When Italy’s first McDonald’s franchise opened at the heart of Rome in 1986, the opposition came from all angles. Officials said it didn’t have the right construction permits; celebrities called it the “Americanization of Italy”; politicians said it ruined a historic center; neighbors said it was noisy and its odor unbearable; thousands of people rallied outside the location in the Piazza di Spagna.
One of the opponents, an Italian journalist named Carlo Petrini, took a novel approach by handing out plates of penne to the protesters.
“I was alarmed by the culturally homogenizing nature of fast food,” Petrini told TIME years later, in the magazine May 17, 1999, issue.
The McDonald’s franchise, said at the time to be the world’s largest, remained — but Petrini’s grievances would extend far beyond the Piazza di Spagna. He established the Slow Food association that year, aiming to protect traditional foods…
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