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Puglia - Population and Economy

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.

This gives the Pugliese countryside an appearance that seems to contradict the somewhat high average density of population statistics; consequently, population scatter is at a minimum.

The Puglia dialect, which belongs to the South Italy family of dialects, is divided into two sub-classes, that spoken in the north, with an affinity to the dialects of Molise and Abruzzo, and that of the south (or Salentine), typical of the area south of Taranto and Brindisi, which resembles the Calabrian-Sicilian matrix.

Isolated instances are those of Albanian, spoken only in Capitanata and a few parts of the Province of Taranto, and Greek in certain centres south of Leone.

Agriculture is still the most important sector, both in terms of employment and production. In the course of agricultural development, which began at the beginning of last century, two basic problems have had to be overcome.

The first of these, now successfully solved, was that of the latifundia, vast estates in the hands of the great landowners, whose land was redistributed to the farmers by the Riforma Fondiaria Act (1951); the second problem-the lack of water in these areas, has led the State and local authorities to build large-scale irrigation systems, the first being the Pugliese Aqueduct (1906-1939), wichch has proved to be still inadequate.

In spite of this, horticulture is common in Puglia, including the production of tomatoes, lettuces, artichokes and fennel, as well as the traditional olives, and table and wine grapes.

There are also high crops of carrots, aubergines, peppers, cabbage, wheat, corn, almonds and cherries. The only livestock of any importance is sheep, but Puglia has the fourth highest fishing catch in the country.

Underground resources include several natural gas deposits (Capitanata) and bauxite (Trani, Poggiardo); there is a fair production of electricity, almost exclusively by thermal generation.

In the south of the region, the industrial sector is highly developed, with two vast industrial complexes, the Taranto steel works and chemical plant at Brindisi, both planned as the basis for the growth of small and medium-sized allied companies.

In reality, this has been only partly successful, and is limited to the Brindisi-Taranto-Bari industrial triangle. The sole branch of industry found in most areas is food, linked to the plentiful agricultural output (especially pasta and oil manufacture); other industries include papermaking (Foggia), engineering (Taranto, Brindisi, Bari), construction materials (Lecce, Bisceglie, Barletta).

The service sector suffers from the endemic malaises typical of the sector in the South of Italy: inefficiency, surplus of small businesses, flocks of intermediaries, especially in marketing the prosperous agricultural produce, a state of affairs this last which affects the earning power of the farmers.

Of the remaining service industries, tourism particularly to beach resorts is steadily becoming important.

The conformation of the territory, unlike that of the other regions, is a serious obstacle to communications.

The main highway is the last stretch of the Adriatic autostrada, which passes S. Severo, Foggia, Bari and Taranto; railway connections are based principally on the Milan-Bologna-Bari-Lecce line.

Port facilities exist at Taranto (mercantile), as well as Brindisi and Bari, which have important links with Yugoslavia and Greece. The two domestic airports: Bari-Palese and Brindisi-Casale.

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