Italy's Invisible Cities

Following the success of our collaboration with the BBC in Rome, BBC ONE’s new series Italy’s Invisible Cities takes us on an unprecedented journey through three of the world's most incredible urban areas - NAPLES, VENICE and FLORENCE. ScanLAB Projects join presenters Alexander Armstrong and Dr Michael Scott as they explore the hidden spaces that have helped these great cities change the world. The programmes bring a fascinating, fresh perspective to 2,000 years of history, from the original Roman bath complex outside Naples, through the reign of the Venetian Doge’s to the birth of the Renaissance in Florence.

New technology places a crucial role across the shows. In the Bay of Naples we scan frescos underwater using sub-sea LIDAR techniques. In Venice the entire length of the Grand Canal is mapped in the only way possible - from a moving boat. And in Florence the entire Vasari corridor in mapped in under an hour using mobile, backpack scanning.

Each show ends with an immersive experience as the presenters don VR headsets and revisit key locations from the show virtually. This final dissection process gives the freedom to explore entire locations at 1:1 scale and as miniature dollshouse replicas, offering new and often impossible perspectives. The programmes are each accompanied by interactive 360 content online for audiences to explore. These unique experiences allow the audience to navigate the same datasets captured on location by the scanning team and used to make the original show graphics.

See the BBC's Invisible Cities 360 videos


In Naples we explore the Bourbon Tunnels, a true time travelling experience through original Roman cisterns that latter became 17th century aqueducts, 19th century escape tunnels and finally second world war air raid shelters. The team map in unprecedented detail the tragic ruins of Herculaneum, Roman quarries and Neapolitan catacombs, before ended in Baiae at the original roman pleasure baths, much of which is submerged under the Bay of Naples.


Venice see’s ScanLAB take to the water, scanning the entire length of the Grand Canal and the naval might of the Arsenale. We also reveal the original ghetto, the Jewish quarters and the stunning, secret synagogues nestled inside unassuming facades. The show’s finale explores the Doge’s Palace, revealing the intricate and interlaced public and private spaces that allows this single building to act as the city’s equivalent of 10 Downing Street, The House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the torture chambers of the Tower of London.


In the series finale the scans reveal Florence as the birthplace of the Renaissance. Here it is less the infrastructure of quarries and aqueducts that are unearthed but instead the intense, lavish interiors of palazzo’s, corridors of power and collections of art. We explore the length of the Vasari corridor weaving through the city, across Ponte Vecchio and it’s contents, one of the world’s most extensive art collections - the Uffizi Gallery. We capture the interiors of Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Medici and Michelangelo's secret chamber, hidden beneath the Church of San Lorenzo. The show ends in the Duomo with a detailed exploration of Brunelleschi's Dome, one of the world's most amazing and mysterious feats of engineering.