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Travelling corporate culture

A book tells the story of an icon of the Bel Paese and the post WWII period – the Autogrill chain of motorway cafés – making it an example of fine entrepreneurial idea that became a reality

The idea at the basis of everything. And then the courage and the ability to make it a business. If you look closely this is the real essence of being an entrepreneur but also an all-round manager. And this is the content of many business stories. Like the one of motorway café number 1 in Novara on the Turin-Milan motorway, which Mario Pavesi built just a few years after the end of the Second World War and which became an icon of economic recovery in addition to a new way of thinking about travelling, how to approach customers, the method itself of selling a generous product range. It has all been told now in “Novara: la prima area di ristoro autostradale” (Novara, the first motorway café), written by Giuseppe Romano (journalist and an attentive observer of the new communication tools) that has just been published.

There is of course a simple idea at the heart of this business story: it was important to provide a service not only to the car, but first and foremost to the motorist, on a motorway. Indeed, it is from here that in 1947 Mario Pavesi (the father of “Pavesini” biscuits) planned to build a place for refreshments on the edge of the Turin-Milan motorway. The first example of what was already a widespread facility overseas. These motorway cafés quickly became an important part not only of the scenery, but especially of the Italian national culture: together with TV and supermarkets, travelling and and pit stops have contributed significantly towards educating the taste and habits of Italians.
The book narrates the business journey undertaken between 1947 and the present day. Above all, however, it tells of the quality and deep production culture that have characterised this journey. Indeed, it has involved big names from the world of post WWII architecture in addition to attention to detail, image, and product presentation. Such as the architect Angelo Bianchetti, who designed and subsequently expanded the facility in Novara. A facility which today has changed hands and ended up with the Cremonini Group but especially that has accompanied Italian growth, changing gradually in keeping with its changing users.

So attention to products, but also to the market and its consumers, attention to detail, fineness of image. Everything is explained in Romano’s book, which at one point describes the entrepreneur (Pavesi in this case) as one “who reads tomorrow’s newspaper today”.  An image that applies to many others who have enriched the Italian national industrial history.

Novara: la prima area di ristoro autostradale (Novara, the first motorway café)

Giuseppe Romano

Franco Angeli, 2017