Towards the north-west, with the railway on the right and the Apennines on the left, in the middle was Emilia Road – the millenary Roman consular trunk road, and the straightest of them all.
Its length of 262 km starts from the Arc of Augustus of Rimini up to Piacenza, cutting through the Emilia-Romagna province like a spade.
It was probably the first region in the world to have taken the name of a road, because it was not just a simple conjunction of paved sections, but a historical, cultural and economic map, the symbol of an identity.
It was the idea of Consul Marcus Aemilius Lepido in 187 BC and was used to connect with Flaminia road and unite the peninsula to the Padan Plain, with its 2,200 years of history and which, like an old and tired but ever wise queen that had seen and heard all sorts of events and precisely due to this, became indispensable when giving directions and objections. Considered the most noble and oldest road in Italy, though stitched and patched up at its infinite junctions, ring roads and sharp swerves, it bore the weight of globalization with nonchalance, evidently aware of the fact that sooner or later she would have to be crossed, to the point that today it is considered northern Italy’s cornerstone of communication.
The Romans were a resolute people: few things, but done fast and well. In fact, after the conquest of Bologna in 189 BC, the building works lasted just two years. Given that we are dealing with a road, it is fantastic to think that it united peoples and cultures.
But in reality, the Emilia road was built with a specific functional goal: a winning army had to move rapidly, and needed a military road. Besides this, it was also Italy’s first frontier, a cushion that held back the Galls and likewise a space that favoured the development of the markets. And from its axis the boundary belts developed, founding among others, Cesena (Caesena), Forlimpopoli (Forum Popili), Forlì (Forum Livii), Faenza (Faventia), Imola (Forum Cornelii), Bologna (Bononia), Modena (Mutina), Reggio Emilia (Regium Lepidi), Parma, Fidenza (Fidentia) and Piacenza (Placentia).
The truth is that the marvel of the rocks and bricks have partly disappeared, with only some fragments conserved whole. However, the signs of its memory are integral parts of the city of Emilia-Romagna, where almost all the historical centres, amid buildings and cathedrals are still traced over its ruins. In the cities of the plain you just have to dig a few meters deep, to bring to light the monumental traces of the old Roman colonization.
Emilia Road today is all this, and to pursue it you need to rebuild and draw the economic and cultural evolution of an entire region, amid piadina flat bread stands and supermarkets, bus stops full of workers from all over the world, and the village bars where the elderly play cards. Set between the past and future, and tradition and modernity, it is, in one word: identity.