Tom Benjamin. Photo: Lorenzo Burlando

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Tom Benjamin, a British author in Bologna

Updated on 31 March 2022 From Bologna Welcome

Exclusively in Promenade...

Tom Benjamin, who has lived in Bologna since 2007 and is the author of the critically-acclaimed Daniel Leicester mysteries.

Tom, tell us about your activity and its impact on the territory

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 and educational history. When I began writing the series, Bologna was a little off the tourist trail.
I hope my novels will whet the appetite of visitors and inspire armchair travellers.  


Are there any curious anecdotes that have emerged from this experience?

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 private detective.

Your favourite places off the beaten track? 

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!

What's your favourite Bolognese word and why?

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.

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