Most tourists who visit Italy stay in the northern half of the country – they visit Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice and maybe places like the Cinque Terre and Siena. But most people don’t venture to the country’s southern half. You might be surprised to learn that the North-South divide is more than just a tourist’s whim. The invisible barrier that separates northern and southern Italy also in many respects separates the haves from the have-nots – and recent reports say the gap is getting worse.
Unemployment rates tend to be high in Italy, but they’re highest in the south. There are areas in the south where the unemployment rate can reach 30% or more. There are prejudices against people from the south whose accents can be distinct and are considered unpleasing to the ear by some northerners. Education levels are significantly higher for children who live in the north. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that poverty rates in the south are significantly higher than they are in the north. The Prodi government says it’s committed to doing something about all of this, but depending on who you talk to in Italy some people would just prefer to split the country in two in order to keep the south from dragging the north down along with it. It’s clearly not a problem that’s going to go away anytime soon.
So when you visit Italy’s prosperous northern cities, just remember that the whole country doesn’t look like that.
Photo by: Blue moon in her eyes