Famous for having an eye for the aesthetic, an epicurean approach to life, and a mastery of handling all things related to food and wine, Italians also have a knack for craftsmanship.
Italian industries manufacture—with considerable flair—some of the most desirable goods that money can buy, ranging from supercars to fashion and style products.
But Italy's sizable exports (over USD480 billion in 2018) are dwarfed by the country's services and tourism sectors, whose combined contribution to GDP stand at around 75%.
All this has made Italy a European economic power to be reckoned with—albeit one struggling with problems such as accumulated debt and high unemployment rates.
However, Italy's industrial and financial power and its rates of employment and per capita income are not the same across its twenty regions.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “the already large regional economic disparities in Italy have slightly increased over the last sixteen years." Below is an overview of Italy's top five regions in terms of economic strength, measured by gross domestic product (GDP).
With a GDP of over EUR130 billion, Piedmont's economy is almost as large as the entire state of Hungary.
Turin is the region's most important city, and its claims to fame include its architecture, art galleries, and the football club Juventus FC.
The city even shortly served as the capital city of Italy in the late 19th century thanks to its crucial role in Italian unification.
In addition to tourism and producing highly sought-after agricultural products, Piedmont is a major industrial center, famously hosting some of the facilities and offices of the Italian-American automobile giant, Fiat Chrysler.
The northern region of Emilia-Romagna also makes it to the top five with a GDP of EUR149.5 billion (2018).
With a per capita GDP of EUR32,500, which is around 10% higher than Italy's national average, Emilia Romagna is considered one of the most affluent regions in Italy. Meanwhile, the region's unemployment rate of 6.5 (2017) is also among the lowest across Italy.
Bologna, as the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, is considered to have one of the highest living standards in Italy. The city is also home to the world's oldest university, the University of Bologna, which has been active since 1088.
Some of the main contributors to Emilia-Romagna's high GDP are the region's automotive and mechanical industries, its agriculture sector, and banking.
Iconic supercar manufacturers Ferrari and Lamborghini both have plants and headquarters in the region. Scuderia Ferrari, the Formula 1 team and racing division of Ferrari, is also based in Maranello, Emilia-Romagna.
With a nominal GDP of over EUR160 billion in 2018, Veneto has the third largest regional economy in Italy.
The region has not always been as affluent as it is today, but in the 1970s it went through an economic renaissance by ramping up industrial exports without sacrificing the traditional image and authentic qualities of the region.
This precaution guaranteed the future success of the Veneto region's tourism and was later dubbed the Veneto Development Model.
The region's capital city, Venice, is home to some of Italy's most recognizable cultural icons, attracting over 20 million tourists each year.
Rather predictably, tourism and hotels are major contributors to Veneto's GDP, though manufacturing and financial services are also among the pillars of the region's economy.
Although the region has been asking for some autonomy, with a referendum even being held in October 2017, Veneto is not still officially regarded as an autonomous region—a privilege that some of its bordering regions such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia currently enjoy.
With a GDP of EUR182 billion the region of Lazio, located in central Italy, lands in the second spot.
The region's capital is Rome which is—of course—also the capital city of Italy.
The historical region was the heart of the Roman Empire and has been the scene of more history-making events than anyone cares to remember; as of 2019, Lazio has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Lazio's economy is more reliant on its highly developed services sector, and manufacturing plays only a secondary role in the region's economy.
Lombardy, with a staggering GDP of EUR381 billion, ranks as the 1st regional economy in Italy. Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region, is viewed as a center of art, design, fashion, and business, not only in Italy but across the EU.
The city hosts the Milan Fashion Week twice a year, which is as a trendsetting event in the world of fashion.
While having a highly developed service sector, Lombardy is also Italy's main industrial powerhouse, hosting some of Europe's largest metal and textile manufacturing plants.
The Lombardy region's per capita GDP of EUR38,000 is at least 20% higher than Italy's national average, while the unemployment rate remains below 6%.