gutter. Experts made resin casts of the bones that are now on display in the gallery, making for a pretty thrilling experience that your average Happy Meal can’t offer.
While the integration of the chain and the archaeological site could have easily resulted in a gimmicky dining spot, the corporation has worked carefully to display the road as any other preserved ancient site: There’s no McDonald’s branding in the gallery, which is also accessible from the outside; you don’t need to set foot in the restaurant to reach it.
“We’ve been able to return a stretch of Roman road to the local community and to the whole of Italy,” Mario Federico, the head of McDonald’s Italia, told the Telegraph. “The project is a good example of how the public and private sectors can collaborate effectively on reclaiming cultural heritage.”
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