Published January 30, 2024 | Version 3
Preprint Open

Rivers vs. Roads? A route network model of transport infrastructure in Northern Italy during the Roman period

  • 1. University of Edinburgh


Northern Italy has often been characterised as an isolated and marginal area during the Roman period, a region constricted by mountain ranges and its distance from major shipping lanes. Historians have frequently cited these obstacles, alongside the lack of a major seaport on the Po, as a barrier to the region’s economic development and connectivity to the rest of the Roman world. However, how isolated was the interior of Northern Italy in reality? To answer these questions, this paper analyses the results of a route network model of Northern Italy’s transport network during the Roman period. Containing over 136 nodes, it enables a significantly more detailed analysis of the region’s transport network than previous modelling. The model explores which were the most cost-effective routes for imports arriving from the Adriatic and Ligurian coasts, alongside which ports were the most accessible from sites in the upper and middle valley. The paper’s results confirm the importance of the Po-Veneto water network in facilitating the cost-efficient movement of goods from the Adriatic coast to areas hundreds of kilometres inland and vice versa, suggesting that prior assumptions of its isolation have been over-estimated.


Rivers_vs__Roads__A_route_network_model_of_transport_infrastructure_in_Northern_Italy_during_the_Roman_period__Revised_ (V3).pdf