In hilly areas such as ours, the Oltrepò Pavese wine region in Lombardy, the strade provinciali (local roads) suffer a lot during winter. Not only are they damaged by frost and snow, which widen every gap that already exists, but also by the rain that is soaked up in the ground, up to saturation. And like any dyke the terrain will hold only up to a certain limit, after which it starts to shift. Each year there are new damage spots where the road has sunk or where even a part of the road has disappeared altogether: the so-called frane, about which the local newspapers write the same alarming messages year after year. Repairs necessary, but unfortunately, mancano i soldi! (i.e. funds are always short)
So what to do? Apart from the really unavoidable repairs of the major connections, the officials put up warning signs and fences at the most dangerous spots. The most curious thing however is how the small cracks and holes are attended to. Every now and then a small unit passes by and applies small amounts of asphalt to fill up the holes. The worst ones, that is, because they always leave a range of cracks untouched.
The result is that the roads in Italy sometimes look like a patchwork of old asphalt, holes, cracks and small spots of new asphalt. On the other hand, the places the roads take you to, and indeed the journey along them, make travelling Italian roads truly worthwhile no matter what.