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Molise - Population and Economy

On the whole, Molise is the least populated Italian region after the Val d'Aosta, with also a very low average density of population.

Apart from the historical difficulties of settling in a territory which is mainly mountainous, this is due to a flow of emigrants abroad and to other Italian regions, a phenomenon which reached a peak at the beginning of the century and in the post-war period, and started to decline to a certain extent only from the 1970s onwards.

The population distribution is highest in the areas surrounding Campobasso, the regional capital, and along the Adriatic coast, while the mountainous areas (for example in the Province of Isernia) are almost uninhabited.

The Molise dialect, with that of northern Apulia, is a sub-group of the broad family of southern Italian dialects; the presence of Albanian (Larino, Ururi, Campomarino, Portocannone, Santa Croce di Magliano, Montecilfone) and Serbo-Croat (Acquaviva Collecroce, Montemitro) linguistic enclaves, all in the Province of Campobasso, is significant.

Molise is without doubt one of the poorest parts of the country, characterized by endemic underdevelopment, caused also by its isolation.

Not even its organization as a Region in 1973, when it separated from Abruzzo, has contributed to consistent improvement of general economic conditions; consequently the standard of living here is one of the lowest in Italy.

Agriculture is still of considerable importance, though it is an impoverished sector, frequently subsistence farming, and characterized by large numbers of tiny holdings, and the average age of the active population is very high.

The primary sector is now adopting efficient production techniques only in the coastal area, as a result of irrigation systems and better communications.

The most common crops are wheat, broad beans and potatoes. Olives and wine-growing are of a certain importance, as are some vegetables and sunflowers.

Livestock is decreasing except for the traditional sheep-farming, while fishing is of little importance, since the only available port is Termoli. Mineral resources consist of the natural gas deposits at Larino.

The industrial sector, as already mentioned, is underdeveloped and there is only one real industrialized area, near Termoli, with engineering, textile, foodstuff, furniture and building materials factories.

Elsewhere, firms are small and semi-artisan, operating principally in the textile, woodworking, food processing and building materials sectors.

The service sector employs just under half the active population; here the commercial sector, though badly organized and the public sector, which has been expanded since the Region and the Province of Isernia were established (1970), are of particular importance.

Communications, though improving, have not yet overcome the isolation of the region's internal zones. Only the coast is adequately served by roads (Bologna-Taranto motorway) and railways (Bologna-Lecce). Inland, the only roadway of a certain importance is the dual carriageway in the lower Biferno valley.

There is considerable passenger traffic at the port of Termoli, though only in summer (tourist links to the Tremiti islands).

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