Milan and McDonald’s: an oxymoron

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

24 October 2012


In these grey lacklustre downbeat times it sure lifts the spirit to hit upon a nugget of unalloyed good news.

After two decades spent lowering the tone of Milan’s chicest shopping precinct – the 19 C Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – McDonald’s has thrown in the towel.

On 16 October 2012 the fast-food chain handed out its last greasy burger in the opulent cruciform glass-domed mall and pulled down the shutters for the last time.

The shopping precinct with its mosaic flooring was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and inaugurated in 1878.

Known as the drawing-room (il buon salotto) of Italy’s elegant fashion and business capital, it remains a focal point for milanesi and tourists alike as they make their leisurely passeggiata from the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza della Scala.

Luxurious restaurants and cafés, such as Savini and Zucca (with its tiled interior dating from the 1920s) are interspersed with top-drawer leather goods shops and haute-couture boutiques.

Amid all the glamour and glitz and despite an attempt to tone down its fascia, McDonald’s stood out like a cuckoo in the nest.

The fashionistas of Milan must be breathing a sigh of relief.

The burger joint is to be replaced by an outlet of the local Prada fashion enterprise.

The closure of the fast-food store was made public by the Milan City Council. The reason is not clear but it is understood that McDonald’s is contesting the move.


Regular readers may wonder why we are rooting for the fashionistas instead of lamenting the passing of an operation that, whatever its faults, fed the populace at democratic prices. For our own part, let us be clear, we have never at any time eaten at McDonald’s.

The reasons are as follows:

1. We believe as an article of faith that decisions about the urban (and rural) environment, which includes city centres, should be taken by democratically elected local councils instead of being left to the whims of the free market. Giant corporations profiting from their legal right to establish themselves wherever they like in the European Union, regardless of local opinion, have wreaked havoc on local environments and communities.

2. We always support local business in preference to multi-nationals. Apart from finance, the major local business in Milan is haute couture.

3. We have never read a nutritionist report which has said anything favourable about the quality of the food served at McDonald’s. It has to be said, all the same, that lately the company has introduced healthier dishes alongside their standard fare.

4. We have never read an industrial relations report which has lauded the working conditions and pay levels at McDonald’s.

5. The chain’s stores, in the past at least, have usually been garish eyesores. It is true, none the less, that McDonald’s has made an effort in recent times to improve the appearance of its outlets.

6. The area around a McDonald’s store is often strewn with litter and occupied by loiterers.

7. In the case of the Milan store, in particular, the presence of McDonald’s undoubtedly lowered the tone of one of the world’s most elegant shopping precincts. It just did not fit in. Milan is not yet like today’s Champs Élysées in Paris, where nowadays anything goes.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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