Italy is notoriously exposed to several natural hazards, from hydrological to volcanic and, above all, to seismic activity that affects a large part of the national territory. Historically the devastating effects of tsunamis have also been recorded, despite the peninsula is confined in the Mediterranean basin (i.e. Messina earthquake in 1908, and more recent the activity of the undersea volcano “Marsili”). Since Italy is particularly exposed to such hazards, many research institutions are involved in campaigns about monitoring, prevention and mitigation of the effects of such phenomena, with the aim to secure and protect human lives, and secondly, the remarkable cultural heritage.

The present paper will first make a brief excursus on the main Italian research projects aimed at the mitigation of environmental disasters, referring to projects of national and international relevance, being implemented, such as the MOSE (for the containment of the tides and of high water, for the preservation of cultural and artistic heritage of Venice and of the entire ecosystem of the lagoon); the research in earthquake-resistant structures performed for instance by ENEA and finally the COSMO-SkyMed (CSK) program of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), which has among its purposes the environmental monitoring and surveillance applications for the management of exogenous, endogenous and anthropogenic risks.

Furthermore in the paper, it will be described some new ideas concerning the use of smart materials and structures capable of self-monitoring and self-diagnosis of the risk of failure and adapting itself to environmental condition variations, in order to avoid catastrophic effects, thanks to an integrated network of sensors and actuators.

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