In September of 2014, we lived in Turin, Italy.
We target September for our month of memories in Europe because its Alicia’s birthday month. September is also a shoulder month to Europe’s summer holidays of July and August, so it’s less crowded and the weather is still warm.
But Turin wasn’t the original plan…..
2014 was our first year to live for a month in Europe. After reading an article in International Living, I was interested in renting in Dijon, France. But my wife, Alicia, wanted to be by water and Nice became a strong possibility. We’d been to Nice several times for my work and, although it’s a great city, it’s an expensive city. After some additional research, we selected Genoa, Italy.
Genoa – The Home of Christopher Columbus
Investigating apartment rentals, I found a nice 2-bedroom apartment right on the marina in Genoa. Negotiating a reasonable discount from the agent, we paid our 25% down-payment and, as of mid-February, were committed to Genoa.
When August rolled around and I still hadn’t heard from the agent about paying the remaining 75%, I called and was told our vacation wasn’t going to happen. Apparently the agent went out of business, wouldn’t give me the owner’s name (as I suspected he still wanted to rent the apartment), provided no assistance with alternate arrangements, and told me to submit a form for reimbursement of my 25%. (After six months and several follow-up calls, I finally did get my money back.)
We had already purchased airfare to Nice, so it was time to pull out the map.
Plan B: Turin, Here We Come
The better apartments in Genoa and Dijon were either already rented for part of September or didn’t have air conditioning (a must-have for Alicia). After searching 2nd-tier cities, Turin surfaced as an option. After some research about the city, I looked at available apartments and found a gem – a penthouse for $400 a night, $2000 a week. Definitely a budget buster, but what did I have to lose? So I fired off an email to the owner explaining how we got screwed in Genoa and asking if he’d accept $3000 a month for his vacant apartment. Max, an awesome host as it turned out, asked for 10% more and the deal was done.
We rented a car from Avis in Nice so we could use AMEX Premium Car Rental Insurance, and I asked for and got a complementary upgrade from a full-size to an SUV for $655.
Max’s penthouse was amazing. A 2-bedroom, 2-bath, 100-square-meter apartment on the 5th and 6th floors with a 60-square-meter rooftop deck. Plus two underground parking spots, weekly maid service, and a gardener for the rooftop.
Max met us when we arrived into Turin, about a 2-hour drive from Nice. He explained all the specifics of the alarm system, door locks, lights, projection TV, shopping, best liquor store, and sites to see. He provided his contact info in Milan, and we were good to go.
Live Like Europeans
Turin got us into a healthy walking habit – live like Europeans – as we lived over a mile from the edge of the city center. Several more blocks of shops lead to the Piazza Castello or town square, magnificent government buildings, churches, open concrete-park area, restaurants, and palaces from the past, all beautiful.
Our walk to Piazza Castello took us past the outdoor market with food and knick-knacks, and the indoor market with rows and rows of meat, fruit, cheese, vegetables, and more. There is even a separate building for the fish market. The indoor markets are mainly open on weekends. Porta Palazzo Market – the biggest open market in Europe – is open on weekdays but huge on the weekends, with hundreds of stalls selling household goods, clothes, toys, and food from all over Italy and elsewhere.
Although all the structures around Piazza Castello are monumental, two were most memorable: the Palazzo Reale, home of the Savoy family from 1660 to 1865 and one of the most opulent palaces in Europe, and the Church of San Lorenzo, a small but amazingly beautiful masterpiece. This is the Catholic Church we chose to attend weekly, even though there are two other incredible churches nearby. There are 39 churches of various denominations and degrees of incredible in the city – Italy is truly a county of ABCs (Another Beautiful Church).