Autogrill Fiorenzuola d’Arda: a bridge to the future

“One of the most significant icons of modernity”

A record-breaking motorway service area

Autogrill Pavesi of Fiorenzuola d’Arda was the first motorway service area restaurant to be built on a bridge in Europe, in 1959, and is still one of the most iconic symbols of the modernization of our country and of the economic miracle. In 2016 the same Autogrill will again play a leading role in a “great change” in on-the-road catering.

A strategic facility

Autogrill Fiorenzuola d’Arda is located on the Autostrada del Sole (A1 Motorway), a vital artery that connects the Country from Milan to Naples. The service area, located in a strategic position in the heart of the Po Valley was chosen in the 1960's as the junction point that connects the A21 motorway with the A1. Hence not only does a double flow of travelers meet here but also two important culinary traditions, those of Piacenza and Parma.

1959: from America to the Autostrada del Sole

The architect Angelo Bianchetti, designer of the service area restaurant of Fiorenzuola d’Arda, got the idea of building a bridge-style restaurant– nicknamed by him “transatlantic” - during a trip to the United States of America where this type of structure had already existed for several years.

A double thread links the history of the service area restaurant to America: a decade earlier Mario Pavesi also got the idea and the name for his service area during a trip to the USA. He had been inspired by the grill rooms, small restaurants scattered along the American interstate highways.

The inauguration

On 31st December 1959 Autogrill Pavesi of Fiorenzuola d’Arda was inaugurated in the presence of then Undersecretary Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, as well as Mario Pavesi and Angelo Bianchetti. The presence of political or ecclesiastical authorities was then the norm at the inauguration of works that were emblematic of the economic revival of the country: the start of the construction of the Autostrada del Sole (A1 Motorway), in May 1956, even saw the presence of then President of the Republic, Giovanni Gronchi, and Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini

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Angelo Bianchetti's Design Project

Angelo Bianchetti, class of 1911, graduated in architecture at the Polytechnic of Milano in 1934 and began to collaborate with Pavesi from 1949. His design project for Autogrill Fiorenzuola d’Arda became the prototype for successive service area restaurants built bridge-style and thanks to the rationalization of the production process, took only four months to be completed, earning for Bianchetti a gold medal at the Ninth National Advertising Award.

His collaboration with Pavesi continued until 1977 for a total of eleven service area restaurants on bridges, seventy roadside service areas, four motels and the building in Milan that would later house the offices of the Group.

The motorists menu

Autogrill Fiorenzuola d'Arda also played a leading role in a modernizing change regarding food: Pavesi, inspired by his American experience, chose to offer, in his service area restaurants, nutritious light dishes to help motorists remain alert at the wheel. An actual "Motorist’s menu” was especially prepared by the Institute of Physiology of the University of Milan, that on the lunch menu offered consommé, roast beef or grilled chicken with chips, crackers, butter, cheese, Pavesi soda and a dessert made with Pavesini biscuits.

A record of over half a century

From its inauguration to today, in over half a century of operation, Autogrill Fiorenzuola d’Arda has always been one of the most successful and popular service area restaurants used by Italian travelers. In 2012 the service area was one of the six points of sale to be included in the “Territorio – Piacenza” project, an innovative experiment in on the road catering. In the coming weeks Autogrill Fiorenzuola d’Arda, will once again be the scene of an evolution in on the road catering, hosting the first motorway Bistrot.


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