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main index   © Jeff Matthews   entry Mar 2013   updates May & July 2014


State Road 145: Pompei
--> Castellammare --> Sorrento

In 1832 Ferdinand II of Bourbon, the monarch of the kingdom of Naples, decreed that a road should be built along the Sorrentine peninsula. The road would actually start at Pompei, branching off from what was then called the Great Calabrian Road (from the capital city of Naples to all points south). The new road would then lead out to the south through the shipyard town of Castellammare at the beginning of the peninsula and move along the coast through the towns and villages on the peninsula and on to the Sorrento plain, the last town on which is Sorrento, itself. Crows fly only about 10 km (6 miles) from Castellammare to Sorrento, but the road, which opened in 1834, was much longer; it was winding and difficult to build but turned out to be a good solid road, functional for horse, coach and foot traffic. That old Bourbon road was eventually renamed SS 145 (Strada statale—State Road); it was  kept up even after it was overtaken technologically by the mid-1900s by the great iron horse, the Circumvesuviana railway, which spread out from Naples and tunneled through (!) from Castellammare all the way to Meta, the first town on the Sorrento plain. That technical marvel, however, was more than matched by the post-war economic boom, which brought with it the growth of private car traffic starting in the 1950s. Traffic along the road became unbearable.


The solution appeared in the late 1970s and early 80s. The idea was to rebuild the entire SS145. It was to branch off, again at Pompei (off this map at the top), from the North-South autostrada (the A3), then under construction. Instead of passing through the towns along the coast, however, the new road would first provide a long elevated section from Pompei over Castellammare and then, via a series of tunnels, by-pass the other towns and wind up at Seiano, the last hill before descending onto the Sorrento plain at Meta. (The old Bourbon road (the red road marked 145 along the coast would still be usable (indeed very useful for citizens of those towns and those having business along that stretch of coast), even if demoted to SP145 [Strada provinciale—Provincial road]). The elevated 3-km stretch at Castellammare (coming in from the top of the map and the first three tunnels (each about 1.5 km long, marked 1, 2 and 3 on the map) were completed in the 1980s and 90s. Numbers 1 and 2 take you around Castellammare. Then, however, you still have to drive down onto the old 145 at Pozzano and go along the coast. Once at Scraio, you can by-pass Vico Equense through tunnel number 3 and come out at Seiano. The new tunnel (the dotted line) is now about to open. (I realize I have said that before!) It is a 3-km tunnel from Pozzano to Scrajo and will by-pass the coast road, a scenic stretch that has always been a pleasure to drive when there is no traffic (say, at 3.30 am on a Sunday morning in February). (The jagged line inside the 145 and running roughly parallel to it is the Circumvesiana railway.) The theory is that you will be able to put the pedal to the metal anywhere on the A-3 and head to Sorrento on the SS145, taking your pedal off your metal at Seiano, where you will then pick up the old 145 for the rest of the trip. (If you forget to do that, you will put a huge dent in the north side of Montechiaro, the hill between Seiano and Meta. Please don't do that. From Seiano you still have to drive up the last hill and wind down into Meta. That can be a grind in heavy traffic. As far as I know, there is no plan to bore through the last hill directly to Meta, which is what the train tunnel does. Sorry. Every silver lining has a cloud.

The delays have been many. The latest "opening" of the new tunnel was scheduled for December, 2012, but they missed that date (as they had missed earlier ones); the new date is this June. The beauty of the new tunnel is that now with all the speed demons on their way to or from Sorrento through those tunnels, you are perfectly free to take the old slow road and enjoy the drive.

update: May 2014               and glorious update July 2014    not so glorious

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