VENETO - Geography and history
The Veneto region covers 18 391 km2 and is divided into 7 provinces and 581 municipalities. Its capital, Venice, a city rich in art and culture, is built on small islands in the lagoon. Some 29% of the territory is mountainous with peaks rising to over 3 000 m in the extreme north, while approximately 56% lies in the eastern Po plain, where numerous alpine rivers provide abundant supply of water. To the east the region overlooks on the low-lying sandy Adriatic coast, remarkable for its lagoons and for the extensive Po delta, an area of great interest to naturalists. The topographic diversity of the region leads to great differences in climate, from the harsh weather conditions in the high Alps to a broad range of seasonal temperatures with a constant high level of humidity which may cause fog banks in autumn and winter, in the plain. Rainfall is abundant with minimum levels between 600 and 800 mm in the plain. The soils are mainly of limestone origin in the mountains and of alluvial origin in the plain.
Strength and weakness of the Veneto development model
Some of the main region's strengths are as follows:
- a well-balanced distribution of population, with the exception of the gradual depopulation of mountainous areas;
- the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Venice and of many other small and large centres;
- the Veneto development model - characterised by a wide export-oriented entrepreneurship in traditional sectors and a strong social cohesion - which explains the relatively high level of employment.
Of course strengths may have their side effects. The fact that the industrial base is fragmented in small units does not favour research investments and access to technology and modern forms of business and financial management. Furthermore, the rising of industrial districts has only reduced the handicaps deriving from small-sized firms while specialisation in mature industries with a relatively low level of investments in capital assets, exposes the region to competition from emerging countries.
The territory is already saturated: only a few areas, in the central plain, are left for eventual new productive units. Some segments of the production processes have been delocalised, mainly in the Eastern European Countries. Part of the mobility infrastructure is also saturated and the bulk of the main road network is often congested.
Even the huge influx of tourists may have undesirable consequences. If it is too heavy and unregulated, as it is the case in Venice, it jeopardises the conservation of the artistic heritage, mainly because of the lack of adequate facilities. Environmental pollution has become particularly serious in the area of the Venice lagoon, which hosts the greater chemical industry site in Italy, Porto Marghera.
The Po delta lagging behind
Geography and historical events have determined the present social and economic structure of the region, centred on a broad belt running east to west. The plain and the Alpine foothills are the most developed areas in contrast to the Po delta to the south and - to a lesser extent - to the mountains. Industrial development is mainly concentrated in this central belt, with the exception of the manufacturing of spectacles in the valleys around Belluno. The Alps and the province of Rovigo, more than other areas, show a trend of both declining and ageing population. Rovigo, which has always been a depressed area, has experienced negative net migration from the 1950s until the early 1970s, while in the province of Belluno there used to be significant population movements with high seasonal peaks, which are today less consistent. Rovigo and Venice still suffer from employment problems, which have been overcome in the more industrialised areas such as Vicenza and Treviso. As a matter of fact, a manufacturing worker in Venice - particularly rich in craft industries - produces almost a half with respect to a worker in Vicenza, the most advanced and dynamic manufacturing area in Veneto. On the contrary, an agricultural worker in the province of Vicenza or Venice produces just one third as compared to a worker in the province of Rovigo.