E78: Paving the Balconies of Piero della Francesca

metauro valley

If you’ve ever traveled through the Metauro valley in Le Marche you would recognize it as one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. An artist no less than Piero della Francesa must have thought the same thing; look to the background of his paintings and you’ll see the same landscapes you see today. From the little village of Pieve del Colle for example, you can stand almost exactly where Piero stood while brushing his famous Diptych of the Duchess and Duke of Urbino.

The rural tourist can bump along the current road, the E78, and see the historic treasures spread out over the valley that gently cradles the Metauro river: the winter white truffle town of Sant’Angelo in Vado, the Roman Villas, the market town of Mercatello sul Metauro, where the butcher shop keeps a chalkboard of the meats and where they come from and who herds them.

On the verge of discovery by foreigners, the valley over the years has slowly transformed itself from a small manufacturing economy to tourism. The 19th century road house and carriage stop in Borgo Pace for example is now a fantastic restaurant called La Diligenza. You can still rent a room or apartment there if you decide to stay a while and play some croquet.

You access all this creamy, rural goodness via a road known as the E78 which runs from coast to coast, Grosseto to Fano. It’s not a fast road. In fact, it doesn’t come close to meeting the European motorway standards.

Now here’s the thing. They have plans to run a ripping wide autostrada through this idyllic land. 6 lanes. It wasn’t always this way. Thirty years ago the plans called for the road (superstrada) to be almost invisible, tucked into tunnels and skirting the edge of the valley where the cultural heritage of the land would have intersected with the traffic hell-bent on getting to the beaches.

The current proposal eliminates all of these costly plans. And because there is little money at all for the project these days, it is planned to be given to an Austrian company called Strabag, who will collect (meaning remove from Italy) all the autostrada tolls for 45 years, according to my sources.

There are people in place who oppose this new plan. Here is a translation of a recent article published in La Repubblica:

The committee “No scempio” (no havoc) aims to raise public awareness on this issue. They are not against the construction of a Superstrada, but they insist on the original project (with tunnels) which would not disfigure the precious landscape. They point also out that when the Superstrada was projected the valley was full of small and medium size industries which boomed and created welfare. Most of them have closed now because of the [economic] crisis and therefore the commercial importance of the project is almost zero. While other activities (rural, tourist, cultural) have started and they have some success. But they need to preserve the original landscape, what tourists expect to see when they come to this part of Italy: hills, gentle slopes , ancient “Borghi” on top of the hills, balconies on the valley that look at the blue sea. The renowned “Montefeltro”, the perfect Duchy of the great Federicus Dux.

Many Italians, even some in the tourist industry, welcome the Autostrada and the ability to jet past the rural landscapes. I, however, have come to see this land as special, and oppose the current project. I can only hope that the most egregious of bureaucratic blunders that expats constantly rave about causes this thing to be pushed into the back burner until hell freezes over, but maybe that’s just me. (Take note ye naysayers: sometimes bureaucratic inefficiency is a very, very good thing).

So I’ll ask what you think. Is this an issue to fight over? Leave a message on our facebook page.

Need a guide to this timeless land? See Le Marche: Travel Guide to the Metauro Valley

E78: Paving the Balconies of Piero della Francesca originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Feb 12, 2021 © .

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