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Country profile (Italy)

What distinguishes the country?

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Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 03 Jan 2011 original
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Part C - Italy - Diversity (May, 10 2010) - Factors

Italy is located in Southern Europe and comprises the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and a number of islands including Sicily, Sardinia, Elba and about 70 smaller ones. The environmental character of the Italian territories is similar to other Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Similarities are especially observed for the dry and seasonally hot Mediterranean climate, the north-south gradients in soil characteristics, and the importance of the elevation gradient in determining natural vegetation quality and cover.


Italy’s territorial surface is 301 336 km2. Its territory is characterised by a combination hills covering 41.6 % of the country, and mountains covering 35.2 %, and a relatively long coast line of 8 353 km. This combination ensures highly diversified landscapes and climate conditions. 


Italy has a mainly temperate climate with regional variations and continental characteristics especially in the north. In summer the northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under dry heat. In winter, conditions in the main northern cities are dominated by cold, damp and fog; in central regions winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable averaging 10-20 °C.


The specific location of Italy within the Mediterranean geodynamic setting – the convergence of the European and African plates, the interposition of the Adriatic micro-plate and the opening of the Tyrrhenian basin – makes it one of the countries with the greatest seismic and volcanic risk in the area. The areas with the greatest seismic risk are in the Friuli sector, along the central-southern Apennine range and especially in the sectors of the inter-Apennine basin. The conditions at greatest volcanic risk are naturally tied to the proximity of Italy’s active volcanoes: the Vesuvius and Phlegraean area, the Island of Ischia, the Etna sector, the Aeolian Islands and, in part, the Alban Hills.


In terms of biodiversity, Italy is one of Europe’s richest countries, essentially on account of its favourable geographic position, as well as its extensive geo-morphological, microclimatic and vegetative variety, and the additional influence of its history and culture. Italy possesses fully one half of all the plant species currently found in Europe, together with a third of the animal species.


At the end of 2008, the Italian population surpassed 60 million. As has been the case for a number of years, growth is due almost entirely to immigration.


Within Europe as a whole, Italy is one of the most densely populated countries with an average population density of about 200 per square kilometre.

Compared with the national figure, smaller municipalities are among the most densely populated areas, especially in south Italy and the Islands, where they reach a peak of more than 900 inhabitants per km2. Most of its population lives in the plains. With its long historic urbanisation process, Italy is one of the richest countries in terms of cultural and monumental heritage with 42 cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List from 1979 to date.


As for Italy’s production structure, the central regions tend to contain more service enterprises, micro-firms are predominant in the south, and medium-size enterprises are most widespread in the northeast regions. Large-scale industry plays a leading role in the northwest. Within Europe, Italian companies are more focussed on manufacturing activities, specialising mainly in the sectors referred to industrial design, fashion and the textile industry.


What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 03 Jan 2011 original
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Part C - Italy - Diversity (May, 10 2010) - Major societal developments


Great social and economic transformations took place in Italy over the past 60 years with a poor agricultural society giving way to an advanced post-industrial society.

Within this reference frame, the Italian population changed its structure, habits and behaviour, increasing from 47 million in 1950 to 60 million now. The period was characterised by a strongly decreasing birth-rate, a gradually ageing population and an increase in immigration.

After a relatively stable period of economic growth in 1945-1950, the population grew impressively with annual rates of up to 1 %, especially in urban and peri-urban areas. The years from 1958 to 1963 were known as Italy’s economic miracle, but it should be highlighted that economic development was always characterised by marked regional disparities, most notably between the centre and north and the south. Urban areas were able to provide better employment conditions, which is the reason for intense rural depopulation in the uplands of the Alps, the Apennines, Sicily, and Calabria and the influx of migrants to Rome, Milan, Turin, and Genoa. This movement to the industrial areas continues, but it is slowing due to the current economic depression.


In 1970, Italy’s population was about 54 million, with about 4 million employed in agriculture, more than 8 million in services, and around 7.6 million in industry, totalling about 20 million. Between 1970 and 2008 the population increased by almost 6 million or 11 %, and there was a substantial change in the level and composition of employment.


