The Mona Lisa presented in binary code (all 111s and 000s)

Cover designed by Neapolitan artist Francesco Filippini.

I keep seeing strange things in this design like my former zip code in New York 10011, numbers which vibrate off the page or  convert, in decimal to my birth date 19, etc.

Francesco says it is coincidence. I say there is no coincidence.

Have you ever decided to do something and then find out it was much more difficult than you had thought…BUT…you are so far down the road that your can’t go back? My latest project, a book called Tweeting Da Vinci, or in the Italian edition Twittando Da Vinci, became my love letter to the Earth. The process however, ended up taking me down a rabbit hole and I didn’t emerge again until almost three years later.

Map of Italy showing some of the sites mentioned in the book. I wanted it to look old, so Francesco Filippini did his magic with photoshop (or some other artistic or computer method) and produced this intriguing map.

It was while I was writing articles for Napoli Unplugged’s EarthScape Naples Series that I realized how much the geology of Italy affected its history, art, religion, medicine, culture and, well, just about everything. I had so much information I decided to write a book. That’s when it became interesting. The several years I spent writing, translating and publishing it were much like riding on a roller coaster – the highs being exhilarating and the lows pretty much devastating. Of course it helped that Bonnie Alberts, the fabulous founder of Napoli Unplugged was also writing a book on Naples, as complicity is compelling.

Of course we had to spend some time at the Solfatara, mythical home of Vulcan, the god of volcanoes and fire, but also the location Virgil chose to model the Underworld he described in the sixth book of the Aeneid. Bonnie took this and other fabulous shots of the area known as the “burning fields.”

Near the “burning fields” we find Lake Averno, a volcanic lake. Averno in Greek means “lacking birds” because the poisonous gases which issued forth from the lake were toxic. So the birds, being smart, stayed away. It is also the location Virgil chose for the entrance to the Underworld, and indeed there is a grotto on the lakeshore which leads to an underground river. Was this what Virgil used as a model for the River Styx? Bonnie’s artistic eye captures not only the lake, but Baia, Miseno and a hazy outline of Ischia in the background.

So we set out, never realizing how difficult producing a book would be. The amount of detail that goes into one full of illustrations is astounding: layout, format, photos, font, paper quality, cover design, printing, you name it, the list goes on and on. Of course we did not realize this as we sat drinking a glass of wine, planning our research trips and imagining the final beautiful product.

Not all places are scary. Some are downright Sybaritic like Ischia the island of the Fountain of Youth. The volcanic terrain emits steaming vapors and waters that not only cure illnesses but keep us young and beautiful.

Fortunately for me, Bonnie is a great photographer, so we joined forces on our forays to document this incredible land. She generously allowed me to use her fabulous photos in my book and together we saw some of the marvelous places in and around Napoli and some further afield. While my book deals with Italy as a whole, I want to tell you about some of the things around Napoli like the River Styx, the Fountain of Youth, the flames of Hell on Earth and much, much, more.

Of course we can’t forget Vesuvius, symbol of Napoli. The famous volcano influenced generations of writers and poets such as Goethe, Shelley, Mark Twain and Dickens to name a few. They produced some of their best work after coming to Napoli and “being influenced by the volcano.”

Stay tuned for my posts, as I am going to tell you how along the way I met a fellow introvert, found an Angel, commissioned X-rated pictures and…