1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Commerce

(Part 14)



The extent of its coast and the number and excellence of its ports and harbours, the relation which it holds to the other countries of the Mediterranean seaboard, and the railway communication which it now possesses with the Transalpine lands combine to give Italy an important place as a trading-country,—a place which would have been more important if all departments of activity had not fallen into so sad a state during the long period of its political decadence. In a country with a population comparatively so dense, and with so large a number of considerable cities as we have seen Italy to possess, it is evident on the face of it that the internal trade must amount to no small aggregate; but the simple agricultural life which is led by a large proportion of the inhabitants, the capacity which many regions possess of satisfying the demands of local consumption, limited at once in volume and variety, and the lack in many cases of free and frequent means of communication tend to restrain the scope and complexity of this interchange. That both the internal trade and the foreign commerce of Italy are in process of rapid development it is impossible to doubt. Of the former movement some idea may be obtained from the railway statistics, which, however, owing to the incompleteness of the system, furnish a less accurate representation of the facts than similar statistics in the case of older nations. That the foreign commerce is on the increase is shown by the following statement of the exports, imports, and transit trade from 1871 to 1880 (Table XX.):—

==TABLE ==

"In l873," says Dr A. Brunialti, the author of "Legrandi vie del commercio internazionale," published in Studij sulla Geografia dell' Italia (Florence, 1875), issued by the Italian Geographical Society, "Italy, with a total of 2,400,000,000 lire, was eighth in the list of commercial nations of Europe, being exceeded by Great Britain (17,000,000,000 lire), Germany, France,Russia,Belgium, Austria, and Holland, though Belgium is less than one-tenth of Italy in area, and has not more than one-fifth of its population, and Holland is not much bigger than Belgium, and has one-third less of a population." In 1877 it was still eighth on the list, and some of the smaller countries had made greater advance. The Italian trade with France and with Switzerland has enormously increased since the unification of the kingdom ; and the same may be said of the trade with Russia. Since the opening of the Suez Canal advantage has been taken of the new opportunities of trade with the East.

Table XXI. gives the geographical distribution of the Italian trade during 1869, 1873, and 1879. In 1880 the whole value of the imports (excluding transit trade) was 1,225,644,170 lire, and the corresponding number for the exports 1,132,289,192.

The Italian exports, as a natural consequence of the undeveloped state of the industries and the preponderance of its agriculture, mainly consist of such products as wine, oil, fruit, cattle, &c.

==TABLE ==

==TABLE ==

Table XXII. shows the great increase that has taken place in the amounts exported in the case of several important articles.

Among the chief imports is coal, the demand for which, in 1865 only 456,039 tons, [Footnote 457-1] has gradually increased to 1,523,676 in 1879, and to 1,737,746 in 1880—more than threefold. The importation of mineral oils has in the same space increased in value from 83,984 quintals to 586,323. Whereas the excess of importation over exportation in the case of raw wool was 4,249,135 kilogrammes in 1865, in 1880 it was 5,574,700 kilogrammes ; in the case of cotton the corresponding figures were 3,745,009 for 1865 and 29,158,500 for 1880.

According to the Relazione sui Servizi idraulici pel biennio 1877-78 (Rome, 1880), the number of ports in the kingdom is 307, of which 10 are of the first class, 20 of the second, 27 of the third, and 250 of the fourth. Those belonging to the first category are Ancona, Cagliari, Naples, Palermo, Venice, Genoa, Leghorn, Messina, Civita Vecchia, and Brindisi ; and those of the second include Portofino, Porto Venere, Porto Ferraio, Porto Ercole, Marciano, Porto d'Anzio, Gaeta, Ponza, Baia, Manfredonia, Tortoli, Milazzo, Cotrone, Syracuse, Longone, Nisida. In extent of commerce Genoa is facile princeps, as is evident from the following table (XXIII.) of tonnage, according to the official Movimento della Navigazione (Rome, 1880):--

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Of the foreign nations that are engaged in the shipping trade of the Italian ports Great Britain has by far the most important share (7669 vessels, of 5,950,279 tons burden); next comes France (4256 vessels, 2,061,973 tons); third, but at an enormous distance, is Austria, and fourth Greece. It is calculated that in the vessels, native and foreign, that visited the Italian ports in 1879, no less than 1,748,717 men were engaged as seamen.

The Government undertakes the engineering works necessary for the improvement and maintenance of the harbours of the first three classes, and it further subsidizes the communes which have to maintain the harbours of the fourth class. In 1878 there were 60 lighthouses on the Italian coast, of which 16 are of the first class, exclusive of the international light at Cape Spartivento. The whole cost of harbour and lighthouse maintenance is thus indicated (in lire) for 1877 and 1878 (Table XXIV.):—

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The Italian seaboard is officially divided into 23 maritime districts (compartmenti) :—Porto Maurizio (from Ventimiglia to Alassio), Savona (onwards to Arenzano), Genoa (to Rapallo), Spezia (to Avenza), Leghorn (to Graticciare), Porto Ferraio (island of Elba), Civita Vecchia (from Graticciare to Torre Gregoriana), Gaeta (to Lago di Patria), Naples (to Torre del Greco), Castellamare di Stabia (to Sapri), Pizzo (to Bagnara), Taranto (from Melito to Fasano), Bari (to Viesti), Ancona (to mouth of Cesano), Rimini (to Po di Goro), Venice (to the Austrian boundary), Cagliari (from Oristano to Terranuova Pausania), La Maddalena (to Oristano), Messina (continental Italy from Bagnara to Melito, the Lipari Islands, and Sicily from the river Pollina to Alcantara), Catania (to Pachino), Porto Empedocle (to river Belici), Trapani (to Castellamare), Palermo (to river Pollina). Thus 15 of the districts are continental and 8 insular.

Table XXV. gives the sailing vessels in the mercantile marine in 1879, the last year for which statistics are available.

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The marine showed a total strength of 167,282 men,—8 being captains of the class technically called "superior," 4122 captains of " long course," and 2504 captains of the higher coasting class.

Of the 7910 vessels none exceeded 1500 tons burden, 2 were more than 1200, and 18 others more than 1000. The steamers belonging to the country at the close of 1879 were 151 in number (aggregate burden 72,666 tons), of which 70 were Genoese, 11 Neapolitan, and 51 Palermitan. Of the total, 128 were screw-steamers and 23 paddle-steamers. Boats adapted for fishing were registered at the same date as 15,411, of which no fewer than 1953 belonged to the Naples district, and 1399 to that of Messina. Ship-building was carried on in 50 ship yards in 1879 ; and they produced 269 vessels, with a total burden of 21,213 tons.


456-1 See Annoli di Agricoltura, No. 18, "La Pellagra in Italia, 1879" (Rome, 1880). The statistics of the Hospital of St. Clements at Venice, for example, are sufficient startling, as indicating the extent of what the Italians graphically call il delirio della misera. The first column give the number of the lunatics received in each year, the second column those who mental condition is the the result of the pellagra, that is, of poverty.

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456-2 Compare Laveleye, L'Italie actuelle, Lond., 1880.

456-3 Compare the accounts given by Gallenga in his Italy Revisited.

457-1 1 ton (tonnellata) = 2200 lb, -- 40 lb less than the English ton.

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