Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana - Vol. 56/2022

Three centuries of geological observations by local and foreign intellectuals. The case of Central Irpinia in the Travels of Grand Tour (Southern Italy)

Michele Sisto1 & Antonio Di Lisio1
1GEO-Studio di Geologia, Via 31 ottobre, Lioni (AV). Corresponding author e-mail:

Volume: 56/2022
Pages: 11-20


This paper examines some reports from travellers on the Grand Tour and naturalistic descriptions by local scholars referring to a famous place located in the Province of Avellino (Campania Region, Italy), the Mefite in the Ansanto Valley. These writings, date back to the seventeenth century, which represented the ideal continuation of the literary narratives of great Latin writers: the place, in fact, is described in Virgil's Aeneid as one of the deadly and pestilential entrances to the underworld. The ancient pagan religion identified the presence of the goddess Mephitis, to whom a small temple was dedicated, and represents the destination of numerous pilgrimages. Many centuries later, the fame acquired by the site justified the diversion of travellers' paths towards the Apennines; the rediscovery made by these curious European intellectuals in search of the traces of Classicism integrated the description of the mythological-literary aspects with those more strictly geological and chemical-mineralogical ones, also stimulating local scholars. Notes on the local landscape were not overlooked in their reports, turning these scholars into the precursors of modern geotourists.


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