Tom Benjamin, a British author in Bologna
Posted on 31 March 2022 From Bologna Welcome
Tom Benjamin, who has lived in Bologna since 2007 and is the author of the critically-acclaimed Daniel Leicester mysteries.
Since 2020 I’ve had two
Bologna-set novels published in the UK and US, with the third due out this
spring. A Quiet Death in Italy explores the city’s political past,
while The Hunting Season, takes its lead from Bologna’s culinary
tradition and especially the truffle hunting that takes place
in the hills. In Requiem in La Rossa, I delve into the city’s vibrant
cultural life, in particular its rich musical
history. When I began writing the series, Bologna was a little off the tourist
I hope my novels will whet the appetite of visitors and inspire armchair travellers.
As an immigrant, I knew I had
to gain a strong grasp of Italian so, after a few months of language lessons, I
found work on the door of a homeless canteen. Here I was exposed to a very different
kind of Italy than the average foreigner, but it was precisely this that began
to inspire me – the contrast of Bologna’s beauty, history, culinary and
political traditions with its more gritty side gave birth to my fictional
I explore many of them in my
novels – most recently in Requiem, for example, there’s the former Convent
of Santa Cristina in Piazza Giorgio Morandi, which has a wonderful
porticoed courtyard, and the excellent International
Museum of Music where you can see the special instruments the nuns
of the convent used. I’d also recommend the cloisters of the Church of San Domenico, which are often hidden behind a closed door at the far end of the
church. Another tip would be nearby: the rooftop bar of Hotel Touring
in Via dè Mattuiani which offers great views across the city. But my number one
tip would be: slow down. Let Bologna envelop you, lose yourself among its
porticoes, linger over your meal, look at the life around you.
Be generous to Bologna and Bologna will be generous to you!
For a writer of detective
fiction it would have to be "tiro", which literally means "shot"’.
It is not unusual to hear people call over the intercom "mi dai il tiro?" – "can you give me the shot?". But il tiro actually indicates the button that opens the door and will often be inscribed on the brass plaque in the entrance hall. For italian speakers, there’s a fun video here satirising the difference between Italian and Bolognese.
Present-day Bologna, the result of behind-the-scenes work, commitment to social and territorial promotion, excellence, local and adopted citizens.