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Valle d'Aosta - Population and Economy

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.

The internal migration recorded after the Second World War towards the major tourist centres of the lateral valleys, where tourism has now replace the poor mountain agriculture must not be underestimated.

Besides the regional capital, the larger centres, with a few thousand inhabitants, are situated at the mouth of the lateral valleys: Pont-Saint-Martin, Verres, Chtillon, though places such as Courmayeur, Cervinia, La Thuile, Champoluc, Gressoney, and others are very famous.

The official languages of the region are Italian and French, considered equal in education and administrative documents. Most of the local population normally speaks `patois', a dialect of Franco-Provenal origin. Walser, a German mountain dialect, is spoken in the Lys valley.

Of agricultural activities, now of secondary importance to the industrial and service sectors, the most important is vine growing with a valuable though limited wine production.

From livestock (especially cattle) come butter and other dairy products, including Fontina, the typical regional cheese.

Noteworthy incentives (mostly financial aid) have been planned by the Regional Administration in favour of the primary sector in avoiding depopulation and deterioration of the mountain pastures.

The iron (Aosta, Saint Marcel, Verres, Pont-Saint-Martin) and textile industries (Chtillon), are particularly well developed, facilitated by the considerable availability of hydroelectric power. In the past, the coal seams (La Thuile) and iron deposits (Cogne) were of a certain importance, though no longer exploited.

Of the other economic activities (tourism is considered apart) importance must be given to the numerous craft firms (working with wood and marble, transformation of agricultural products); the Saint Vincent Casino, one of the four casinos in Italy, has a considerable role in regional finances.

Commerce and finance are concentrated in Aosta, the regional capital, lying on the important international highways opened through the Mont Blanc (1965) and Gran San Bernardo (1964) tunnels.

Aosta is well linked by motorway to Turin and Milan; the railway (Turin to Pr-Saint-Didier) climbs the whole valley, ending at the foot of Mont Blanc.

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