Italy has an impressive system of roads that range from the strada bianca, white road (gravel), to the autostrada—which is the equivalent of the interstate in the US. You pay your way in Italy (in more ways than one). Actually, it’s not a bad idea. Those who use the autostrada the most, pay the most. It’s sort of like the state-owned and operated toll bridges in the Bay Area. Both systems provide quite a few permanent jobs, so in these economically challenging times, there’s nothing wrong with that!
The autostrada is well maintained and a great way to see the country. It’s a fascinating system of well-designed roads, bridges and tunnels (the Italians are masters at burrowing through the mountains and spanning valleys). But, in addition, they have another feature that makes them even more interesting—the Autogrill. Anyone who’s ever made road trips in Italy can attest to the fact that these roadside restaurants/service stations are unusual and interesting places, to say the least. At regular intervals, the familiar and friendly pit stops offer just about anything you might need to freshen up a bit or make your trip safer and more memorable. Maybe, in their strangely diverse gift shops, you could even buy a surprise for the friends that you’re going to visit. On the simple side of things, the caffè is always the perfect “pick-me-up.” But, they’ll also have a variety of pizzas by the slice, right out of the oven, and will warm up any of the yummy panini, sandwiches that your little heart desires.
On our last excursion, we discovered something new and exciting at the Autogrill. Italians are of course, known for their flair and style. Italian design is unparalled. Well, at the Autogrill, that design and innovation has taken a new twist: in an effort to “go green” they’ve designed new parking structures. “So what?” you might ask. Well, they’re pretty cool, because the structures provide shade over parked cars WHILE generating electricity—solar panels everywhere! And of course, following the guidelines of classic Italian design, the look is pretty snazzy. What else would you expect from the Italian mind? Though the innovative hi-tech covers are not yet installed at every location, quite a few have popped up. What a pleasant surprise. Impressive!
Now, you might wonder if they could be mostly for show. You could even secretly question whether or not they’re even connected to anything—it’s possible. Although if they’re really being used properly, there are definitely enough of them to make a serious dent in the energy consumption of those hundreds of roadside oases scattered throughout the country. But one thing for sure—whether they’re using electricity, gas or solar energy, your caffè and panino will be awaiting your arrival at the Autogrill, always reflecting an authentic and energetic Italian style—extra hot!
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