I recently returned from a five-week sojourn that included Rome, Turin, Milan, Bologna, and Florence, with day trips to smaller gems Parma and Ravenna. Shopping in Italy tops my long list of reasons to love that country.
This spring, shopping in Turin, however, was more challenging than usual because of unseasonable rains and cold in the Piedmont capital, where great shops and wonderful buys await. Normal late spring/early summer temperatures hover around 70 degrees, with only occasional rain. In April, that trend was holding, but when we arrived in mid-May, Turin was cold (55 degrees) and gray with torrential rains. Despite this, Turin still offered shopping not to be missed.
So after a visit to the Museum of Automobiles, a short subway ride from downtown, we found Eataly -- the mother of the international gastronomic chain. There, halls of hanging Parma hams housed titanic rounds of Parmesan cheese mellowing on endless shelves. Miles of wines, beers, chocolates, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and gourmet items of every kind led to a vast cafeteria. There, pizza, panini, or full Italian "pranzo," with pastas, main course, then fruits or desserts, are sold.
Back in Turin's center, my jacket drenched, I confronted a necessary investment in warmer, more waterproof outerwear. Breaking away from my group, I headed for Italy's premier department store, La Rinascente, a 10-minute walk from Piazza Castello and a retail presence throughout Italy.
Based on the American model, La Rinascente combines designer ready-to-wear with more affordable choices. Despite that, I found no rain gear for less than about $150, and I had a closet full back home.
Disappointed, I was elated when my travel companion later suggested Muji, the Japanese retail chain with a store on Turin's Via Garibaldi (among others worldwide). There, I found a zip-front, black, hooded, waterproof cloth jacket. I bought it for under $70, traveling on warm, dry, and happy.
When our decades-old travel alarm died days later, I returned to Muji for a perfect alarm clock, with a light, temperature gauge, calendar, and stopwatch function, as well. Muji should be on every traveler's list for emergency toiletries, clothing, and gadgets.
The weather eventually cleared somewhat, and I did more shopping in Turin, mostly on Via Garibaldi, which rambles endlessly with shops for every budget and taste on both sides. Clothing, accessories, household goods, gourmet shops -- you name it -- Via Garibaldi will lead you to whatever you desire (with restaurants and cafes to keep your shopping energies up).