Flipping Book | 110 years of future | Salini Impregilo Library

67 66 Politically and economically, Italy became a uni- fied nation much later than most of its European peers and neighbors. When the Italian flag first rose on Turin’s Madama Palace in 1861, the poor state of infrastructures had combined with tariff barriers and a peculiarly disadvantageous geography to segment the domestic market into a series of regional and often sub-regional markets, too limited in size to fully exploit economies of this scale and specialization. Which however does not mean that no major infrastructures had been built: to cite but one, at 3,260 meters, the Giovi tunnel that was the backbone of the Turin-Genoa line inaugurated on February 20, 1854 was at the time the world’s longest tunnel and remains to this day the longest one solely dug by hands, without excavators. The growth of Italy since 1861 has been called “a little-known success” and there can be no doubt that the effort to build more extensive and better infrastructure played a major role. The ini- tial emphasis was on the rail network, which more than doubled in extension in the first five years af- ter Unification and then kept growing at what in contemporary terms could be defined as Chinese rates. The primary goal was indeed to connect regional markets and weave a modern econo- my, but global considerations were clear from the beginning — as proven by the fast completion of the Fréjus tunnel and the Ancona-Brindisi line, which made it possible to start exploiting the po- tential of the Suez Channel inaugurated in 1869. While the State owned most of the rail infrastruc- ture, management remained in private hands for the first few decades, until July 1905, when Ente Ferrovie dello Stato was established. It was a nov- elty in the Italian system, a public body that was subject to the political control of a Ministry but had its own board of directors and top management. World War I left a legacy of serious damage to the network but the 1920s was a decade of massive investment, for instance doubling the Genoa-La Spezia line on the Tirrenean Sea, a complex project with multiple galleries. Two achievements marked this period: almost 100 minutes of transit time were trimmed thanks to the Rome-Naples direttissima (high-speed rail- Italy. Unifying the Country way line) and Bologna and Florence were con- nected through a very long tunnel, in fact the world’s second longest at the time after the Simplon in Switzerland. Electrification proceed- ed apace — 5 hours and 38 minutes on the 629-km Milan-Rome line — and the rolling stock was modernized with the introduction of refriger- ated tracks to export fresh fruit and vegetables to the rich Northern European markets. The consequences of World War II proved much more severe. As the country was cut in two, so was the rail network, with one segment managed from Verona and a second one from Salerno. The conflict progressed from South to North and the Peninsula was hit by massive air bombings, while the Nazis were leaving mines as they retreated. A third of both railroads and bridges were de- stroyed, as was the electrified network almost in its entirety. Once again Italy had to start anew, although this time the technical expertise was there and external financing, from the World Bank and the Marshall Plan, eased the strains. The first priority was to reestablish North-South connections and this took no fewer than five years. Two decades later the priority had changed, it was now to build the first stretch of the high-speed network, connecting Rome and Florence. This necessitated another engineering prowess, the 5,375-meter Paglia viaduct that was the longest in Europe. To service the line Ferrovie dello Stato introduced Etr 400 Pendolino, the first in a lineage of Italian tilting trains that remain the most popular solution in passenger trains. In the meanwhile, however, the car had substi- “Autostrada del Sole,” Italy, 1956