In 150 years, the trends in regional disparities in economic development within Italy have differed depending on whether they are gauged by longitude or by latitude. The disparities between western and eastern regions first widened and then closed; the North-South gap, by contrast, remains the main open problem in the national history of Italy.This work focuses on the underlying causes of the turning points in regional disparities since national unification in 1861. The first came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with the industrialization of the so-called "industrial triangle". This was followed by the "failed new turn" during the interwar years: not only were the beginnings of convergence blocked but the North-South gap, until then still natural, inevitable, was transformed into a fracture of exceptional dimensions. The second turning point, in the twenty years after the World War, produced the first substantial, lasting convergence between southern and northern Italy, powered by rising productivity and structural change in the South. The last turning point was in the mid-1970s, when convergence was abruptly halted and a protracted period of immobility in the disparity began.
Published in 2013 in: G. Toniolo (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy since Unification, Oxford University Press, New York 2013