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The road - complete with skeletons.

Big Mac with a Slice of History: McDonalds Creates Transparent Floor Above Ancient Roman Road


A brand-new McDonald's restaurant opened in Italy last month, with one added extra that wasn't on the original menu: an ancient Roman road, complete with three skeletons. The existence of the road, which was “hiding” for centuries, was first revealed when work began on the restaurant in 2014.

Restoring the Ancient Roman Road

Even though McDonald’s is usually seen more as a threat to every historic nation’s cultural heritage than a possible help, apparently this isn’t always the case. Located in Frattocchie, a small community 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of Rome, this 45-meter (150 ft.) long ancient Roman road dates back to around the 2nd – 1st century BC and is believed to have fallen out of use about three centuries later.

The pathway branches off the famous Appian Way (originally known as Regina Viarum), which is widely regarded as Europe’s first super-highway, and was a significant communication link between the capital and its southern sectors.

The Appian Way (1869) by john Linton Chapman.

The Appian Way (1869) by john Linton Chapman. (Public Domain)

McDonald's Italia funded the €300,000 ($315,000) restoration project and the result is considered to be the world's first “fast food restaurant-museum”, where guests will be able to see the ancient street while enjoying their burgers, thanks to a transparent floor. Though McDonald's financed the restoration, the project was managed by Rome's Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape. “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 as Hyperallergic reports.

The new McDonald’s in the city of Marino.

The new McDonald’s in the city of Marino. (Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape)

Roads in Ancient Rome Were Constructed to Last

As Ancient Origins has previously reported, the Romans were renowned as great engineers and this is evident in the many structures that they left behind. One particular type of construction that the Romans were famous for is their roads. It was these roads, which the Romans called viae, that enabled them to build and maintain their empire. The construction of the Roman roads varied depending on the terrain and the local building materials that were available. For example, different solutions were required to build roads over marshy areas and steep ground, even though there were certain standard rules that were followed.

Two examples of ancient Roman roads: one at Leptis Magna, Libya (top) (CC BY-SA 3.0) and another at Santa Àgueda, Minorca (Spain) (bottom).

Two examples of ancient Roman roads: one at Leptis Magna, Libya (top) (CC BY-SA 3.0) and another at Santa Àgueda, Minorca (Spain) (bottom). (Public Domain)

Roman roads in general consisted of three layers – a foundation layer on the bottom, a middle layer, and a surface layer on the top. The foundation layer often consisted of stones or earth. Other materials used to form this layer included: rough gravel, crushed bricks, clay material, and even piles of wood when roads were being built over swampy areas. The following layer would be composed of softer materials such as sand or fine gravel. This layer may have been formed by several successive layers.

Finally, the surface was made using gravel, which was occasionally mixed with lime. For more prominent areas, such as those close to cities, roads were made more impressive by having the surface layer built using blocks of stone (which depended on the local material available, and may have consisted of volcanic tuff, limestone, basalt, etc.) or cobbles. The center of the road sloped to the sides to allow water to drain off the surface into drainage ditches. These ditches also served to define the road in areas where enemies could use the surrounding terrain for ambushes.

Possible layers in a Roman road.

Possible layers in a Roman road. (Crystalinks)

Archaeologists Also Found the Remains of Three Males

Archaeologists also discovered the skeletons of three adult males in the area of the recently unearthed road. They suspect that the men were buried there after the road was no longer in use. Local mayor Carlo Colizza stated as The Local Italy reports, that the McDonald's project was "a positive example" of private and public sector cooperating successfully. "We were able to perfectly combine business activities with respect for and appreciation of the history and archeology," added Colizza.

In closing, the mayor and the CEO of McDonalds Italy reassured that the site will be accessible, for free to everybody, without going to the McDonald's branch.

The ancient road beneath a new McDonald’s in Italy.

The ancient road beneath a new McDonald’s in Italy. (Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape)

Top Image: The road - complete with skeletons. Source: Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape

By: Theodoros Karasavvas



Why at all Italy - the country of the healthiest food - should have McDonald? So, the question of McDonald in Italy is to be or not to be? Well, I'm not an Italian, I just love Italy and I say one big NO!

It's really great that McDonalds did this. I feel the need to mention that Kentucky Fried Chicken has a restaurant and museum. It's known as Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in Corbin, Kentucky. They still serve food there, and they have some of the original equipment on display. So while this has much older history, it is not the first fast food restaurant museum.

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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