It is proposed the use of a mobile device based on a NMR single-sided sensor for in situ non-invasive determination of the moisture content (MC) of wood items, especially items of Cultural Heritage interest. The MC is obtained through the moisture volume fraction, which is an appropriate quantity for the sensor and corresponds to the fraction of its measurements sensitive volume occupied by water. The device has been used here to track changes in MC of wood specimens caused by changes over time of the environmental relative humidity. The kinetics of water adsorption has been related to results obtained with the gravimetric method. Measurements on an old painting, the Pietà (1516-1517), oil on a poplar wood panel by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485 Venice, 1547 Rome), Civic Museum, Viterbo, Italy, have shown, conclusively, the good sensitivity of the sensor and its capability to behave as a non-invasive and in situ utilizable device. Results of in situ painting measurements show that the NMR sensor can track moisture fluctuations that are outside the sensitivity range and precision of electro-hygrometric approach. © 2008 Springer-Verlag.