The Economy of Tuscany
The Economy of Tuscany
Tuscany’s gross domestic product (GDP) corresponds to 6.80% of the total Italian GDP. The other items that go to make up the region’s resources and investments (imports from abroad, family consumption, collective consumption, gross fixed investments) also account for around the same share.
Tuscany’s particular inclination towards international trade is also borne out in the share of Tuscan exports in comparison to the total number of Italian exports, with a percentage of over 7.5%. The fashion and engineering sectors are the ones which work most with foreign countries, followed by the goldsmithery sector (under other industries).
Tuscany should be quoted among the richest regions in Italy, even though the gross domestic product per inhabitant is lower than other areas of the country: Last year Tuscany was in eighth place, with a figure that puts it above the national average and close to the strongest regional economies.
The Main Industries
Tuscany’s economic system has some particular features: alongside sectors that are as important or slightly less so than in the Italian economy as a whole, there are sectors that have a much clearer impact on Tuscany. This is the case above all for the fashion segment (textiles, clothing, leather) which counts for 5.3% of the region’s industry, while the figure for Italy is 2.0%; but it is also the case for the sales, hotels and the commercial business sectors (accounting for no less than 17.0%), which obviously shows how important tourism is for a region like Tuscany. On the other hand, the importance of other production sectors, such as building, the various service sectors and even agriculture, is lower.
As far as the manufacturing sectors are concerned, in addition to the tanning and textiles and clothing sectors, the sectors that stand out as more specialised than in Italy as a whole are goldsmithery and furniture production. Specialised manufacturing is distributed varyingly over the region.
The Tuscan economy benefits from a good infrastructure: the density of the railways and roads is similar to the national average; maritime transport of goods and persons covers over 11% of the sea traffic in Italy as a whole; while the two main airports in Tuscany (Pisa and Florence), though still covering a small share of Italy’s air traffic, have recorded a large increase in the number of passengers in recent years.
Alongside tourism, the other factor that opens Tuscany up towards other countries is its large amount of foreign trade and the regional production system’s strong inclination towards the international markets. Over 7% of Italy’s exports depart from Tuscany; but what needs to be pointed out above all is the particular importance of some areas of the market for Tuscany. The European markets are the destination for many Tuscan goods, but to a much smaller degree than for the rest of Italy; the countries of the European Union account for 55.5% of Italian exports and for 48% of Tuscan exports. Within the European picture, standing out are the strong market shares of Germany (one quarter of European exports; 13% of total exports), France (18.3%; 10.8% of the total) and the United Kingdom, but the amount of exports to Eastern Europe is also high (20.7%; 12.3% of total exports). On the contrary, the North American market accounts for an extremely large share of Tuscany’s exports: more than 17% of the goods exported from Tuscany were directed towards the American market (compared to 11% of Italian exports as a whole). The share of exports going to South America, the Middle East and in particular Japan and other countries in the Far East (the so-called NICs, newly industrialised countries) is also important.
A channel providing a large opening towards the world for a region like Tuscany, rich in art and culture but also with an extraordinary landscape, is naturally tourism. Tuscany accounts for 12.3% of arrivals and 11% of the presences in accommodation respect to Italy; within these figures, the percentages relating to foreigners are even higher: 14.8% of arrivals and 12% of presences in accommodation. The figures speak for themselves: over 11.5 million arrivals (four million, seven hundred thousand foreigners); 41.5 million presences in accommodation (more than 20 million foreigners). Tourist accommodation in Tuscany can put up more than 480,000 people, accounting for 10.5% of all the facilities in Italy. These figures put Tuscany in second place after Veneto as regards the Italian regions, both in terms of the number of arrivals and the number of presences in accommodation. Three European countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) cover 40% of the foreign tourists in Tuscany: 13% are added by the United States and Canada, while large shares are covered by France, Holland and Belgium, and the United Kingdom (7% each), plus Japan (6%).
The Importance of the Fashion Sector
If we analyse the categories of goods that make up Tuscany’s exports, we of course find the fashion sector in first place: last years tanned skins, leather goods, yarns, textiles, knitwear, clothing and footwear covered over 30% of exports. Alongside all the different products linked to fashion, the role of the various mechanics, metallurgy and vehicles sectors needs highlighting, together representing one third of Tuscany’s exports. As far as imports are concerned, confirmation that Tuscany’s economy is open to countries outside Europe is given by the fact that around half of Tuscany’s imports come from countries other than the European Union.
Small and Medium-Sized Companies
Emerging from the figures relating to Tuscany’s international trade is not only the great richness and variety of the region’s economic system, but also its particular strong points in certain sectors. Industrial development of Tuscany was to a large extent based on local systems of small and medium-sized companies, even though large companies, especially engineering companies (in Florence, Pistoia and Pontedera), have played and continue to play an important role.
The industrialisation process has not so much been characterised by the large number of smaller companies as the fact that hundreds of small and very small companies have gone to make up a system. That is, they have built up concentrated areas of production activities that are strongly integrated with each other. The companies gain strength and nourishment from these local roots, and in turn enhance the particular resources that the local society possessed. Each town or area of the region has its own specialised economy (see the following diagram which shows the main areas of production in the region): from textiles in Prato to the tanneries in the Lower Valdarno; from furniture in Poggibonsi, Cascina and Quarrata, to clothing and leather goods in the areas of Empoli and Florence; from footwear in the Val di Nievole and the province of Lucca to the gold industry in Arezzo. And alongside the local systems of small companies are the traditional crafts, from alabaster in Volterra to crystal in Colle Valdelsa; the presence of large mechanics industries in Florence, Pontedera and Pistoia; plus marble quarrying and processing in Carrara. In short, a varied panorama, which puts Tuscany among the strongest industrial regions in our country; among the rich regions, as shown by the income statistics, and also among the regions with the highest quality of life, as shown by the periodical ratings.