An exploration of how Italy’s volcanic geology from the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea to modern times has affected its history, art, religion, medicine and culture.
Packed with facts, full-color photos, paintings, sketches and illustrations, Pizzorusso’s beautiful first book offers essays for many tastes and educational levels. The opening piece, for example, is a rather dry and lengthy academic study of the Etruscans who inhabited the Italian peninsula before being conquered by the Romans. Pizzorusso details how some “religious tracts were attributed to Nymph Begoe (Vegoia in Latin), a prophetess who is thought to be the source of Libri Vegoici, the books on lightning that were kept in the Temple of Apollo at Rome.” However, subsequent entries are more accessible. She writes “Pyroclastic Poets,” for instance, in a far more easygoing style, even suitably waxing poetic herself: “Throughout history, writers joined the ranks of explorers and scientists in venturing close—either actually or metaphorically to the fire spewing vents which flaunted their hot vapors, ruby colored flames and glowing briquettes like a circus juggler, enticing anyone with enough moxie to venture near.” Throughout, fascinating factoids abound: The headwear of Etruscan priests survives today as bishops’ miters, and the underworld landscapes of Virgil and Dante are based on real locations that still exist. But Pizzorusso’s real genius is in her ability to stitch together widely diverse topics—such as gemology, folk remedies, grottoes, painting, literature, physics and religion—using geology as a thread. Quoting everyone from Pliny the Elder to NASA physicist Friedemann Freund, Pizzorusso’s work is solidly backed scholarship, including extensive appendices and a bibliography. What’s more, all lengthy quotes, be they Italian, Latin or Middle English, include text in the original language as well as the English translation; often also included are copies of original manuscripts. What is notably missing, however, is anything remotely related to tweeting as well as any mention of da Vinci until the fourth section out of six, when she finally presents an extensive overview of the man.
Wonderfully illustrated and crammed with information, this book is perfect for trivia buffs and scholars alike.