MOLISE - Geography and history
With an area of 4 438 km2, Molise is the smallest region in southern Italy, and the youngest region in the country as a whole.
Molise is a typically inland and mountainous region, despite its 35 km of coast on the Adriatic. About 55% of the region is composed of mountains and the remaining 45% of uplands (interior and coastal uplands). The absence of lowlands and the predominance of mountainous areas constitute a natural barrier to the social and economic development of the region. Climate is directly influenced by topography: there is a maritime climate in the narrow coastal strip, a temperate one in the uplands and a continental climate in the more inland and mountainous areas.
Calm, isolation and rural exodus
Molise's strong points are the following:
- the existence of three industrial centres at Termoli-Larino, Campobasso-Bojano and Isernia-Venafro;
- the role of the regional capital, centre of the region's administration, which provides a large number of jobs in the services sector;
- the importance of agriculture in terms of employment;
- the absence of organised crime, typical of other regions of southern Italy, which provides a certain measure of tranquillity.
The region's weak points are:
- depopulation, especially in the villages of the inland and mountain areas, which has led to a significant deterioration in the local environment;
- the isolation of the inland areas owing to the lack of major road and rail communications;
- dependence on other regions both for technological progress and for the development of an entrepreneurial class, capable of competing with other economically more advanced regions;
- a high level of emigration among young people and consequent ageing of the remaining population.
These elements show a region that has only recently experienced vigorous industrial growth, but still suffers from serious problems of depopulation in many of its smaller towns and villages.
Three main development centres
The region is subdivided into two provinces: Campobasso and Isernia, covering together 1.5% of the Italian territory and less than 1% of its population. The biggest province in terms of surface area is Campobasso (2 909 km2) and the smallest is Isernia (1 529 km2). At the end of 2002 the most populous towns were Campobasso (50 991 inhabitants), Termoli (30 669) and Isernia (21 263).
The main centres of the region's economy are the coastal area at Termoli (Lower Molise), Campobasso (Central Molise) and Isernia (Upper Molise). Lower Molise has one relatively large employer, Fiat, with approximately 3°000 employees, and a thriving agricultural sector. Central Molise is dominated by the services sector and the food processing industry, with Campobasso as the centre of social life. The province of Isernia has a growing manufacturing industry, with serious problems in inland areas furthest from the industrial centres.