22 November 2006

Tunnel vision

Italy seems to have a love affair with tunnels. Granted there are a lot of mountains in Italy but they seem to dig tunnels at the drop of a hat. We lived in and traveled around the mountains of the western United States where we experienced a fraction of the tunnels that are here in Italy. For example, on the A14 which runs along the Adriatic coast between Ancona and Ascoli Sul Mare there are 14 tunnels, and this is only about a 45 minute drive. Many of these tunnels are very short; but some are over a kilometer long.

In the US I know of few tunnels along interstates in the countryside, the preferred means of traversing mountains are road-cuts. As a former geology major road-cuts were always a great way for me to see the strata of the local area. In Italy the few road-cuts I have seen have been covered with concrete.

On the A24 between Roma and Teramo (in Abruzzo near the Adriatic) we have counted 19 tunnels. This highway has the dubious task of getting past the majestic Gran Sasso and does so with a tunnel that is over 10 kilometers long, almost 7 miles. At normal autostrada speeds it will take about 10 minutes to go through this tunnel. When we lived in Colorado the Eisenhower Tunnel on I40 west of Denver was heralded as an engineering marvel, hah: it is only 1.7 miles long.

In the Albian Hills near Roma is the town of Nemi and there is a tunnel on the road east of town that goes uphill in a 180 degree spiral coming out on a bridge above where you enter. Obviously curves and tunnels are a mix that does not daunt Italians.

Traveling through these tunnels at autostrada speeds with little space between the lane line and the tunnel wall, the overhead lights flashing by and the usual speedy Italian passing you can be a test of concentration. The light at the end of the tunnel is always a welcome sight.


Jane said...

Bryan--try the superstradas from Livorno to the border with France--there are so many tunnels that counting them isn't possible as the mind wanders and before you know it, you've gone through several without counting. Some are 1500 meters and others quite short. Once in a while you glimpse something beside a tunnel from the windows.

Anonymous said...

Bryan, can you email me with a number to reach you at?

Bobby Martinez