Alario Foundation: satellite applications at the service of archaeology and education

The Alario Foundation for Elea – Velia

The Alario Foundation promotes the natural, cultural and historical heritage of Cilento, a geographical area in the South of Campania, Italy. Declared a World Heritage Site, the area hosts the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park and important Greek and Roman sites, including the ruins of Paestum and of the city of Velia.

The challenge

To increase the number of visitors during the winter months, the Foundation wished to offer a full immersion experience in the places and the habits of the ancient civilizations of the region. However, it faced the problem of how to revive buildings and lifestyles that have past. How to enable contemporaries to visit cities of which only ruins remain? These questions led the Foundation to turn to other Italian cultural and research centres.

The satellite solution

In 2008, the Foundation inaugurated the permanent exhibition “Visione del Tempo – Tempo di Visione”.

One of the four exhibition rooms hosts a 3D reconstruction of the Greek site of Locri on Google Earth images, developed by the University of Calabria. Through an avatar, visitors can explore a 3D virtual model of the site and admire the monuments as they appeared in the 4th Century BC. In addition, a smartphone application is available for visitors on the spot: using satnav to pinpoint one’s position, the user can visualise the ancient scenario around and access explanatory texts, videos and images.

Another room hosts a 3D reconstruction of the ancient Roman road Via Flaminia and the Domus of Livia. The sites have been re-constructed by the Institute for Technologies Applied to Cultural Heritage (CNR-ITABC) through an Open Source 3D webGIS application, using satellite and aerial images to map the buildings and the landscape and satnav to calculate the distance between the elements of the landscape and the buildings. Visitors can move their chosen avatar between contemporary images and 3D reconstructions of the site in the 1st Century BC, and can also interact with objects and with the ancient inhabitants of the area.

The results

The exhibition, unique in the Italian context, attracts approximately 2,000 visitors per year. The use of avatars, augmented reality and mobile devices makes the contents appealing even for the youngest. The project on Ancient Rome has received the Italian e-Content Award 2008 for e-Learning and Culture.

The virtual museum shows what is possible when applying modern technologies to education and archaeology. Not only does it allow visitors to experience an authentic immersion into the past, but it also helps preserve archaeological evidence that would otherwise disappear for future generations.


“Innovative technologies applied to the study of the past are an extraordinary trigger to stimulate curiosity towards history and local traditions,” Giuliana Raimondo, Fondazione Alario per Elea – Velia ONLUS