In Elements of Italy, Lisa St Aubin de Terán has gathered together a cornucopia of writing about Italy, the country she has lived in and loved for the last 17 years. She categorises this anthology according to the classical elements of earth, water, fire and air and these loose divisions work well in showing how Italy has evolved to become a country full of passion and one "which foreigners feel passionate about". St Aubin de Terán moves beyond the aesthetic in the material she has chosen. Her "Fire" section, for example, includes vivid writing about the volcano Vesuvius but also contains pages from Alexander Stille's Excellent Cadavers: Mafia and the Death of the first Italian Republic. And while the "Earth" section covers varying descriptions of Rome, Genoa, Florence and more, it also includes Elizabeth David writing (wonderfully) about Italian food, Carlo Levi proclaiming that "Christ stopped at Eboli" and Anthony Bailey describing the painter Turner's visit to Italy in 1819.
Elements of Italy is not a reference book--it should be dipped into for pleasure. Through St Aubin de Terán's carefully selected extracts, the reader gains insight into why "this stilettoed boot, set in two seas, seems to have walked across more hearts th