Say E45; most Brits will think, anti-itch cream. A select, cheese sandwich munching and duffle bag hoiking minority will inform you in a Shaun of the Dead monotone that E45 is in fact the designated number of Europe's longest North/South international highway running from Lapland to the far tip of Sicily at Gela.
Today, we travelled along a short, 150km stretch of its 4,920km length, from Cesena to Assisi. And very lovely it proved to be. Rising from the broad plain of the Po valley the dual carriageway climbs the northern slopes of the Apennines, snakes through some sublime wooded hill country before heading for Rome by hitching a ride alongside the Tiber. October has to be the most beautiful month to make this journey. The highest valleys are covered in chestnut woods, their ochre foliage, bright beneath a bright blue sky lifts the spirits, it is quite simply a joyous sight.
|thjrough the Apennines|
|lumps and bumps on the elevated sections|
|Through the mountains, and into the Tiber valley.|
The condition of the road, however, is less than joyous. At some point in the 1960s Italian road engineers gave up on the notion of contour hugging. Instead they simply blasted their re-modelled trunk roads through mountainous terrain by employing a mixture of tunnels and stilts, the tunnels, generally have held up well; not so the roads on concrete stilts, half a century later the dodgy concrete supplied by Italy's most celebrated family firm is crumbling. At best it means sections of the road surface are pitted and gouged like Keith Richards' forehead. Some raised sections have completely collapsed sending the traffic on a mystery tour along the original goat-track where you get glimpses of the empty concrete highway in the valley below, looking ruined and abandoned like a disused Roman aqueduct. Still, it's an exhilarating drive and I am pleased we did it. I wonder what secret delights the other 4,730kms of the route might hold. Maybe we will have another brief fling with the mysterious route E45 next month as we drive through Southern Sicily.
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