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Landscapes and urban settlements
The economic and social changes of the 20th century altered not only our habits and traditions but also the spaces we live in and the scenery around us. No place or landscape has escaped this profound– and sometimes radical – change in the past 120 years, often caused by the actions of man and sometimes by those of nature.
In 1901 only ten cities had more than 100,000 inhabitants. Today there are forty-two. Towns have grown exponentially, starting with their historical centres, as a result of new habits and social functions, the expansion of public and private transportation and economic development. This theme area describes the growth of some of the major cities in Italy, growth which sometimes followed precise town planning schemes, but more often was dictated by the sudden rise in the population and when new manufacturing and commercial businesses sprang up.
It has taken a lot more than political unification to make the Italians feel Italian. And a lot more than geography lessons at school to teach them about the geography of their country. Italians had sketchy knowledge of the geography of their peninsula for a long time, due to a lack of schooling and the fact that travelling was out of reach for many. The Giro d’Italia and Mille Miglia races were instrumental in helping Italians learn about Italian geography and spread the idea of belonging to the same community, first sending athletes from all over Italy to the most out-of-the-way places in the peninsula and then, thanks to the media, reporting and showing places in our country which soon became part of our collective imagination and memory.
Roads and motorways, skyscrapers, dams, industrial buildings … all these constructions radically altered the Italian landscape in the 20th century. This area takes us on a journey to visit the Italy of the past with its one hundred towns and countless bell towers, and the Italy of the present with its never-ending succession of houses, offices, industrial buildings and shopping centres. A journey through residential, work, commercial, industrial and leisure-time landscapes.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian economy was almost entirely agricultural. Today things are different and rural landscapes have changed dramatically due to mass exodus from the mountains, hills and villages. This section explains the changes that came about following the mechanisation of agriculture and the different types of crops that are grown today. It then illustrates more recent examples of reforestation and the spontaneous rewilding of large areas of the country.
During the 20th century, people realised that the environment is a fragile, highly endangered system. Natural catastrophes, such as flooding and earthquakes, and man-made environmental disasters, like excessive land use, hydrogeological instability and pollution, alter and destroy entire ecosystems. The display looks at the origins and development of environmental awareness which has changed how we look at the environment in order to protect it and preserve the integrity of our natural resources and our health.
Jutting out into the Mediterranean and crisscrossed by countless waterways, our country has always had a symbiotic relationship with its water resources. And efforts to exploit them have been continuous. The installation shows how regulation of its rivers, hydraulic engineering works and land reclamation have profoundly transformed the landscape of Italy, making large areas throughout the country safer and eradicating marshland.