The entire city of Florence (and much of the world) was shocked this summer when plans were revealed to open a McDonald’s in the historic and ungentrified Piazza del Duomo, right next to the iconic domed cathedral.
After much deliberation and petition with thousands of signatures, the city of Florence finally said “no” to the fast-food giant, under the guise of a beautification campaign that would seek to keep the site “pure” and free from tourist influence like bodegas selling T-shirts or, say, the appearance of the golden arches. McDonald’s, in turn, sued the city for $20 million in October, calling the breach of the previously agreed arrangement a “manifest injustice,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
“We completely agree that the cultural and artistic heritage and the Italian historical town centers have to be protected,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “But we cannot accept discriminatory regulations that damage the freedom of private initiative without helping anyone.”
Giovanni Bettarini, Florence’s deputy head of tourism and economic development, claimed that it was not blatant discrimination against McDonald’s, but rather a fight against the commercialization that has taken over other historic sites in the city.
The concern of commercialization has been echoed elsewhere throughout Italy, like in Rome where another McDonald’s location just outside St. Peter’s Square was recently challenged.