Table 1a - Total employed (in thousands)












Agriculture, forestry and fishing

4 008.2

2 856.6

1 689.9

1 102.9



5 689.7

6 429.1

5 820.1

5 189.5

5 179.1


1 970.4

1 709.9

1 511.4

1 553.9

1 938.1

Trade, repair, hotels and restaurants, transport and communication

3 932.4

4 742.8

5 561.2

5 631.7

6 175.0

Monetary and financial intermediation, real estate and business activities


1 068.8

2 091.8

2 949.8

3 783.7

Other service activities

3 623.0

4 565.8

5 935.1

6 502.3

7 195.3


19 931.4

21 373.0

22 609.5

22 930.1

25 262.9







Table 1b - Total employed (percentage composition)












Agriculture, forestry and fishing






Industry (strict sense)












Trade, repair, hotels and restaurants, transport and communication






Monetary and financial intermediation, real estate and business activities






Other service activities






Source: ISTAT – National Accounts data processed by ISPRA


What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

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Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 03 Jan 2011 original
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Part C - Italy - Diversity (May, 10 2010) - Drivers and pressures


Figure 2

Total energy intensity of the G20 countries in 2007, with GDP measured in year-2000 dollars and corrected for purchasing power parity (PPP)
Data source
Figure 2
Fullscreen image Original link


The characteristics of the country’s territorial and socio-economic context and, in particular, the demographic dynamics and modes of behaviour of economic subjects (families and businesses) are closely connected with the anthropogenic pressures that threaten the national environment.



Levels and patterns of consumption are also affected by demographic changes, with variations in family budgets having an especially noticeable effect on the allocation of spending. Average monthly spend per family in 2008 was € 2 485 against € 2 480 in 2007.

Between 1970 and 2008, the main categories of the income statement of national resources and investments showed noteworthy growth. GDP, consumption and investments doubled, while imports and exports quadrupled.

In detail, national GDP for 2008, reached the value of 1,572,243 millions of current euros, an increase of 1.8 percent compared to the previous year. The variation, calculated at prices from the previous year and chained to the reference year 2000 was -1 percent.

In 2008, the percentage of Italian total – added value accounted for by the primary sector,  including agriculture, forestry and fishing, in 2008 was only 2.5 %, the industrial sector, industry plus construction, accounted for 27 %, while more than 70 % of  total value added was generated by the tertiary sector which includes banking activities, tourism, transport and insurance.


Energy production and consumption

Recent swings in energy prices have not substantially changed the basic trends of energy supply in Italy, with natural gas playing an increasingly important role compared to oil products, while the contribution of renewable sources and cogeneration, as well as the consumption of solid fuels, has been growing since 2001. However, the fluctuations in energy prices during the period considered have reduced the effects of new regulatory developments such as the liberalisation of energy markets and the introduction of new forms of incentives for the production of electricity from renewable sources. The share of solid fuels in the consumption of primary energy sources, including primary electric energy, rose from 8.6 % in 2001 to 11.5 % in 2008.

Despite the changes in the mix of primary energy sources, Italy’s energy dependence on imports remains high, having risen from 82.8 % in 1990 to 84.6 % in 2008, an increase of 1.7 %. With the goal of limiting the vulnerability of the national economic system, the current government has presented legislative provisions to identify sites for new nuclear power stations.

However, Italy is one of the G20 countries with the lowest total energy intensity rating – below the world average and that of the OECD.


Agricultural activities generate environmental pressures, but are also affected by changes in ecosystems. In 2007, the total utilized agricultural area (UAA) in Italy was 12 744 196 ha with 1 679 439 farms.

In particular, sales of plant protection products[1] fell by 10.3 % between 1997 in 2008. Approximately 150 000 tonnes of plant protection products were put on the market in 2008. With regard to fertilisers, a total of 4 910 598 tonnes were put on the market in 2008. Since the sales and actual use of these substances overlap substantially, these figures give a good idea of the situation.

