Blog by Steve Laug
When I am traveling to visit sites in Europe I am always on the look out for a pipe shop that piques my interest. Before I left for Bologna, Italy I did a quick search of pipe shops there that might warrant my attention and found the Bonfiglioli Pipes Since 1967 Shop. I made a plan to visit it one evening once I finished the work I was doing there. I went on the evening of Oct. 6, 2022 with one of my friends from work. Here is what we saw when we got to the shop that evening. It is in one of the many portico’s of Bologna and is a bright yellow from the lights on the outside. It is a small shop with tables and chairs outside and inside where the Bonfiglioli Pipe Club of Bologna can enjoy a bowl of their favourite tobacco or a good cigar. Next door there is a small café with wine, beer and snacks that can also be enjoyed. The front window of the shop to the left of the font door was packed with a lot of signs and paraphernalia of Bonfiglioli’s travels. There are books, antique tobacco tins and even a few Trump memorabilia that I was not expecting to see in Europe. There were hand made pipes by Alberto himself as well as pipe from other Italian Pipe makers and some nice meerschaum pipes. It is a motley assortment of old things and new pipes that take a lot of time to process as you peer through the window in to the shop. It also gives a hint of the crazy disarray of the shop itself once you enter the front door. The front door is shown in the second photo below. The door says Bonfiglioli and Sons and sports a pipe with the shop logo on it over the date the shop opened 1965. There were also some funny signs about Beware the Owner. Take your time to read through the signs and look at the photos as they truly and odd and mysterious assortment of historical pieces. If I thought that the window display was eclectic and random the interior was even more so. It was a motley assortment of pipes, posters, Route 66 US highway signs, political posters and wares as well as photographs and news clippings from around the world. There were also bumper stickers stuck on the walls and counters. The most surprising thing to me was the thick coat of dust on everything. On the display counters were old pipe racks with absolutely destroyed pipes that were set up as a deterrent to shoplifting. There were also boxes of Bonfiglioli pipes scattered on the front and back counters. The buffing wheels, lathe, band saw, sandblasting machine and other tools of the trade were scattered in the midst of the collection of paraphernalia. You can see the buffing wheels in the first photo below with a box to collect the threads as pipes are buffed each marked VIRTUS. Looking toward the back of the shop was more of a visual cacophony of conflicting scenes and displays (I know the word is often used of sounds but to me the sights in this place were loud!). You can see the lathe on the left side inserted under photos, hats and American flags. You can also see more buffing wheels next to it. Further back are more buffing wheels and pipe racks on the wall above. There is a dining room table and chairs under a piece of briar and a collection of briar pipes in process. Over all the back wall is a RAVENS banner. It really is a scene that takes a lot of time to study and take in. On the right side, which is mid shop there is a drill press with cardboard boxes stacked underneath. The shop apron is hanging on the wheel of the press.To the right of the drill press is the work bench against the wall. There it is inserted underneath the the US Flag and a lot of American memorabilia from US Route 66. There is also a Pittsburgh Steelers sign in the middle and an I heart VIRTUS sign. On the left was a sign that read WARNING GENIUS AT WORK. The wall above the desk is covered with drawers that held tools and papers for sanding and stem work as well as a mess of files and partially finished pipes. On the right wall of the picture is also the sandblast cabinet and even more memorabilia and a very prominent Trump hat among the bottles of oils and drawings for pipes. Once again the full array needs to be studied to see all that is present in the photo. It is quite mind boggling to take in.At this point I paused and asked Alberto if he would be willing to pose for a photo holding one of his pipes. He was happy to do so and struck a pose behind the sales counter. I love the signs on the wall that read Let me Smoke my Pipe In Peace and This is the Pipe Smoke (could not read it all). The range of stickers on the counter below that are broad in terms of their coverage from Smokers have rights too to God Bless America. Even this picture is full of objects to study and take in. We had a great visit over the counter as we spoke about different pipes and tobaccos. We compared our ages – he was 73 and I am almost 69 so he called me young man! I think I like him!He spoke of pipes he had made for prizes for the Seattle Pipe Club as well as other clubs. He showed me one that was the Seattle Pipe. It is a great looking pipe.From there we went on to talk about tobacco and he told me about a blend that he does that is Dark Fired Kentucky and Virginia. He had a bowl of it behind the counter that was weighed out so I smelled it and he packed it in a pouch and bag that he had there from other tobacco. I am looking forward to trying it out. I looked through some pipes he had in the window that caught my eye. They were part of a line of pipes he called Cheap Bastards. They tended to have flaws in the briar that he proudly said he did not fill. I chose a rusticated bent apple that caught my eye. He packed the pipe in a Bonfiglioli box and autographed the lid with a date for me. He put a Czech pipe tool in and a leather pouch he had made filled with pipe cleaners to go with the new pipe. The pipe was put in a heavy felt (?) bag with draw strings that was stamped with a pipe and bonfigliolipipe.it over since 1967. The pipe itself is quite a beauty. It is a bent apple shape with a taper acrylic stem bearing the Bonfiglioli logo on the top side. The finish is heavily rusticated and hides the flaw that is on the mid right side of the bowl. There is a smooth band at the shank end and the rim top is also smooth. The colour of the pipe is hard to see in the photos below but it is a mix of medium and dark brown. It is stamped on a smooth panel on the underside of the bowl and shank and has a tower on the bowl bottom stamped with the year 2022 when the pipe was made. That is followed by Made in the City [over] of Bologna [over] Italy. To the left of that it is stamped U.S. Patent [over]73/802348 and to the right with a triangle with an AI inside. Following those stampings it read at the shank end Bonfiglioli [over] Cheap [over] Bastard [over] an oval with ADAL. That is followed by a stamped IX [over] an upside down R in a circle. Like the interior of the shop the stamping is a plethora of different parts that are all interesting and must be individually studied to understand them all. When I return to Bologna next year it is definitely a shop I will revisit. At that time I will enjoy a bowl of shop tobacco in this pipe, or perhaps another, at the tables outside the front door. If you are in Bologna this shop is not one you will want to miss. Check it out and have a visit with the pipe maker and owner Alberto Bonfiglioli. It is certainly a unique shop and not like any others I have visited at home or abroad.