The name Atlantia, which refers to the myth of Atlas—who, according to Greek mythology, was commanded by Zeus to sustain the weight of the celestial vault—evokes the characteristics of globality, strength, solidity, and responsibility. This was the name chosen by the group that manages the Italian highways. Its foundations were laid in 1950, when an initiative of the IRI—Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, created by Mussolini in the 1930s in order to restart the economy after the depression—gave birth to the Società Autostrade Concessioni e Costruzioni S.p.A. In 1956, an agreement was signed between ANAS, the government society for the normal road network, and the Società Autostrade, in which the latter pledged to co-finance, construct, and manage the Autostrada del Sole (Highway of the Sun) between Milan and Naples, which opened in 1964. The Società Autostrade was privatized in 1999. A stable team of shareholders, consisting of a network led by Edizione, from the Venetian group Benetton, replaced the IRI, which had been the primary shareholder since the society’s inception. In the course of the year 2003, a new organizational structure directed at separating activities under concession from non-highway activities gave birth to Autostrade per l’Italia, which was completely under the control of Autostrade S.p.A. Then, in 2007, came the transformation into Atlantia, which became a holding company specialized in infrastructures, while maintaining full control of the subholding Autostrade per l’Italia, the leading company operating in the field of infrastructures under concession.
Today, the company, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange, has recently expanded its operations by merging with another privatized infrastructure that later came under Benetton’s control, Aeroporti di Roma. The merger of Atlantia and this holding company, Adr Gemina, is the fulfillment of Benetton’s plan to create a strong international player in infrastructural business. Its responsibilities encompass 5,000 km of highways under concession (more than 3,000 km of which are in Italy) and 41 million passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, the most-trafficked airport in Italy and the seventh in Europe. The only comparable agent in Europe is the Spanish corporation Abertis, whose attempted merger with Autostrade in 1996 fell through because of opposition from the Italian government.