The area drained by Italy’s longest river, the Po, the Pianura Padana (the Po Plains) is Italy’s industrial and commercial heartland. Its biggest manufacturing centers (Turin, Milan, Bologna, Brescia, Mestre, Varese) are among the busiest in Europe. Per capita income is extremely high—over C–– 26,000 on average, with a peak of nearly C–– 30,000 in Lombardy—and unemployment, which has rarely exceeded 4 percent in recent years, is far below the Italian national average. Per person productivity in manufacturing has been estimated to be higher than anywhere in the world except some parts of the United States. Apart from the giant FIAT car company, most of the industrial production of the region is concentrated in smalland medium-sized companies specializing in a vast range of niche products for export as well as domestic consumption. Ceramics, textiles, optical equipment, and food processing are just some of the major providers of employment in the region, which is the size of Denmark.
   Politically the region has been traditionally divided between the “red zones,” where the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) held sway (Bologna, Parma, Turin), and the “white zones,” dominated by the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC) (Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua). This division was memorably depicted in the short stories of Giovanni Guareschi in the immediate postwar period. To a certain extent, this right-left division still holds. Lombardy and the western parts of Venetia have voted for the Lega Nord/ Northern League (LN) and Forza Italia since 1993; EmiliaRomagna and, to a lesser extent, Turin and its surroundings, remain bastions of the Democratici di Sinistra/Democrats of the Left (DS). Despite being only the third party in the region, in 1996, the Northern League announced its intention to bring into being an independent republic called “Padania.” This project is very unlikely to be realized, but it does show that some political figures think they may gain from appeals to self-conscious local pride in being both a political and an economic model for the rest of Italy. This is particularly true of Venetia, whose political leaders of all parties are determined to obtain greater autonomy from Rome.
   The countryside is for the most part flat and uninteresting and is covered by thick fogs from November to April. Such cities as Verona (with its remarkable Roman amphitheater), Cremona (with its covered arcades and small workshops where craftsmen continue to construct violins using techniques not significantly different from those employed by Stradivarius), Vicenza (with its superb Palladian architecture), Ravenna (with its Roman mosaics), and Padua and Bologna (with their ancient universities) are of great artistic and historical interest. Most spectacular of all is Venice, for long the dominant political power in the region and still today a city of unparalleled beauty. The region’s cooking, with Parma and Bologna as the undisputed gastronomic capitals, is internationally famous.
   See also Economy.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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