McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps

April 26, 2008 at 12:50 am 5 comments

In Italy, there isn’t a lot of fast food, but McDonald’s is fairly common in Rome. However, one McDonald’s in particular is tied to something much larger. Just about every article about Slow Food mentions that the organization got its start after unsuccessfully campaigning to prevent McDonald’s from moving into Piazza di Spagna, where the Spanish Steps are. Supposedly, founder Carlo Petrini goes into the campaign in great detail in a book of his. Anyways, I couldn’t help but wonder why Petrini and his friends were so embroiled against this single McDonald’s franchise that it inspired them to found what would turn into an international movement with over 80,000 in 122 countries.

So yeah, I did it. I went to McDonald’s. I got a McCrispy or something, and it was gross. I don’t eat McDonald’s at home, mainly because of the way I have come to think about food (which is in term informed by Slow Foods), but I imagine the food was actually similar. The reason I disliked the experience so much was that it was so un-Italian: bad-tasting food, made with bad ingredients, sold in a hostile environment as quickly as possible. And the customers were mostly Italians! One of the defining characteristics of Italian dining is that it is leisurely. I’ve never had an Italian waiter bring me the check without me asking. Here, that would be rudeness on par with throwing a customer out. In that McDonald’s, I felt like I was still out on street, being mobbed by crowds of tourists. And there, that atmosphere is becoming part of Italian culture. I didn’t like, and I can see why Petrini didn’t either.

photo courtesy of flickr user phototram


Entry filed under: fast food, food, italian food, Italy, Roma, Slow Food, sustainability. Tags: , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jake  |  April 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    mcdonalds is awesome, quick, cheap, and healthy (if you get the right things) don’t be a nerd josh

  • 2. Jessica Sztaimberg  |  April 29, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    McDonald’s is so…fast and cheap, such a quick fix, and so… completely un-Italian! I agree with you with that! Rome is such a romantic, stylish and historic city… with unbelievable sights surrounding you, that it does seem wrong to have a McDonald’s alongside the Piazza di Spagna. They just don’t seem to go together. However, when I was abroad I did have friends who “craved something from back home” and needed to find this, or a similar restaurant, and then they complained by saying that the size of what they were getting was significantly smaller than what they were used to. My answer to this is, “When in Rome”. There were so many delicious dishes in Italy for us non-Italians to try with unbelievable pasta and pizza, and delicious sweets, that I never wanted to walk anywhere near fast food. 🙂 Funny thing is I remember all of the yummy dishes I tried, but I don’t remember walking by loads of McDonald’s.

  • 3. Ann  |  September 30, 2010 at 12:22 am

    We just got back from our 2nd visit to Rome . One thing that McDonald’s do provide in Italy(and all of Europe) are free and clean bathrooms, that happens to have soap for washing your hands as well. Every time we go in any of the McDonald’s around Rome, there’s lines of people using the restrooms(it is pretty rare in Rome to find free restrooms).
    I’ll have to say, that McDonald’s has become very popular. It’s popular for the young crowd and during lunch hours it’s pretty packed(not packed with Americans but majority Europeans). We did go to the McDonald’s by the Spanish Steps, as they have a McCafe, offering muffins and tiramisu/cakes as well as cappuccinos and lattes, which is actually good, fast, and for a cheap price.

  • 4. Bob  |  December 20, 2010 at 12:25 am

    don’t be a nerd josh
    don’t be a nerd josh
    oh don’t be a nerd josh

    that guy is telling you that if something is from your country, you should be defending it, whatever the subject. otherwise… you are a nerd. the nasty food of mcdonald’s is awesome. i love that crappy food, so healthy…

    you know, uncle sam don’t like to see his nephews condemning the mcdonalds crappy food. so, be a patriot.

    don’t be sincere josh. there is neo-mccarthists everywhere.

  • 5. Sharon Terpe  |  June 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I am not anti McDonald’s…Have been to Rome many times, but have never not found a clean restroom in a restaurant. I do eat McDonald’s when no one is around to cook…and Taco Bell, etc ..
    But not in Italy.


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Shit Just Got Real

Josh Kramer is a blogger, cartoonist, journalist, etc. I'm the Editor of The Cartoon Picayune. I live in Washington, DC and I just graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies. See work by me and my classmates.

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