Abruzzo is one of the least populated regions of Italy, with a density much lower than the national average: this is due to the difficult environmental conditions and to emigration, which until the early seventies, reached very high peaks. The distribution of the population within the region is characterized by sharp imbalances: the coastal and hilly zones (especially in the Provinces of Pescara and Chieti) contrast with the mountainous areas (Province of L'Aquila) still subject to progressive abandonment as a result of low incomes derived from agri-pastoral activities.
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 in many other regions, in Calabria there is an increasing trend towards concentration of the population in the larger towns, particularly the coastal areas, to the detriment of the inland rural areas where depopulation is linked to poor prospects in a backward economy.
The distribution of population in Campania is somewhat irregular: certain inland areas (Sannio, Matese, Irpinia, Cilento) are underpopulated, while the coasts are highly urbanized. The Province of Naples, in particular, has a density of 2,617 inhabit ants/sq. km., one of the highest in Europe.
With regards to population distribution, two zones are easily distinguished: the hills and mountains, thinly populated, and less suitable for economic exploitation, and the plains, characterized by an excellent communication network, the possibility of intensive farming and ideal conditions for industrial develop ment.
Friuli Venezia Giulia
The population is unevenly distributed over the territory. Mountainous areas with a very low population density contrast with the hilly areas and high plains with a population often higher than the national average. Examples of this are the strip at the foot of the mountains between Udine and Gemona and the lower Pordenone area.
The population distribution is clearly influenced by Rome, where 55% of the population is concentrated. The presence of the capital of Italy gives Latium the fourth highest density of population in the country.
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 population distribution has been affected both by the morphology of the area and the strong pull of the industrial zones. The most heavily urbanized area is the Province of Milan, at the centre of the plain, with a population density of 1,442 inhabitants per sq km.
Analysis of the regional population does not indicate a great degree of urbanization in the Marches. Ancona, the administrative centre, is the only town with over 100,000 inhabitants; even the demographic situation in the four provinces is fairly balanced.
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 morphological nature of this region heavily conditions the size and distribution of the population. Plains intensively exploited by cultivation, livestock and industry contrast with thinly populated mountain areas where silvo-pastoral activities, the sole resource, yield modest incomes.
Characteristic of Puglia (with the exception of the Salentino peninsula) is the concentration of numerous small farmers in large urban centres (with tens of thousands of inhabitants), forming `farming towns' (though now partially converted to other economic sectors), frequently at a distance from the land itself.
With a population density of 68 pop./sq. km., slightly higher than a third of the national average, Sardinia is the fourth least populated region in Italy. The population distribution is anomolous compared to that of other Italian regions lying on the sea. In fact, contrary to the general trend, urban settlement has not taken place primarily along the coast, but towards the centre of the island.
There is an imbalance in the distribution of population, the almost uninhabited inland zone clearly contrasting with the largely populated coastal areas. There is still considerable migration from the mountains and hills where the economy is prevalently agricultural-pastoral, to the larger towns and industrialized areas along the coast, where earning prospects are improved and living conditions better.
Trentino Alto Adige
The population of the region is derived from three different ethnic groups (66.4% German, 29.4% Italian, 4.2% Rhaeto-Romanic, in the province of Bolzano). It is almost equally distributed between the two provinces with a slight majority in the Province of Trent. The most densely populated areas are the two main towns, Val Lagarini, lower Val Isarco and the area around Merano.
The population of Tuscany is not uniformly distributed: high- density areas contrast sharply with those where the density is markedly lower than the national average, for example the mountain or agricultural zones which, especially after the Second World War, suffered a population drain towards the industrialized areas or the lowlands, the Provinces of Grosseto, Siena and Arezzo being those most affected.
Early in the 1950s, the population was spread evenly over the territory, largely in numerous villages or small centres, some scattered on hilltops and in the mountains. When in the last thirty years, industry and communication networks developed in the valleys, part of the population migrated to these areas, though not in the large numbers characteristic of other regions, due to the traditional link between land and agriculture, and the absence of large centres polarizing economic activities.
The shape of the territory strongly conditions the population distribution, with a concentration along the valley floor, facilitated by environmental conditions more favourable for productive activities. Last century, there was constant depopulation of the mountain areas, not just to the valley floor but also towards parts of nearby Piedmont.
In contrast with the other regions, Venetia lacks one centre which is distinctly superior to the others as regards population and economical importance. Venice, the capital, has in fact only 333,000 inhabitants, followed by Verona (260,000 inhabitants) and Padua (227,000 inhabitants). The region's population, though mainly in the upper flat areas (Treviso, Padua and Vicenza plains), is scattered.