For me Spring means road trip and one of the most iconic is on the Motorway of the Sun – Italy’s A1, the Autostrada del Sole. A1 is the principal north-south highway in the country that connects Italy’s three largest cities Milan, Rome and Naples. I refer to it as Italy’s Mother Road , the European counterpart to America’s Route 66.
Driving the A1 is a longitudinal cross-country adventure full of excitement and unpredictability as you travel from the foggy skies of Milan to the sunny shores of Naples. Passing through Parma, Modena, Bologna and Florence traveling south for a total distance of 759.6 km (472.0 miles) it is the longest Italian autostrada. Considered to be the “spinal cord” of the country’s road network with a series of plexes that connect you to the culinary and cultural history of a city-state country that remains very much tied to regional customs and traditions.
A1 was the first motorway completed in Italy after World War II. After 8 years of engineered building that carved through Apennine mountains making tunnels, bridges, handling some remarkably steep slopes and tight curves, the Motorway of the Sun was inaugurated on October 4th 1964 by then Italian premier Aldo Moro with great pride and promise. The first two cars on the autostrada were driven by two female students (one from Milan, the other from Naples) who each set off from their hometowns in Fiat 500s, the ultimate symbol of Italy’s new post-war future.
I’ve driven on the A1 many times and it has always led me to great adventures, remarkable sites and unplanned pleasures. Travel author Bill Bryson says that he believes “the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” Seeing and savoring Italy on a road trip rewards you with more than a “show and tell tour”. It connects you to the people and places that go beyond a travel brochure with a playlist of possibilities that will make your trip unique and unforgettable. An Italy where towns and villages spring up like pages of a book each with something new and exciting to see.
By the way if you’re worried about driving in Italy, don’t be. Read my post (Contrary to Popular Opinion Driving in Italy is Not An Extreme Sport) for a few things to consider before you take the keys to your Italian rental car.