This neighborhood of Pozzuoli, Italy, is my ancestral home (the neighborhood where my mamma grew up), as well as the setting of my novel. It’s an odd place, beset by bradyseisms, a phenomenon by which subterranean gasses heat up the earth’s surface, raising or dropping the city by as many as five feet every decade or so.

The last couple of sustained bradyseisms there opened up fissures in the city, revealing rooms from an underground city (Poteoli, of the 2nd century), and now, through excavations, they’ve discovered that the entire city, the major port of the Roman Empire, is down there, all intact – and the modern-day residents didn’t even know it was right there underneath their feet.

It’s an amazing place, but because Naples (just a few kilometers from Pozzuoli) has gone to hell lately, nobody really knows about it. Right now the neighborhood has been evacuated, and archaeologists and engineers (including my uncle and cousins) are busy excavating while at the same time constructing hotels and restaurants there in the hopes of attracting tourists. The only problem is, every few centuries or so a major bradyseism hits, and one of them, in the 1500s, generated a mountain (aptly named Monte Nuovo) in just one day, and the entire city was once sunk under twenty feet of water. So, fingers crossed.