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The smart city adopts strategies to establish relationships between material infrastructures and those who inhabit them. But what is a smart city in detail? How do smart cities work in Italy? What kind of benefits do they bring to citizens’ lives and what does still hinder theirdevelopment? Let’s see together the elements that compose them and what they offer to citizens.

smart city in italia


The smart cities are the so-called smart cities 4.0. They manage resources intelligently, promote sustainable development and aim for energy self-sufficiency. A smart city is always attentive to the quality of life and the needs of citizens, it keeps pace with technological innovations and the digital revolution.

By definition, the smart city monitors and manages means of transport, public lighting and parking, and monitors the surrounding environment, such as rivers, forests, mountains, to improve livability, sustainability and competitiveness.

A smart city provides Wi-Fi in public places, develops sustainable and intelligent infrastructures, promotes autonomous vehicle driving and generally takes advantage of cutting-edge high-tech technology.

In smart cities, objects are connected and communicate, exchanging information between them. In addition, the lighting systems reproduce the light of day and all the citizes practice sustainable mobility with bike sharing, car sharing, hybrid or electric cars.

The concept of smart city

The concept of smart city goes far beyond technological innovations, but consists of a new way of seeing urban reality, that takes into account the citizens’ well-being and energy efficiency. The transition from the “traditional city” to the “smart city” (or “high-tech city”) offers many opportunities, such as:

In these last years, as an investment for the future, public funding are growing to promoteinitiativeson the theme of the smart city.


The Smart City Index 2021, the annual ranking of the most developed Italian cities from an infrastructural point of view, this year rewards Trento, Turin and Bologna.

There are different evaluation criteria and classifications with which it is established how smart a city is. The parameters to be complied with concern the fields of inter-communication, mobility and environmental and energy sustainability. In Italy, the smart city par excellence has always been Milan. The Lombard city has adopted several truly innovative and technological strategies, awarding itself for several years the definition of the smartest, most inclusive and liveable city in Italy, able of adapting to the continuous social and technological changes.

Among the different areas of urban life, taken into consideration when assessing the status of a city, there are certainly the environment, functional services, the economy, society and governance.

giovani e smart city

Smart City Index 2021 for the smartest cities in Italy

The assessment of sustainable cities is articulated on four fundamental layers, namely basic infrastructures, sensors, service delivery platforms and vertical applications, in addition to others, such as:basic infrastructure: enabling networks and technological equipment (TLC networks, transport, energy, territory and environment) for the construction of a smart city;

The smartest cities in Italy

Additionally to Milan,. the medium-sized Italian cities such as Bergamo, Trento, Parma, Modena and Reggio Emilia also rank well at national level. They have a good position concerning environmental protection, economic solidity, sustainable mobility, digital transformation,while the southern cities remain the last in the ranking.

Florence ranks thanks to quality of life, digital transformation and good positioning in government competence, environmental protection and sustainable mobility.

Bologna ranks for governance, digital transformation, economic solidity, environmental protection and quality of life.

The gap with Southern cities

The ranking of the Smart City Index highlights the well-known gap between the cities of the north and the cities of the south, at last place in the ranking. One of the main reasons for the gap is certainly the lack of infrastructure and the low willingness of the community to use the services. The car-sharing service, for example, has failed and has also caused damage to vehicles.

In general, sustainability in transport, in the environment, in the economy, in construction and in the management of the natural resources of the territory, is easier to obtain in medium-sized cities, more operational and organised.

The strengths of Milan smart city

Specifically, Milan is always among the first Italian cities in the ranking, with excellent positions in the field of economic solidity, research and development, as well as the sustainable mobility. It is also at a good level in the ranking for the consumption of the soil and for the quality of the air and water. Its position on governance and environmental protection can be improved.

One of the highlights of Milan is the Bosco Verticale, the tower designed by architect Mario Cucinella. This building, equipped with artificial intelligence, is innovative both in terms of the materials used and its energy efficiency. It has a double skin that insulates it from the cold in winter and protects it from the heat in summer.

At the heart of energy efficiency is also EU-GUGLE. This is the EU-funded pilot project for the intelligent refitting of entire buildings with the aim of reducing energy needs and integrating renewables.


In terms of resilience, the ability to adapt to change is at the heart of the smart city model adopted by Florence. In addition to its consolidated credentials as an attractive tourist and cultural destination, it boasts Italy’s top ranking when it comes to digital transformation in the ICity Rate, which relates to sustainable mobility, economic stability, education, civic participation and energy.

This is an urban development strategy looking ahead to 2030. It focuses on three key points:

A good example is the recent Smart City Control Room project. It is an integrated processing system that uses geo-referenced data from across the city. It enables real-time mobility management that can respond quickly to emergencies.

The OpenRu system already allows citizens to receive traffic information in real time, as well as providing advance notification of public projects approved by the administration.


Smart city projects in Italy shows an increase awareness of the importance of the topic compared to the past. Nevertheless, applications continue to weigh less than 8% in the IoT (internet of things) market.

However, the number of smart city projects is increasing compared to previous years, with more stable and innovative initiatives. But there are still many barriers to the general development of smart cities throughout Italy.

The survey by the Internet of Things Observatory shows that 36% of the major Italian municipalities have started at least one smart city project in the last three years, most of which are still in the experimental phase. The trials often take place independently and in an uncoordinated manner.,

An example is the installation, in Verona, of 160 traffic lights to trigger the green when the red code ambulances are 100 meters away. The project reduced intervention times and increased the possibility of saving lives.

The obstacles for the development of smart cities in Italy

The benefits of smart cities in Italy are not yet clear for everyone. Despite the numerous experiments launched, the projects are still poorly integrated with each other and sometimes do not have a clear territorial development strategy. The barriers to their development include the lack of sufficient economic resources and adequate skills and the presence of unclear governance models.

These are the main reasons why most of the projects are abandoned after the first experimental phase. What is needed to solve the problem is a shared national strategy. Commitments and priorities must be established for the municipalities and the right compromise must be found to avoid the excessive centralisation that is currently taking place.

A valid project analysis model is based on four variables: the maturity of the municipalities, the maturity of the offer, the use of the data collected and the public-private partnership. The analysis shows, in fact, a level of maturity of the municipalities much lower than that of the offer. In a nutshell, the municipalities are not adequately prepared to the challenge and the number of public-private collaborations is still too small.


The benefits also concern community services, sustainability and livability. Taking Milan as an example, every citizen of the smart city could save 3 days a year, the ones he/she needs today in the search for a free parking space, and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions with positive impacts on the environment.

Sustainable mobility or smart mobility

Sustainable mobility has steadily increased over the past six years, with electric and hybrid cars tripling in the past four years. Many cities, including Milan, have managed to eliminate many cars from circulation and the presence of bicycles and pedestrians is also increasing.

Shared mobility is thus efficiently spreading  It seems that the world of smart cities never stops and too keep up with the pace with the latest trends, follow our JOurnal.

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