ITALY - ECONOMY

The Italian economy has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. From an agriculturally based economy, it has developed into an industrial state ranked as the world’s sixth-largest market economy. Italy belongs to the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. It is a member of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Italy’s economic strength is in the processing and manufacturing of goods, primarily in small and medium-sized family-owned firms. The principal farm products are fruits, sugar beets, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, soybeans, grain, olives and olive oil, and livestock (especially cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats). In addition, much wine is produced from grapes grown throughout the various regions of the country. Other major industries are precision machinery, automotive, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, clothing and fashion. Italy is known also for its fashion houses: Versace, Valentino, Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Sergio Rossi, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton, Armani and others.

The only Italian automaker is FIAT, specialized in utility and luxury vehicles, under the brands FIAT, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. Italian industry also produces motorcycles and scooters, with global brands like Piaggio and Ducati.

Ferrari

Ferrari - source

Italy has substantial foreign trade, facilitated by its sizable commercial shipping fleet. The leading exports are textiles and apparel, metals, machinery, motor vehicles, and chemicals. The main imports are machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, food and food products, and minerals (especially petroleum). Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange. The chief trade partners are Germany, France, the United States, and Great Britain.

Italy has an efficient and modern infrastructure, even though it performs poorly compared to other Western European countries of comparable size. The whole peninsula is well connected through an extensive system of railways, expressways, national roads, airports and seaports. It has greatly improved its highway system in the post-war years, especially in the South. Most of the country’s infrastructure was rebuilt after the ravages of World War II, is well maintained and regularly upgraded. Much attention is paid to this, as most goods in Italy are transported by road, and there is a highly developed and efficient network of interconnected highways and lesser roads, particularly in northern regions.

There are a total of 136 airports, including a number of key international airports; the most important are Fiumicino (Rome), Malpensa and Linate (both serving Milan), Ronchi dei Legionari (Trieste), Caselle (Turin), and Marco Polo (Venice). The national carrier, Alitalia, has a fleet of 166 planes and connects Italy to 60 other countries. Maritime transportation and Seaports used to be a key element of the Italian transport system but are less so today. The rail system is also highly developed. However, infrastructure is not of the same quality throughout the country. While the road and rail networks are intricate and plentiful in the north and centre of the country, the southern infrastructure is poor.

The currency of Italy is the Euro, the same currency used in most of the European Union countries. Each country that uses the Euro has their own set of coins uniquely theirs. The coins can be used in any other country that accepts Euros, but in Italy you will mostly get Italian coins. The previous currency was the lira, before Euro banknotes and coins were initially circulated on the 1 January 2002.