The Importance of the Digital Twin in the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Italy

Italy, through the centuries, has distinguished itself as the custodian of a priceless artistic and architectural heritage that includes monuments, ruins, cathedrals and multiple artistic expressions, representing tangible evidence of the different civilizations that have contributed to the formation of national culture and identity. However, in an age of significant technological, social and environmental transformations, the preservation of these assets assumes paramount importance. In this context, the introduction and implementation of a tool such as the Digital Twin represents an essential conjunction between history and future opportunities, mediating between the traditional reverence for art and the advancement of modern engineering. In this article we briefly explain the growing importance of the Digital Twin in the protection and enhancement of Italy’s cultural heritage, emphasizing the need to ensure that these assets are adequately preserved for generations to come.

The Digital Twin: What It Is, How It Is Created, and What Potentials It Offers

The Digital Twin, or “digital twin,” is a virtual replica of a physical object, process or system. But how do you get to create this digital copy, especially for a cultural asset that may have centuries of history and intricate details? The answer lies in a combination of advanced technologies:

3D Scanning

One of the first steps in creating a Digital Twin is the three-dimensional scan of the object or structure. Tools such as 3D laser scanners can capture millions of points in a matter of minutes, providing an accurate and detailed representation of the asset.


This technique uses high-resolution photographs taken from different angles to create three-dimensional models of an object. It is especially useful for large cultural properties or in hard-to-reach locations.


Implementing sensors on the cultural asset can provide real-time data regarding parameters such as temperature, humidity, vibration, and other factors that may affect preservation.

Simulation Platforms

Once the digital model is created, it can be subjected to simulations to test the response under different scenarios, such as an earthquake or climate change.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

These technologies allow experts and the public to “immerse” themselves in the Digital Twin, exploring and interacting with it in ways previously unthinkable. This can be useful for in-depth studies or educational experiences.

The creation of a Digital Twin therefore requires close collaboration between experts in different fields, from engineering to art history. The potential offered by this technology is immense: from the ability to monitor the state of preservation of a historic building to the ability to predict and prevent future damage.

The Digital Twin as a tool for the protection of Cultural Heritage

Using the Digital Twin for the protection of cultural property has many advantages, primarily that of providing a detailed and accurate view of the current state of the property, allowing a greater understanding of its needs. The breadth and depth of information that can be integrated into a Digital Twin is vast. These include:

Geometric Information

structure details, dimensions, 3D scans, precise modeling of architectural features.

Material Information

type of materials used in construction, condition of materials, any degradation, and compatibility with restoration work.

Historical Information

period of construction, associated historical events, architectural changes that have occurred over the years.

Environmental Information

exposure to climatic factors, effects of pollution, risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods.

Structural Information

mechanical stress, structural movements, potential points of weakness or damage.

Sensors and Monitoring

real-time data from temperature, humidity, vibration, tilt, and other sensors built into the asset.

Simulations and Predictions

models of how the asset might react to various scenarios, such as earthquakes, climate change, or restoration work.

Restorative Information

records of previous restoration work, materials used, intervention techniques and future planning.

Usage and Access Information

data on visitor flow, opening and closing times, access restrictions.

Through simulations, it is possible to predict the effects of various external factors and thus take preventive measures. Compared with traditional methods, the Digital Twin is also cheaper and less invasive, avoiding potentially harmful physical interventions. With such rich and detailed information, the Digital Twin becomes an indispensable tool in the management and protection of cultural property.

La SIA SpA’s Commitment to the Protection of Cultural Heritage

La SIA SpA is keenly aware of the importance of Italy’s cultural heritage and the crucial role that technology can play in its preservation. For this reason, our company has been engaged for years in the field of surveying cultural heritage and in particular archaeological heritage: for example, surveys have been carried out in the Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica, the Archaeological Park of Herculaneum and Castel Sant’Angelo (Rome); in addition to these, there are historical palaces, villas and listed monuments scattered throughout Italy.

The basis of each of our projects, especially Digital Twin, is the survey carried out by our experts with the highest precision instruments. Our company has the ability to employ its own high-level instruments for surveying: from fixed laser scanners to vehicle-mounted or hand-held mobile scanners, from drones with RGB, thermal, or lidar sensors to the latest structured light scanners for detailed surveying of objects and artifacts with micrometer accuracy.

We then use our expertise in BIM (Building Information Modeling) to create the Digital Twin.
The point cloud produced by the laser scanner is used by the BIM specialist team as the basis for faithfully reporting the surveyed asset in a Federated Model composed of Information Models inherent in the major disciplines (Architectural, Structural, Mep). It continues by designing the adaptation required by the client, which can be, for example, seismic adaptation/improvement, energy efficiency, complete renovation of the asset, etc. Before this process, the Management part is implemented, by the BIM managers and BIM coordinators, through a series of documents that serve to control the whole process (Information Management Plan, WBS, Matrix Clash detection, Code Checking, etc.). Specifically, the implemented Wbs are intended to link Information Models to processing schedules (4D) and estimated metric calculations (5D).

Finally, our experience led us to implement an internal verification and validation workflow for the Information Models (LV1 and LV2) allowing us to perform quality checks aimed at ensuring the highest quality of the finished product.

One of our Digital Twin with respective seismic and plant upgrading

YEAR AND PLACE: 2019, Giuseppe Mazzini Ave. no. 206 – Catanzaro

OPERA: Work to bring the St. Catherine Palace up to code.

COMMITTEE: State Property Agency – Region of Calabria


SERVICES: Survey, Digital Twin, final and executive design

The subject property is the Palazzo Santa Caterina, located in the historic center of Catanzaro and characterized by special historical value and elements of architectural merit. The intervention in particular involved the final and executive design for the seismic and plant upgrading of the Palace and the creation of the BIM model related to the actual state, following the laser scanner survey. The main objective of BIM modeling was to create a model for maintenance and building life cycle management, characterized by:

– LOD 300 definition of architectural and plant elements
– Identification of areas/systems/elements amenable to performance improvement;
– definition of abacuses of technological components
– Provision for the possible connection between BIM Data Model and IoT Technologies.


The Digital Twin thus represents a real revolution in the field of cultural heritage preservation. By adopting and implementing this technology, Italy can ensure effective protection of its precious historical and artistic heritage. La SIA SpA is proud to be at the forefront, alongside public and private entities, in this important effort to ensure that the wonders of Italy are preserved for future generations.

Article by Luciana Bianchini, Gianpaolo Stringa and Elisa Ciardi

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