How Brindisi, Italy is using GIS to help preserve its ancient architecture

How Brindisi, Italy is using GIS to help preserve its ancient architecture

One of the most fascinating applications of geographic information systems (GIS) is when it’s used within a deeply historic landscape. Knowing that advanced GIS software lies behind the preservation and protection of a rich cultural environment is, for a GIS professional, incredibly fulfilling. This innovative location technology solution is responsible for preserving the heritage of some of the world’s most significant sites, and the town of Brindisi is no exception. This perfect alignment of old with new, past with present and physical with digital is GIS at its best.

Founded as an Ancient Greek settlement, Brindisi has a rich cultural heritage. An Italian port city of nearly 90,000 residents, Brindisi has been an important trade centre since it was part of Ancient Greece and is known for its striking architecture dating back to Roman times. Preserving the architecture of millennia is a key concern for modern government officials. The city’s proximity to the Adriatic Sea also makes hydrology and environmental issues crucial.

For years, Brindisi has used mapping technology to display information about environmental protections, zoning and permitting restrictions, and similar characteristics of individual properties. When it needed an upgrade, the city deployed a solution from Pitney Bowes® that provides 80 to 90 percent faster performance, while dramatically improving the user-friendliness of maps and significantly reducing staff time dedicated to mapping.

The Challenge 

Located in Southern Italy’s Apulia region, Brindisi has played an important role in European trade and culture for millennia. Today, the community continues to serve as a pioneer of environmental preservation techniques. “Brindisi is a small city, but there are a number of issues that we have to deal with around environmental protection, landscaping and hydrology,” says Teodoro Indini, architectural official with the community of Brindisi.

The city has long used mapping software to understand these concerns. Community members and city employees access an online Web GIS application to answer zoning questions, visualize boundaries of environmentally protected areas, and determine landscaping and permitting restrictions on specific properties.

Previously, the Web GIS solution displayed the information Brindisi needed, but the city wanted a more modern solution. Brindisi decided to upgrade to Pitney Bowes Spectrum® Spatial and the new release of MapInfo® Professional Advanced.

The Solution 

The city worked with Geo Marketing to deploy and configure the solution. Now, Spectrum Spatial collects both internal data and regional information from external sources that have been properly certified. MapInfo Professional integrates these data and creates maps for visual analysis. A total of 128 layers of location-based data can be visible at the same time on the same map, which enables Brindisi’s users to create unique views to serve a wide variety of needs and applications.

As an example, one map view reflects building restrictions. “Among many other factors, it shows which properties have a stream nearby and where structures cannot exceed a certain height because of their proximity to the airport,” Indini explains.

Brindisi provides different levels of access to the mapping information. Some data is available to the general public (see it at, some to internal employees only, and some to city contractors such as architects, engineers and geologists.

“Through MapInfo, users can query our Spectrum Spatial database to learn who owns a particular property, what can be built there, and applicable standards or laws that apply,” Indini says. “They can attach a printout of this information to building-permit applications.” They can also save and then digitally annotate their personalized versions of the maps.

The Results 

Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve heard, from Brindisi residents and the city contractors who use our mapping services, that they are very pleased with the new Pitney Bowes solution,” Indini reports. That’s partly because performance of the system is much faster. “It’s 80 to 90 percent faster than our legacy system,” he says.

The solution’s user-friendly interface enables employees throughout the city to update maps themselves. “The person who is actually working on the problem can determine how it will be displayed,” Indini says. “And updates go out much faster. As an example, I drew a gas pipeline on a map in Spectrum Spatial, and it was available to all our map users within one minute.”

This means residents, employees and contractors are accessing up-to-date maps. At the same time, the new solution has reduced the amount of time Indini’s team spends on mapping by 20 to 25 percent.

Visualizing data in to meet the needs of users helps improve our understanding of people, places and things. Sometimes, it helps us appreciate and preserve the past, while creating a strong foundation for the future.

(Credits: Joe Francica. Currently Managing Director, Geospatial Industry Solutions for Pitney Bowes.)
He  has been a leading proponent of location intelligence (LI) solutions for over 30 years, having founded the 
Location Intelligence Conference in 2004. Francica has published and broadcast over 500 articles and podcasts on LI and has contributed to three books: Profiting from a GIS (published in 1993 by GIS World Books; edited by G. Castle), Geographic Information Systems in Business (published in 2005 by Idea Group Publishing; edited by J. Pick), and the Encyclopedia of GIS (published by Springer).

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