The paper describes the strategy adopted to assess the structural condition of the tallest historic tower in Mantua (Italy) after the Italian seismic sequence of May–June 2012 and exemplifies the application of health monitoring using (automated) operational modal analysis. The post-earthquake survey (including extensive visual inspection, historic and documentary research, non-destructive (ND) material testing, and ambient vibration tests) highlighted the poor state of preservation of the upper part of the tower; subsequently, a dynamic monitoring system (consisting of a few accelerometers and one temperature sensor) was installed in the building to address the preservation of the historic structure, and automated modal identification was continuously performed. Despite the low levels of vibration that existed in operational conditions, the analysis of data collected over a period of about 15 months allowed to assess and model the effects of changing temperature on modal frequencies and to detect the occurrence of abnormal behavior and damage under the changing environment. The monitoring results demonstrate the potential key role of vibration-based structural health monitoring, implemented through low-cost hardware solutions and appropriate software tools, in the preventive conservation and the condition-based maintenance of historic towers.
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