I know that right-wing Americans will find the sneering and triumphalist tone off-putting, but that’s neither here nor there in this case. This is the kind of story that makes you feel that there is still hope for the world.
[quote]“What took place was a small war between us and McDonald’s,” said Onofrio Pepe, a retired journalist who founded an association here devoted to local delicacies. “Our bullets were focaccia. And sausage. And bread. It was a peaceful war, without any spilling of blood.”
Mr. Pepe and several like-minded citizens of Altamura, a city of 65,000 residents, made up one wing of the army. They say they fought largely for pride and for their food, which includes a local mushroom called the cardoncello, focaccia, mozzarella and, most of all, a coarse-grain bread famous for millennia around Italy. The bread is protected as unique in European Union regulations, which note that Horace called it, in 37 B.C., “far the best bread to be had, so good that the wise traveler takes a supply of it for his onward journey.”
When the McDonald’s first opened in early 2001, Mr. Pepe said, he was not opposed to it, and even welcomed the 25 or so jobs it created. “In the beginning,” he said, “it seemed like modernization.”
Then the modern seemed to take over: McDonald’s erected the huge arches on a pole near the old town center, jarringly near the 13th century cathedral, beaming yellow neon 24 hours a day (and disturbing, Mr. Pepe said, little falcons that nested in nearby trees).
“It gave the sense of a city being occupied,” he said. “It was considered a sort of challenge. Not a challenge to confront in anger but with a smile. They brought in their products, and we had ours.”