Central Italy

   The core of central Italy is Tuscany, with its spectacular scenery and the famous historical centers of Florence(the region’s largest city), Pisa, Volterra (a major center of the pre-Roman Etrurians), and Siena. The other regions are Umbria (whose largest cities are the splendid cathedral hill towns of Assisi, Orvieto, Perugia, and Urbino), the Marches (Pesaro, Ancona), the northernmost part of Latium, and the Abruzzi, whose largest cities are Aquila and Pescara. The tiny independent republic of San Marino is also to be found between Umbria and Romagna.
   Tourism is a mainstay of the local economy: Florence, Siena, and the Isle of Elba are among the most sought-after destinations in the world. The region also boasts a flourishing wine industry (Chianti and Montepulciano) and substantial numbers of small enterprises specializing in high-quality craft products. Marble from the province of Massa Carrara is reputed to be the finest in the world, and quarrying and working marble is an important source of income. Nevertheless, the region does not have the same industrial dynamism that characterizes Venetia, Lombardy, or Emilia-Romagna, and per capita incomes, although over the European average, are lower than in northern Italy. According to recent European Union figures, Latium, which is boosted by the presence of well-paid public functionaries in Rome, enjoys a standard of living that is 124 percent of the European Union (EU) average; the figure for Tuscany is just under 120 percent. Politically, the area is mostly “red.” Tuscany and Umbria in particular are bastions of the Democratici di Sinistra /Democrats of the Left (DS) and were formerly strongholds of the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI). Over 60 percent of the electorate in Tuscan cities, such as Florence, Siena, and the port city of Leghorn (Livorno) voted for the center-left coalition led by Romano Prodiin the April 2006 elections. The DS was easily the single largest party. In Umbria, support for the left was only slightly lower. The Abruzzi, by contrast, was a former fiefdom of the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC). Both northern Latium and the Abruzzi voted only narrowly in favor of Prodi’s coalition in 2006. The region’s terrain is dominated by the Apennines mountain chain, whose highest point is Gran Sasso (Abruzzi) at 2,914 meters (9,565 feet). The Gran Sasso was the site of the fortress in which Benito Mussolini was briefly imprisoned in 1943 before his rescue by German parachute troops.
   See also Alps; Pianurapadana; Regionalism.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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