The pictures accompanying this article may not be what you’d expect to see below the title ‘McDonald’s, Frattocchie’. There’s no catch, though. Situated in Frattocchie – a locality in the comune of Marino, on the south-eastern outskirts of Rome – this really is a branch of the well-known fast food restaurant, not some other kind of McDonald’s altogether or the work of Ronald’s evil twin.
Above ground it’s a perfectly ordinary McDonald’s – a nice enough place to grab a bite to eat, but probably not your first-choice dining destination when you’re cruising down the Via Appia Nuova. Downstairs though it’s another, much older, world.
When the branch opened in February 2017 its story featured in the international media, including the Daily Telegraph and the New York Times, so you may have read about it. If not, here’s a quick summary:
A 150-foot stretch of Roman road – thought to have been a diverticulum leading to the Appian Way and dating from the 2nd century BC – was discovered in 2014 during construction preparations here. McDonald’s Italia then halted the building work, commissioned revised architectural plans and financed the conservation of the road to the tune of €300,000. The local archaeological superintendency supervised the excavation and the installation of information panels in Italian and English.
During the excavation three skeletons were found in rudimentary roadside graves. The bodies were probably buried here shortly after the road fell into disuse, around the 3rd century AD. The conservators removed the skeletons and replaced them with authentic looking resin casts in the locations of the original graves.
The restaurant was redesigned using bridge-building techniques, so as to avoid driving load-bearing piles into the Roman road. Sections of glass flooring now allow you to look down on the road both indoors (in front of the counter) and outside on the terrace at the front.
In the photograph below, the daylit section at the rear is the part beneath the externally glazed area.
The stairs down to the old road are in the car park at the rear, which means you can freely visit the archaeological site without having anything to do with McDonald’s, if that’s your preference.