How international are Italian regions? Very much, from the social profile perspective; enough, if one examines the economic component; still too little, when one considers the infrastructural endowment that still sees us in the distance, compared to the major European economies. This is the answer provided by the report on the international exposure of Italian regions, recently propagated by the Intesa Sanpaolo Survey and Research Service and the SRM Survey and Research for Southern Italy, who compiled a super-index to synthesize the Italian approach towards abroad. The economic indexes taken into consideration include the propensity for import-export, foreign direct investments, and distance from the end markets and the incidence of the high-potential areas. The social dimension of internationalization is calculated on the basis of foreigners in the territory, including students, workers, and tourists. Finally, the region’s infrastructural assets were determined on the basis of the number and quality of airports, ports, and border crossing.

The ranks of excellence are reached by the northeastern regions, Lombardy and Piedmont, who distinguish themselves particularly due to their industrial vocation and the volume of export, as well as to their ability to reach new markets. The two regions are also aided by the fact that they have a level of foreign direct investments, both coming in and going out, that is significantly higher than the national average. Tuscany places above the Italian average, revealing a good incremental trend of international exposure over the past six years: in recent years it was able to improve, especially in its economic propensity towards foreign markets, and the social importance of foreigners increased; although it ranks fourth among Italian regions, Tuscan infrastructures have seen their international inclination decline between 2006 and 2012.

“Italy is the average of 20 different internationalization speeds – the Intesa Sanpaolo-SRM report concludes, broadening their gaze to all the regions – but the differentiation between North and South remains strong in all of the components included in the analysis (economic, social, and infrastructural), as opposed to what can be seen in Germany between the new eastern “Länder” in the east and the richer and more structured western federal states.” According to the research, Southern Italy’s lesser foreign exposure – as compared, for example, to the regions of the ex German Democratic Republic – is based on four factors: the lack of large industries in Northern Italy who need to expand territorially; a low level of infrastructural endowment; the lowered ability to attract foreign capital and a non-strategic geographic location. In the 2006-12 period, however, the economic internationalization of Italian regions was positive, and constitutes the towing force of national growth, including significant developments in the South: for example, in Campania and Puglia. From the social perspective, the international exposure is diffused and agreed upon, whereas it is “still limited” as pertains to infrastructure.