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Basilicata - Population and Economy

The impervious nature of the land, the malaria which infested the coastal areas until the beginning of this century and difficult communications have always been an obstacle to human settlement in this region.

Therefore, there has been a sharp population decrease, caused by considerable migratory flows towards foreign countries and the richer regions of Italy, a tendency which slowed down only at the beginning of the 1970s.

As to distribution of the population, there is a tendency towards progressive movement to the larger towns; the central-eastern part of the region, characterized by arid impoverished clay soil, is almost deserted with only poor agricultural activities.

The most densely populated areas lie between Melfi and Potenza and the fertile reclaimed area of Metaponto. The major towns are Melfi, Rionero in Vulture, Lauria (in the Province of Potenza), Pisticci and Policoro, in the Province of Matera.

The Lucanian dialect belongs to the family of central-south Italic dialects and though not uniform throughout the region, it tends to be considered, together with the north Calabrian dialect, as one of its sub-groups.

The inhabitants of Barile, Brindisi Montagna, Maschito, S. Costantino Albanese and S. Paolo Albanese still speak a dialect of Albanian origin.

Since Basilicata is still an underdeveloped region, its standard of living is well below the national average; however, the Province of Matera, as a result of an increase in industrial enterprise, has registered considerable improvement.

Basilicata is the only Italian region where farm workers outnumber the people employed in industry. However, agricultural activities are characterized by low incomes, the result of the use of obsolete equipment, environmental difficulties (poor soil, lack of irrigation systems, degradation of the land) and by the splitting up of farms.

The fertile Ionian coast, however, constitutes a magnificent exception. Here the rational application of productive techniques has given excellent results in some specialized crops (vegetables, citrus fruit, sugarbeet, tobacco, hothouse strawberries).

In general, the principal crops of the region are cereals, particularly oats, wheat and barley; the most common vegetables are cabbages; there is a good production of leaf salad vegetables and tomatoes, also of apricots and peaches.

Of some importance are the traditional vine and olive cultivations. There is a fair amount of livestock, especially goats and sheep, though fishing is insignificant, as is timber exploitation.

Important mineral resources are the natural gas deposits at Pisticci, Ferrandina and San Cataldo.

Despite the allocation of public funds to some industrialized centres (Potenza, Maratea, the Basento River valley), the industrial sector is still of little importance.

The major industries are the chemical industry, linked to the natural gas deposits (Pisticci, Ferrandina), paper (Venosa), sugar (Policoro), textiles (Maratea), engineering (Potenza, Matera), building materials (Potenza, Matera) and foodstuffs.

Commercial activities are generally concentrated in small areas, while the public sector is of great importance thus emphasizing the weakness of the region's economy.

Some typical handcrafts (ceramic, wooden goods, fabrics) are of a certain importance.

Rail communications are still inadequate, while in recent years some improvement has been made in the road network (the section Potenza-Sicignano degli Alburni, which connects the Lucanian capital with the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway; the Basentana dual-carriageway).

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