 Italy is the second European country after Spain for area involved in organic farming, with 1.002.415 ha. This is still true despite a 12.8 % reduction between 2007 and 2008. . Production is mainly in the south, while organic food processing industries are concentrated in the centre and north of the peninsula. The numbers of organic livestock increased from 2007 to 2008: poultry by 61 %, pigs by 26 %, sheep by 17 % and rabbits by 723 %.

Italy maintains the richest basket in the EU with regard to Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) products registered – 181 products, more than 21 % of the EU total.



During the past ten years passenger and freight transport increased compared with the previous decade due to technological progress and new social behaviour.

In 2008, freight transport in Italy amounted to more than 270 billion tonne-km, of which 62 % was by road, and passenger transport was about 970 billion passenger-km, of which 92 % was by road, showing the continuing predominance of road transport.

More than 50 million vehicles circulated in 2008, including 35 million cars.



In 2007, tourist arrivals and overnight stays in Italy increased respectively by 3.3 % and by 2.7 % in comparison to 2006.

Climate is one of the main driving factors behind the seasonal structure of tourist demand. In 2007, the peak season for tourist flows was the third quarter which accounted for 49 % of all overnight stays.

The mode of transport used most frequently by Italians taking trips is the car, 65.3 %. Foreign visitors entering Italy continue to favour the most polluting means of transport, such as cars and aeroplanes which continued grow between 2006 and 2007, by 5.4 % and 8 % respectively.



During recent decades urbanisation accelerated at an unprecedented rate, in southern regions, and in some parts of the north and in the centre, especially Veneto and Lazio, this has sometimes been seen as a runaway phenomenon due to a combination of factors such as a lack of coordination among the different administrative levels of spatial planning, urban planning deregulation and authorities in charge of controlling and preventing illegal building.

All in all, the analysis makes it possible to identify areas and configurations with well-defined and consolidated characteristics: on the one hand, local metropolitan systems and their outlying districts, with intensive land use; on the other hand, the areas of the Piedmont-Lombardy/Veneto/Emilia-Romagna triangle, with low-density urban development in areas bordering towns and cities, and extensive urban sprawl.

(An extremely detailed treatment of topics addressed here is available in the ‘key topics’ )


[1] Plant protection products (PPPs) are products intended to protect plants and crop products against all harmful organisms or to prevent the action of such organisms (infectious disease, plant pathogens, insects, molluscicide)

What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 03 Jan 2011 original
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Part C - Italy - Diversity (May, 10 2010) - Foreseen main developments


Activities such as industry, construction, agriculture, energy and waste production are expected to continue to be the major determinants of environmental pressures in the coming decades, despite the temporary effects of the global economic crisis on production and consumption patterns at the national scale. In order to prevent the predictable economic recovery from re-establishing the pre-crisis unsustainable trends of environmental pressures, it is important that the recovery is accompanied by measures to green the economy.

One of the current policy is to boost growth while reducing current pressures on the environment due to unsustainable production and consumption patterns and to promote eco-innovation by an appropriate mix of regulation, market instruments and incentives. In this regard, political priorities in the environmental field, which will remain high on the agenda of the central Government as key elements of medium and long term planning, are:

 1.                  sustainable use and preservation of water resources through the optimisation of management and a technical up-grade of water supply and sanitation systems and the prevention of illegal water extraction;

2.                  prevention and mitigation of hydro-geological risk by ensuring an integrated management system for the water-soil resource in order to protect settlements, infrastructures and industrial plants, and tackle coastal erosion and desertification problems;

3.                  land reclamation by completing the National Reclamation and Requalification Plan of 57 prioritised contaminated industrial sites by the use of innovative technologies;

4.                  reduction of the environmental impact of wastes, in particular by interventions aimed at minimising packaging; reusing, recycling and recovering industrial by-products and residues in the production cycles; enhancing separate collection of waste; promoting awareness-raising of enterprises and citizens on the need to reduce waste generation; and combating illegal traffic of waste and ‘eco-mafias’;

5.                  protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, in particular by the definition of a National Strategy for Biodiversity aiming at the achievement of three strategic objectives to be implemented in the years 2011-2020:

