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This very important and historical Roman road is named after a famous Roman consul, C. Aurelius Cota; it connects Rome to the the Tyrrhenian Sea, and, following the Tuscan coast, eventually ends in Genoa. It is a very fast way to connect the capital to the Côte d'Azur and the rest of the south of France, and it also links some of Italy's major ports to Rome, as well as some of the country's most important cities. Pisa, for example, was a fundamental portual link during the Roman Empire and kept such influence and relevance throughout the Middle Ages, so much so it became, just as Genoa, Venice and Amalfi, one of the four Italian Sea Republics. The Via Aurelia allowed a strong synergy between army and navy, and it truly was the backbone by which defensive forces moved along the coastline. Today, the road is not much different from the original, as the direction and location are basically the same.
The original Aurelia was built in the year 241 BC during one of the most important road construction projects in the history of Italy, including the modern period. The Romans built roads in the North and the South, including Sicily, and ironically enough, C. Aurelius Cota, Aurelia's namesake, was in charge of the Sicilian roads. Roads like the Via Aurelia were very important, as they connected cities and strategic areas, hence enabling the movement of goods and people in a fast and efficient way. The Roman Empire was truly founded on its road system, which was efficient, extremely well designed and built. The colonies needed to be reached quickly and communication between them and Rome had to be as fast as possible. As trade and immigration increased, the Empire needed a perfect road system, which eventually became the bone structure of modern Italy.
The interesting thing about Roman roads is that they were all pretty much the same size, with a width of 15 feet. The famous milestones, literally pieces of stone placed on the side of the road with a number on them to mark distances can still be seen across all of Italy, and "milestone" or "pietra miliare" in Italian, is a term still widely used today to identify a mark or a step to be reached, or a significant moment in a given time frame. In Roman times, roads were devised and built following a specific plan,and all ended and began in the Urbs Aeterna, Rome: this is, indeed, where the expression "all the roads lead to Rome" comes from.
Via Aurelia between Nice and Menton.
Today, the Aurelia is still a very important road used every day by thousands of Italians, providing a scenic drive on some of the most picturesque areas the Italian coastline offers. There is also a very comfortable highway available though (Autostrada A12) that is definitely recommended for quicker travel up the coast, avoiding the heavy and unpleasant traffic that builds up around each city touched by the Aurelia, especially outside Rome and Genoa.