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Liguria - Population and Economy

Here, more than in any other Italian region, the distribution of the population has been conditioned by the morphology of the territory.

In fact, 90% of the inhabitants live in the coastal towns which, especially on the Riviera di Ponente (western part), line the coast almost without interruption.

The hilly and mountainous inland area contrasts sharply with the populous littoral, and is characterized by progressive abandonment of agricultural activities, with consequent depopulation, especially at altitudes above 1,000 m.

In recent decades, there has been continuous infraregional migration towards the coasts, where industry and in particular the service industries (tourism, transport and other services) have provided scope for increased earnings.

In the nineteen fifties and sixties Genoa, in particular, attracted an influx of workers from the bordering regions and from the south.

Apart from the chief provincial towns (Genoa has two fifths of the region's population), the important towns are Sanremo, Ventimiglia and Albenga on the Riviera di Ponente (the western Riviera) and Sestri Levante, Rapallo and Chiavari on the Riviera di Levante (the eastern).

The Ligurian dialect, common to the whole region though with differing shades of meaning near the Piedmont and Tuscany boundaries, belongs to the Italo-Celtic dialects of Northern Italy.

With Piedmont and Lombardy, Liguria is a pole of the industrial triangle which led expansion of the whole Italian economy after the war, and still enjoys a characteristically high standard of living, confirmed by statistics; however, a certain deterioration of the environment has been caused by abandonment of the mountain areas, as well as by excessive concentration of industrial plants in certain districts.

Badly planned urban growth, and construction for the tourist industry, frequently motivated by speculation, have had a negative effect on the environment.

Agriculture is of scant importance to the regional economy, a result of the lack of arable land.

Nevertheless, some specialized crops are important: floriculture, for instance, is exclusive to the Riviera di Ponente (50% of national production).

Fruit is also important (peaches, apricots, hazelnuts, figs) and vegetables (on the Albenga plain). Inland there is limited cultivation of vines and olives, though the wines and oil produced are of excellent quality.

At a national level, Ligurian livestock rearing is irrelevant, and considering that the whole length of the region lies on the sea, fishing is a minor activity.

The most important Ligurian industries, concentrated round the main ports are: steel, engineering, petrochemicals and ship-building.

This latter, faced with international competition in the construction of large vessels, is now concentrating on small coastal boats and leisure craft.

The food and textile industries are also present. There is a vigorous building industry, linked especially with tourism.

Electricity comes almost exclusively from thermal power stations, due to the scarcity of water resources, and in fact, Liguria is second to Lombardy (1984) in the production of thermoelectric power.

The service sector is highly developed and employs two thirds of the active population, as a result of commerce linked with the ports which incentivates other service industries (shipping, insurance, finance, road and rail transport). Traditional tourist activities are very important.

In the past, development of road and rail communications in Liguria was obstructed by the nature of the terrain, and only in the last 20 years, with improvement of the motorway, has it been possible to ease congestion of commercial and tourist traffic.

Maritime communications are largely based on the port of Genoa (the major freight port in Italy) and at the ports of La Spezia and Savona. There is an international airport (Cristoforo Colombo) at Genoa.

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