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Toscana - Population and Economy

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.

As a result, the population is heavily concentrated along part of the Tyrrhenian coastline (from Carrara to Leghorn) and in the lower Valdarno, from Florence to Pisa where local densities of 500 persons/ sq/km are recorded.

The Tuscan dialect, articulated in various offshoots such as those of Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo and Val di Chiana areas and Florence, belongs to the large family of Central Italy dialects.

The standard of living is generally little higher than the national average though there are certain zonal differences.

The areas with high industrial concentration and the best communications networks (lower Valdarno, Florence, Lucca, Versilia, Leghorn) have an advantage over the rural and mountain areas (Maremma hinterland, countryside around Siena, upper Apennines).

As regards the economic sector, agriculture has in recent decades suffered from a high rate of redundancy, caused by mechanization of production and drift from the countryside.

The Tuscan primary sector has two different farming systems: smallholdings, sometimes still with mixed crops (wheat, vines and olives), mostly in the north of the region, and the large farms to the south, especially in Maremma, where land has been reclaimed; these farms cultivate cereals and vegetables.

The principal agricultural products are wheat and wine, the latter mainly from the Chianti area. Qualitatively speaking, olive cultivation is also excellent (around Lucca, Maremma hills).

Vegetable production is also worthy of note: Tuscan artichokes (from the Pisa, Leghorn, Empoli areas) are well known as are cauliflowers (Pisa area).

Nursery gardens round Pistoia and floriculture at Pescia and Viareggio are traditional forms of cultivation, but apart from sheep, there is little livestock, though the area does have several native breeds of cattle (Chianina, Pisana, Maremma).

With regard to industry, mining, though sharply declining compared to a few decades ago, is still of some importance: pyrites in the Grosseto area (used in the production of sulphuric acid), lignite (Valdarno), lead (Campiglia Marittima), alabaster (Volterra) and notably marble (Apuan Alps).

The iron ore seams (Island of Elba) and mercury deposits (Mount Amiata) are no longer worked. Some electricity is produced, nearly entirely of thermal origin, more than one third of it from the exploitation of borax hot springs (Larderello).

Industry includes the metallurgical (Piombino, Leghorn, Florence, S. Giovanni Valdarno), engineering (Florence, Pontedera, Pistoia, Arezzo), chemical (Rosignano Solvay, Leghorn), textile (Prato, Florence, Empoli), food (Sansepolcro), printing (Florence), tanning (S. Croce sull'Arno) and glass, making (Empoli) sectors. Craft industries flourish all over this region (faiences, lace, rush-weaving, wrought-iron).

In the services sector, banking (Siena, Florence) and especially commerce and tourism (the Versilia seaside resorts, many art cities) are important.

The road and railway networks are well developed for regional circulation (facilitated by the wide valleys and the broken nature of the Tuscan Apennine groups) as well as national communications.

Important highways and motorways (Autostrada del Sole, Florence-Pisa, Genoa-Leghorn, Parma-La Spezia) and main railway lines (Bologna-Rome, coastal line Genoa-Rome) cross this region.

The only busy ports are Leghorn (lines to Sardinia, Corsica and the Tuscan archipelago) and Piombino (linking the nearby Island of Elba).

The major domestic airports are Pisa San Giusto and Florence Peretola.

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