All Roads Lead to Rome …?

December 9, 2010 / Local Interest

We all know how famous the Romans were for their fantastic system of roads. The first to be built, Via Aurelia, also SS1 nowadays (Strada Statale 1) runs along the sea from Rome to the French border. The second road built by Roman engineers is the Via Cassia (SS2) running from Rome to Tuscany and points north. A connecting road, the Aurelia bis runs inland from the sea to Viterbo, linking the two. Although only two lanes wide, these three are major traffic arteries for the Tuscia (Etruria) since the area does not have Autostrade (highways).

Due to strong rains during the winter months these roads can get in pretty bad shape! Trailer trucks plus regular local traffic have to zig-zag around potholes of giant dimensions. Hmmm.. perhaps time to brush up on 2000 year old Roman road construction concepts and techniques?

Until local governments get their act together and get the road repair works done, watch out for dangerous holes and.. ahem…unclear road signage. A GPS navigation system is an excellent investment for travellers especially in light of “directions” like this one below, at the junction of the two major historic roads, the Aurelia and the Cassia.

Now, which was is it to Rome?

Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

15 Responses to “All Roads Lead to Rome …?”

  1. Elizabeth Badawi

    There is a fabulous sign up in the Castelli when you are going to Nemi, about 6 roads at an intersection….signposts in every direction say “ROMA.” I always meant to stop and take a photo (over 20 years!) but the traffic was always pretty hectic. It might make a great photo for your page. SO if you are interested, I could check with Samira because I think she could pinpoint it better than I.
    Best holiday greetings, dear GB!

  2. For sure some of the original Roman roads seem to be in a better state then the roads around Viterbo, where dodging the potholes is becoming the local sport!

  3. I too have seen road signs pointing in at least two different directions for the same city or town. It can be an adventure if you pick the longer route.

  4. Joe Palisi

    Agree with the comment regarding GPS for visitors to Italy. Have travelled Italy via the autostrade and side roads for many miles. Signs, if you are not a local, can be difficult to interpret. Nevertheless, Italian roads are excellent in my opinion and one should not be apprehensive about traveling via machina!

  5. Dan Johnson

    When traveling by car around Italy in 2008, we found that it helped to make up a list of towns we would be passing through on the highway number(s) we would be on that day, using our Michelin map as the source. Directions provided by various mapping web sites predominately used street names, which we found impossible to locate on signposts or buildings, a dangerous visual distraction in 40-50 kph traffic. Route number signs were almost non-existant, especially in the countryside. In a traffic circle, I would just keep circling until the route to be taken became more clearly evident. Certainly following signage pointing toward a major city was helpful, until you encountered an intersection such as the one pictured. Ultimately my wife gave me the nickname “Rudolpho” for my successful navigational “adventures”.

  6. mary jane cryan

    A follow up to the note… after numerous articles and photos on IN and local newspapers as well as emails to the Prefect of Viterbo, who is responsible for safety of the roads, the SS1 potholes were repaired
    .. now however other dangerous potholes have appeared on SS2 Via Cassia between kilometres 70-71 between Vetralla and Viterbo.
    Travelers be warned.

  7. Signs in Italy can be very confsing. I have just obtained my Italian drivers’ licence, so now I can let myself loose on threacherous Italian roads. I hope I don’t get lost too often.

  8. Mary Jane and Gilberto:
    You have brought back fond memories of our many travels along many of these ancient Roman Roads. And somehow they all eventually do lead to Rome in one way or another. Thank you.
    Suzanne and Ron

  9. Too true! Seems like we encountered a sign post with two signs for Rome (or was it Naples?) — one pointing to the left and one pointing to the right! The GPS really saved us – except all the times we lost our signal just as we entered centro and tried to find our way around!

  10. I can remember the first few times driving in Italy and getting lost trying to figure out the road signs. Only Pennsylvania is worse.

  11. David A. Denisch

    Regardless of signs the drivers are good and smart. They use the left lane for passing only- safe and fast!

  12. Dan Johnson

    Pasquale, as a Pennsylvanian all I can say is we at least put up route number signs! ;^)

  13. Italian roads are excellent, in design, construction and repair. Road engineering in Italy is far superior than the US. They have not forgotten anything, ask people in-the-know, such as foreign road engineers who have driven in Italy. What you describe in this article about confusing road signs, and neglected road repairs applies to many, many other locations on earth; including the US. The pothole photo included in this article is ridiculous. I have repeatedly been edangered with much larger and deeper potholes right in the heart of New York city, in bad weather with no chance of avoidance. Princeton NJ — a very wealthy town — is notorious for always having neglected bad roads.
    This article will discourage new visitors to Italy from renting cars and enjoying Italy on a personal level. Do not be apprehensive folks, what you are reading — regardless of the problems described — I strongly suspect (here) is mostly do to a bad sense of direction. Many people I know (not Italian speaking) have driven all around Italy without a problem. What was the purpose of this article? To mock Italy? Funny, after reading the impressive and educational article on stained glass by Moretti Studio, I.N. readers are subjected to this.

  14. Elizabeth Badawi Says:
    December 9th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
    There is a fabulous sign up in the Castelli when you are going to Nemi

    I know that one :-)


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