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Guest Post: Capturing a slice of Italian life with my Matterport camera

As an Italian transplanted in Seattle for almost two decades, I only have occasional opportunity to visit friends and family back home.

I grew up in Trieste, a port city located at the easternmost tip of Italy. Trieste is a beautiful city full of Roman history and influences from Germany, Austria, Hungary and Greece, all of which have left their footprint in the architectural, culinary, and cultural traditions.

When I lived there, I paid little attention how the city was evolving, slowly and incrementally, before my eyes. The urban transformation only became apparent once I moved to the U.S., and my trips home became less frequent. I noticed improvements to public works and projects to restore historic landmarks. I saw the influence of new investment in expanding science parks and startup incubators, flourishing even through the 2008 bust.

I had an urge to document this change in a unique and powerful way, and Matterport was the perfect tool. I decided to create 3D Spaces of sites that are key to the city’s past, and future.

Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  With an upcoming trip, i set out to prepare to scan as many places as possible. I packed smart - with minimal clothes and Matterport Pro Camera in hand (so smart, in fact, that I found myself short on pants halfway through the trip).

I identified sites I wanted to scan - a castle, a cathedral, a research lab - and reached out to key decision makers. That’s where things got complicated. In Italy, successful business relationships are still made in person, not over phone or email. Finding the right people to talk to demanded an Italian approach. Armed with enthusiasm for what Matterport technology can do, and prepared with a handy 3D Showcase on my iPhone, I started pitching my vision to friends and family members, who became my ambassadors and ultimately led me to meet the right people.

I then discovered a bigger challenge: getting special permission to scan any site in 3D and distribute the Spaces. There were many hoops to jump through, and I got a little taste of the Italian bureaucracy. Luckily, because my work was not for profit, things moved along quickly, and I was able to gain access to locations I would otherwise never have reached.

Now, it’s your turn to take a tour of some of the Spaces I was able to capture in Trieste!


The Castle of Miramare

The Castle of Miramare is surrounded by a flourishing park full of precious botanical species, and has a charming panoramic view, given its location on a cliff high above the sea.

Commissioned in the second half of the 19th century by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg as a residence for himself and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, the castle offers today's visitors an example of a luxurious aristocratic residence which has preserved its original furnishings.

As I wandered the hallways carrying my Matterport Pro Camera, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it was like living there a few centuries ago.


Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia

Aquileia (located near Trieste), one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Early Roman Empire, was destroyed by Attila in the mid-5th century. Most of it still lies unexcavated beneath the fields, and as such it constitutes the greatest archaeological reserve of its kind. The patriarchal basilica, an outstanding building with an exceptional mosaic pavement, played a key role in the evangelization of a large region of central Europe.

This scan took me five hours due to the size of the structure. I’m still very grateful to the custodian who patiently waited until late night for me to finish before closing the basilica.


Cathedral of San Giusto

The Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Just (San Giusto) and is a symbol of Trieste. It was built in 1300 on the remains of two different churches: a 5th century three-nave Early Christian basilica that was subsequently destroyed and upon which a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption was built in the 11th century; and the Chapel of Saint Just.

In this instance, I wanted to experiment a night scanning with limited lighting. I’ll remember this test because I arrived one hour late to a family dinner prepared for me by my mother in law.


Undulator Hall of FERMI Light Source At Elettra Research Center

Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste is a multidisciplinary international research center, specialized in generating high quality synchrotron and free-electron laser light and applying it in materials science. Its mission is to promote cultural, social and economic growth through basic and applied research, technical and scientific training, and transfer of technology and know-how.

I captured the interior of FERMI, which is the new seeded free electron laser (FEL) facility in operation next to the third-generation synchrotron radiation facility Elettra.

Escorted by a manager of the laboratory, I entered the heavily secured space during a short two-hour window of time when the beamline was shut down for a scheduled maintenance. The combination of events that allowed me to access this infrastructure, add a sense of exclusivity to this specific virtual tour.

I also explored the new world of Trieste, from the brand new Impact Hub startup accelerator to the Rector’s Office photo gallery at the University of Trieste.

I know what you are thinking. Isn’t a vacation in Italy supposed to be just about food and relaxation? I had fun and had my share of good food, too. I just traded a bit of relaxation for the thrill of exploration, without regret!

I’ll definitely be taking my Matterport Camera back to Italy for Round 2.


Credits: Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism – Polo Museale of Friuli Venezia Giulia; Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste SCpA, Università degli Studi di Trieste – Sistema Museale di Ateneo; Società per la Conservazione della Basilica di Aquileia; The Parson of San Giusto cathedral; The founders of Trieste Impact Hub; The Matterport User Group Forum by We Get Around.


Paolo Tosolini is the principal of Tosolini Productions, a Seattle-based boutique interactive agency specialized in business storytelling through emerging technologies, such as multi-touch displays, 3D virtual tours and projection mapping.

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