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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)



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