Code to repeat some experiments of the paper "The Death and Life of Great Italian Cities: A Mobile Phone Data Perspective"
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The Death and Life of Great Italian Cities: A Mobile Phone Data Perspective

Jane Jacobs index

This repository shows the code to apply the concept of "The Death and Life of Great Italian Cities: A Mobile Phone Data Perspective" into the Italian scenario. Through the code it is possible to reproduce some results, and to see how vitality can be described through the Jane Jacobs' conditions and, thus, the urban built environment.

See the paper and the slides for more details.


  • data/ contains all the data the scripts and the models use.
  • figures/ is the output directory of the images generated by the scripts.
  • generated_files/ contains the files generated from the scripts.
  • install/ contains some code to build the initial repository.

Please consider citing our paper if you use our model or code (see below for citation). We live thanks to this small action you can take!


We assume that you're using Python 3.6 with pip installed.

Then we assume these software dependencies:

Once that's done you need to run the following inside the root directory to install the remaining dependencies:

pip3 install -r install/requirements.txt

This will install the following dependencies:

Database initialization

createdb WWW
psql WWW < install/schema.sql

Run the code with Italian cities

In all the code and files I assume that each city has a code (named pro_com) and each neighborhood has an ID called ace.

Census data

First, it is necessary to import the ISTAT census. There are two ways to do it: manually, automatically (suggested!).

Manual import

Import all files from ("Censimento della popolazione e delle abitazioni (formato xls-csv)")

First you download everything and unpack. Then you merge all files into a single one, discarding the headers of the CSV.

{ head -n1 Sezioni\ di\ Censimento/R01_indicatori_2011_sezioni.csv; for f in Sezioni\ di\ Censimento/R*.csv; do tail -n+2 "$f"; done; } > import_ISTAT.csv

Then you import the files

csvsql --db postgresql://localhost:5432/WWW -v -e iso-8859-1 --table istat_indicatori --create-if-not-exists --no-constraints --insert import_ISTAT.csv

And you do the same for Censimento dell'industria e dei servizi (formato txt)

{ head -n1 Dati_SCE_2011/Sez_AttivitaEconomica/01_AttEcon_SCE_2011.txt; for f in Dati_SCE_2011/Sez_AttivitaEconomica/*2011.txt; do tail -n+2 "$f"; done; } > import_ISTAT.csv

Now it's time to import the shapefiles. You should download the data from under the subsection "BASI TERRITORIALI", and the column WGS84 2011.

ogr2ogr -f "PostgreSQL" PG:"host=localhost user=[youruser] dbname=WWW" -nlt GEOMETRY -nln census_areas [path_shapefile_to_import]

Automatic import

Download the files from Figshare and place them in install. Then:

gunzip < install/census_areas.sql.gz | psql WWW
gunzip < install/istat_indicatori.sql.gz | psql WWW
gunzip < install/istat_industria.sql.gz | psql WWW


You need to place some shapefiles that act as boundaries of the city. These shapefiles have to contain one multi-polygon. They have to be placed in data/shps/boundaries/[cityname].shp. You can create them dissolving the procom variable from the shapefiles of the Italian census, or by downloading them from OpenStreetMap. I placed an example of boundary in data/shps/boundaries/milano.*.


Download satellite shapefiles from Extract them, and place them into data/shps/atlas


You should download an extract (pbf file) and place it in data/OSM/[cityname].pbf. For Italy I suggest


The format of the files to be placed in data/companies/[cityname].csv is:



We used Foursquare data to identify the Point Of Interests (POIs) in a city. This can be substituted with other sources of data, like OSM POIs. However, we specified in install/ the categories we used in Foursquare. We suggest to use Places API to download the data.

The format of the files to be placed in data/POIs/[cityname].csv is:


Mobile phone data

Sadly, we can't share the mobile phone dataset we used. However, there are similar dataset released in Open Data license.

The original, raw, Call Detail Records have to be processed and put in generated_files/telco.csv, with this format:


List of cities

You have to specify the list of cities you want to process in list_cities.csv, with this format:


(be careful to put the last, empty, line.

Run the loader

Whenever you are ready, and you placed all the files in the right directories, you can run configure the loader load_data.bash (variables on the top of the file), the loader:

bash load_data.bash

This script will load the data and refresh the materialized views of the database. Then you can run the python scripts :)


This code has been published after the peer-reviewed publication (1 year after it), to publish the code for new developers and researchers. Thus, I am sorry for the small differences you can find, or for the lack of code to reproduce some images. I will refactor it in the future. Although I improved the original code A LOT with new software and scripts that have been released in this year, it has not been optimized for efficiency, but should be fast enough for most purposes. We do not give any guarantees that there are no bugs - use the code on your own responsibility!


This code is licensed under the MIT license.

Included datasets

The datasets are uploaded to this repository for convenience purposes only. They were not released by us and we do not claim any rights on them. If you want to use any of the datasets please consider citing the original authors. Sadly, we can't share the mobile phone dataset. However, there are similar dataset released in Open Data license.


     author = {De Nadai, Marco and Staiano, Jacopo and Larcher, Roberto and Sebe, Nicu and Quercia, Daniele and Lepri, Bruno},
     title = {The Death and Life of Great Italian Cities: A Mobile Phone Data Perspective},
     booktitle = {Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on World Wide Web},
     series = {WWW '16},
     year = {2016},
     isbn = {978-1-4503-4143-1},
     location = {Montr\&\#233;al, Qu\&\#233;bec, Canada},
     pages = {413--423},
     numpages = {11},
     url = {},
     doi = {10.1145/2872427.2883084},
     acmid = {2883084},
     publisher = {International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee},
     address = {Republic and Canton of Geneva, Switzerland},
     keywords = {cities, mobile phone data, open data, urban informatics},