Italian Roads

February 11, 2015 / Local Interest
Oltrepo' Pavese, Lombardia

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.


Stef Smulders

by Stef Smulders

Stef is a Dutch expat now living the dolce vita in the Oltrepò Pavese wine region, an undiscovered Tuscany 50 km south of Milan. 

With husband Nico & dog Joia he runs a B&B Villa I Due Padroni (

Stef has just completed his first book about his experiences in Italy during the first few years (in Dutch).
An English translation will appear later in 2016. Interested? Send me a mail and have a look at my Facebook page.

7 Responses to “Italian Roads”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Our Italy years (2005-12) were spent in the heart of Naples and we elected not to run a car so though roads were often ‘challenged’ in terms of being neglected through lack of funds, we didn’t suffer too badly. This does remind me of our decade in Co. Dublin, though, where the winter weather eats out the roads through the hills every year. As with Italy, there’s always somewhere lovely to go to, so one puts up with it!

  2. Colleen Simpson

    We have a couple of those frane on the way from our village of Piegaro past Chiusi two years ago during the worst flooding in the area. Still one way traffic to this day. They have been working since last summer on one, but loads of terracing have to be done. Huge problem on the years when we get lots of rain. Fortunately, this winter was great in Umbria!

  3. Charnee Smit

    Hah! You should live in California! In the San Francisco area all the roads are in that condition except the freeways.

    • Gian Banchero

      Hello Charnee Smit; I live in California’s East Bay Area across from San Francisco (Berkeley), yes, the roads need repair and are trouble for drivers and cars, it’s the price I guess we must pay for living in an area that is so similar to beautiful southern Italy. With Mount Tamalpias–an extinct volcano–we even have our own Mount Vesuvius.

  4. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    The roads in Italy are a dream compared to many in the USA roads in Pennsylvania are pot hole riddled, although They too lead to many beautiful places…

  5. I’m certain, Stef, that your English is MUCH better than my Dutch and that you’re right, a lesbian (like all of us) will only hold so much before she starts to shift.
    But if you’re talking about the things that keep your fellow Nederlanders’ feet dry, it’s spelled ‘dike’ in American English.

    • Hilarious, or should I say hillarious? I never understood the story about Hansje Brinker sticking his finger in a … dyke???


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