    1. to enhance the protection and recovery of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to ensure their key role for life on Earth and human well-being;
    2. to promote the adaptation of species and natural and semi-natural ecosystems to climate change and to adopt appropriate mitigation measures in order to reduce the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and human well-being;
    3. to integrate biodiversity conservation into economic and sectoral policies by strengthening the recognition of benefits derived from biodiversity and ecosystem services and an awareness of the costs resulting from their loss;


6.                  clean energy and better air quality, in particular by strengthening the development and implementation of eco-incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy , for example white and green certificates, and promoting sustainable mobility and construction;

7.                  sustainable consumption patterns, such as the promotion of green public procurement (GPP), and environmental education and information, by:

-          promoting the National Strategy for Sustainable Production and Consumption as well as the one for GPP;

-          supporting specific public information and awareness campaigns and promoting education on sustainable development in schools.

Italian Environmental Governance

 Environmental protection is shared between state and the local authorities (LAs) – and primarily among local regional authorities.

The state exerts the exclusive legislative power, as well as the guiding, coordinating and substituting power for the LAs.

The state has given the regions important functions pertaining to environmental protection such as: issuing environmental authorisations for the installation of infrastructures of regional relevance; organising the monitoring environmental media and the control of polluting activities; preparing and implementing waste management plans, air quality plans, soil and coastal defence plans; enforcing measures for the implementation of river basin plans and identifying sites for the  NATURA 2000 Network. The role of the regions is further strengthened by their concurrent legislative power in fields which are particularly relevant for environmental protection such as: valorisation of cultural and environmental heritage; healthcare; land management; civil protection; energy production, transport and distribution; transport and navigation networks; scientific and technological research.

At the central level, the administration with primary responsibility for environmental policy is the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) ( ).

Its general competences are:

•        developing environmental legislation, regulations and national plans;

•        supervising implementation of environmental legislation at the regional level, replacing regions and other local authorities in their competences, if necessary;

•        guiding and coordinating regional/local administrative activities;

•        promoting environmental research;

•        reporting on the state of the Italy’s environment;

•        giving policy instructions to the technical environmental bodies and agencies;

•        issuing EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control)  permits for large installations.

Concerning enforcement, IMELS is supported by the Corps of Carabineers for Environmental Protection (CCTA), the Coast Guard Corps (CCPGC), and the National Forestry Corps (CFS), which are branches of the Italian Army tasks with vigilance, prevention and repression of environmental violations.

With regard to technical, scientific and operational matters IMELS is supported by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) ( ) – which is part of the System of Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) as the technical steering and coordinating body.

The System of the EPAs relies on 21 agencies including Regional Environment Protection Agencies (ARPAs) and Environmental Protection Agencies of the Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano (APPAs) located all over Italy ( ).

At the local level, according to the regional planning guidelines, the ARPAs/APPAs carry out technical and scientific activities supporting the environmental and institutional action of the LAs. They are in charge of monitoring environmental media and controlling polluting activities, as well as collecting, elaborating and evaluating environmental data.

Environmental data information management is based on the network of the Italian National Environmental Information System (SINAnet) which is managed by ISPRA and composed of regional nodes in a structure analogous to EIONET. SINAnet is an example of a decentralised monitoring system, as monitoring is carried out mainly at the regional level, and much of it is coordinated by the EPAs.

In addition to the above competences, ISPRA is responsible for the main national reporting activities, both in terms of obligations and communication to citizens about the State of the Environment.



MATTM: Giuliana Gasparrini, Silvia Giulietti

ISPRA: Alessandra Galosi, Luca Segazzi

ISTAT: Stefano Tersigni




INEA, Italian Agriculture in Figures. Roma, 2009.

ISPRA, Key Topics –Italian Environmental Data Yearbook 2008. Roma, 2009.

ISPRA, Key Topics –Italian Environmental Data Yearbook 2009. Roma, 2010.

ISTAT, Conti economici nazionali. Anni 1970-2008. Roma, 2009.

ISTAT, Datawarehouse online DwCis or

ISTAT, Italian Statistical Abstract 2008. Roma, 2009.

MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, LAND AND SEA, Environmental Challenges – Summary of the State of the environment in Italy 2009. Roma, 2009.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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