Fermo is a provincial capital of 38,300 inhabitants in the Marche region of central Italy. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Sibillini Mountains, it lies just a few kilometres from the Adriatic Sea. The hilltop town has an attractive 13th-century cathedral and several Roman remains. The most remarkable of these is a water storage and distribution system built in the 1st century, comprising 30 connected chambers covering 2,000m² to provide water for the city.
A town with a historic centre, cultural landmarks and panoramic views across to the nearby Adriatic beaches, Fermo is a popular tourist destination. The Renaissance-style Piazza del Popolo square leads to a series of churches, fine buildings including the Teatro dell’Aquila theatre and elegant courtyards. Although agriculture, forestry and fishing are major factors in the local economy, there is also light industry, particularly in the clothing area—with the production of shoes, hats and fashion wear.
However, the region is suffering from the effects of Europe’s post-2008 recession. Fermo’s Chamber of Commerce reported that the number of registered companies in the area fell by around 250 in 2013 to some 20,000. Figures for the first quarter of 2014 testified to a continued contraction as businesses closed down. Along with manufacturing, the construction industry in the area has also suffered a significant reverse since 2008. Yet Fermo’s youth unemployment (15-24), which stood at 28% in 2013, was markedly lower than Italy’s national average of 40%.