Mille Miglia, from Bologna to Rome

The first part of the Mille Miglia took us from Brescia to Bologna. The second part of this legendary route will bring us from Bololgna to Rome, capital of the Roman Empire, capital of nowadays Italy and home to Vatican City.

Mille Miglia route
The Mille Miglia route

Bologna – San Marino

Since Bologna is the world’s capital of pasta dishes, you can’t leave this city before you have lasagna of spaghetti in your stomach. After a great meal we continue our journey south-east on the SS9. This road is also knows as the historical Via Emilia. This was a trunk Roman road in the north Italian plain, running from Rimini on the Adriatic coast, to Piacenza on the river Po. With its construction completed in 187 BC, it’s one of the oldest roads in the world.

On our way to the Adriatic Sea we’ll pass by the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, better known as the racing circuit of Imola. The circuit is named after Ferrari's late founder Enzo and his son Dino. It was the venue for the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix. Imola, it is seen as the 'home circuit' of Ferrari and masses of tifosi come out to support the local team.

Later on we arrive in Cesena. This town is home to the first European civic library that was open to everyone: The Malatestiana Library. The library is also the only one in the world which has preserved structure, fittings and codexes since its opening for more than 550 years. The main doorway and the the wonderful walnut door date back to 1454.

Malatestiana Library
The Malatestiana Library

At last we can see the Sea for the first time on this trip in Rimini. We cross the Tiberius Bridge to enter the city. This Roman bridge still connects the city centre to Borgo San Giuliano and leads to the consular roads Via Emilia and Via Popilia that lead north. Built in Istria stone, the bridge consists of five arches that rest on massive pillars with breakwater spurs set at an oblique angle with respect to the bridge’s axis in order to follow the current. The bridge’s structure on the other hand, rests on a practical system of wooden poles.

 Tiberius Bridge Rimini
The Tiberius Bridge

Rimini is one of the most famous seaside resorts in Europe, thanks to its 15 km-long sandy beach, over 1,000 hotels and thousands of bars, restaurants and discos. It is also an art city with ancient Roman and Renaissance monuments. In recent years it became one of the most important sites for trade fairs and conferences in Italy.

We leave Rimini and take the SS72 to San Marino. This mini state is an enclave surrounded by Italy. Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi), making it the third smallest country in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller. San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, as the continuation of the monastic community founded on 3 September 301, by stonecutter Marinus of Rab.

The country’s main attractions are the Three Towers of San Marino. These towers are located on three peaks of Monte Titano, overlooking the capital. They are depicted on both the Flag of San Marino and its coat of arms.

Three towers of san marino
One of the Three Towers overlooking the city

Into the mountains

The best part of this road trip starts here. We are now climbing out of San Marino on the SP2 into the Apennine Mountains. This mountain range runs from north to south along the whole length of the Italian peninsula. When arriving in Pietrarubbia, we take the SP1 trough the Regional Park del Simone e Simoncello where we drive over the Cantoniera mountain pass (alt. 1007m).

The road from Pietrarubbia to Carpegna

The SP1 ends at Ponte Messa, where we take the SP258 southwards, following the river trough the valley. This road brings us to Sansepolcro, situated on the Tiber river. There we leave the SP258 and start following the roads parallel to the Tiber river all the way to Assisi (about 50 miles). On our way we’ll see lots of medieval towns like Citta del Castello and Umbertide.
Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan religious order, and St. Clare, who founded the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. This makes the town a pilgrimage, with many churches, cathedrals and monasteries to be seen.

The town’s main sight is the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St. Francis). The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the basilica is decorated with frescoes by numerous important medieval painters.

Assisi, with the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi on the left

The road to Rome

Our next stop is Spoleto, an ancient town located at the head of a large, broad valley, surrounded by the Apennine Mountains. Roman influences can be seen in the Roman theater and the amphitheater. The last one was turned into a fortress in 545. Another interesting landmark is the Rocca Albornoziana, a majestic stronghold with six sturdy towers. After having resisted many sieges, the Rocca was turned into a jail in 1800 and used as such until the late 20th century. Last but nut least is the Ponte delle Torri, a striking 13th-century aqueduct, measuring 236m long and 76 high.

The Ponte delle Torri, with the Rocca on the right

We drive from Spoleto to Monteleone di Spoleto using small mountain roads. As we climb higher, the landscape becomes more alpine, and is showing some breathtaking views. After many turns we take the SS471 from Monteleone di Spoleto to Leonessa. There we take the SP10, which changes into the SS4bis to Rieti.

Monte Terminillo
Monte Terminillo pass on the SS10

Rieti’s town centre rests on a small hilltop, commanding a wide plain at the fertile basin of the Velino River. Once a major site of the Sabine nation, the town was conquested by the Romans and the village became a strategic point in the early Italian road network, dominating the "salt" track (Via Salaria) that linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea. We follow this ancient track on the SS4 to Rome, 50 miles further down the road.

Because there is simply too much to see to describe in this magnificent city, we’ll just give two links to the Rome’s Wikipedia page and Wikitravel page. You should count at least 5 days or a week to see all of the city’s major attractions.

A view of Rome: the top left picture to the is the Colosseum, followed by the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the Piazza della Repubblica, the Castel Sant'Angelo, the Trevi Fountain, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and an aerial view of the city's historic centre

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The next part of this road trip will take us back to Bologna via Siena and Florence.