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Tweeting Da Vinci
Imagine if you could see the River Styx, bathe in the Fountain of Youth, collect water which enhances fertility, wear a gem that heals bodily ailments, understand how our health is affected by geomagnetic fields, come close to the flames of Hell on Earth and much, much, more. Know something? These things exist—on Earth—today—in Italy and you can visit them. Ann C. Pizzorusso reveals how Italy’s geology has affected its history, art, religion, medicine and culture. Her beautiful book is packed with facts, full-color photos, paintings, sketches and illustrations. She follows in the tradition of writers such as John McPhee and Steven Jay Gould who are able to present complex aspects of geology in a friendly, almost poetic style. Pizzorusso’s real genius, however, 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 that reads as easily as a summer novel. Wonderfully illustrated and crammed with information, this book is perfect for the traveler (armchair or actual) wishing to visit these exciting places, trivia buffs and scholars alike.
Reviews
In this oddly titled work, geologist Pizzorusso offers novel ways to explore the ancient civilizations, literature, and art of Italy. She studies ancient Etruscan culture through the volcanic soil that produced abundant crops and grapes for fine wine, concluding that their religion may have been inspired by magnetic stones created by unusually frequent lightning strikes. Pizzorusso examines to what extent Virgil’s visions of hell in the Aeneid were actual landscapes, and she mines Dante’s The Divine Comedy for references to gems (both the scientific and the symbolic kinds). Her section on Leonardo da Vinci contrasts two versions of his Virgin of the Rocks, noting the accuracy of the one at the Louvre over the version in London’s National Gallery. The book is peppered with exquisite photos of art and nature, and there are many diversions on such topics as the composition and medicinal use of amber and other pigments taken from the earth. The book presents readers new ways of looking at history, and Pizzorusso delivers compelling information about the elements of the earth as found throughout Italy. Readers should note that there is nothing about Twitter and only one chapter concerns da Vinci, but otherwise this is a delightful journey. (BookLife)

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