16 Jan Turin: An alternative rainy day guide
Whenever it rains here in Turin – and I honestly mean every single time – someone chuckles as they say to me, “You should be used to this, you’re from England”.
But just because we’ve grown up with near-constant drizzle and carry umbrellas around with us literally all the time (better safe than sorry!) it doesn’t mean us Brits enjoy bad weather any more than the rest of the world.
I am particularly meteopathic, and although I didn’t move to the mediterranean exclusively for the climate, cutting down on rainy days was certainly a consideration of mine when I fled GB.
Italy is noticeably less damp than the UK, but it’s not always the sunny paradise you see on postcards either. Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons, but they do come with their fair share of rain. And the rest of the year isn’t exempt either; August is punctuated with some quite dramatic monsoon-like summer storms, and between crisp winter days, there are always a number of grey, wet, depressing ones too.
Rainy weekends tend to make me a bit miserable. Although nobody is going to argue with the joy of a morning wrapped up in a warm duvet, spending a whole day at home feels like a waste of precious time away from the office. The problem is that if you search for wet weather activities in Turin online, all the suggestions are exactly the same, meaning that if you do venture out of the house to wander down the porticoed shopping streets of via Po or via Roma, to visit one of the city centre’s museums or art galleries, or to grab a hot chocolate in any of Turin’s historic cafés, you tend to run into a bajillion other damp, grumpy people all doing the same thing. And at that point, you inevitably think, “the duvet was more fun than this”, turn around, and go back home.
So without further ado, here’s my alternative rainy day guide to Turin… and I pinkie promise I won’t tell you to go window shopping.
Pick an attraction outside the city centre
Let’s be honest, when it’s tipping it down, you really don’t want to walk anywhere. Sure, public transport is fairly unpleasant, but once you’re on a bus, at least you’re dry and warm. So hop on, and go to one of the museums or galleries a little bit further out of town, which are likely to be a little bit less crowded than the ones in the centre. Get the Venaria Express to the Reggia, where you can spend all day inside either touring the palace, or checking out the temporary art and photography exhibitions, or stay closer to home but still out of the busy tourist zone, by taking a regular city bus to the modern Museo Ettore Fico.
Go for a really long brunch
Rainy days are perfect for catching up with friends over large amounts of food. The good news is, on both Saturdays and Sundays, you can always find somewhere for a yummy, warming brunch here in Turin. So call ahead and book a table (nothing worse than having to wait in the rain for a space to free up) grab a couple of your besties, order one of everything, and forget about the downpour. If the rain’s really making you unhappy, get a prosecco to go with your eggs and bacon: you know you won’t regret it.
Take a reading break
Rubbish weather always makes me want to curl up under a blanket with Netflix or a book, even though I know I would feel better if I ventured outside anyway. As a nice compromise, check out the Circolo dei Lettori.
I will eventually dedicate a whole post to this place, because I think it’s wonderful, but for now I’ll just give you the basics. The Circolo dei Lettori is a reader’s society, located in a beautiful old building right in the city centre where you can go to sit in comfy chairs and read, eat, and caffeinate, while surrounded by other nice, quiet people. If you pay a small membership fee (we’re talking under €20 for a whole year), you can get the WiFi password and gain entry to various talks and reading groups too. Even if you don’t want to commit, you can go to the café and read your book in a nice quiet space, far away from the crowds and the dreaded drizzle. Oh, and you can get brunch there too, if you wanted to kill two birds with one stone! Be warned though, it’s closed on Sundays (boo!).
Try out something new
Ok, I admit this one requires a tiny bit of forward planning, but bear with me. We’ve all got something we’d love to try but never manage to make time for, right? For some, that means joining a sports team, for others it’s trying out that new exercise class that your friend always bangs on about, finally figuring out how to use that DSLR, or maybe just learning a useful new skill.
Here in Turin, so many schools, gyms, and courses offer a no-strings-attached free trial lesson. If the weather forecast is looking grim for the weekend, call one of these places up and book yourself in. If you love it, great, sign up at the end and – hey presto – you have a new hobby. If you love it less, you’ve lost nothing, you’ve left the house, and you’ve done something productive with your rainy day anyway. Well done you!
If you’re short on ideas, I’d recommend Abbey School for a taster session of a language course, YogaUnion for a pretty fancy and totally zen experience (I tried hot yoga there recently and it was great), or Pole Dance Virtude if you want to try something a bit more unusual (quite painful, do be warned). If you’re feeling a bit less adventurous, just ask your nearest gym or dance school if you can come along to see what it’s like – they’ll almost certainly be thrilled to have you.
Like the above option, this one might require a tiny bit of organisation, but don’t let that put you off. Book yourself in for a manicure (Tip to Toe is gorgeous but expensive, YoYo Nails is less glam but a lot cheaper, and often takes walk-ins), or a spa treatment – or even whole spa day – at the Golden Palace Hotel (booking usually necessary) or the ole QC Terme that I’m always raving on about (booking required for treatments, but not for regular day entry). If you’re on a lower budget, brave the crowds at Sephora, grab yourself a face mask and a nail varnish, and spend your afternoon self-pampering from the warmth of your apartment.
Train your brain
The whole world seemed to go mad for Escape Rooms a couple of years ago, and Turin was no exception. Just for the benefit of anyone who’s been living under a rock, in an Escape Room, you and a group of friends are locked into a (usually themed) space and challenged to get out before your time is up. Clues are hidden around the room, and you have to look around, solve riddles, and use your heads to work out how to find them all and figure out how to use them to get the heck out of there. It’s stressful, but oh so fun.
Now that the initial excitement about these places has passed, you shouldn’t find so many crowds as you would’ve done a year ago. Call ahead and see if there’s space for you and some mates to give your brains a workout on this grim day. Two popular escape rooms to try are IntrappolaTO (various locations around Turin) and One Way Out in the Quadrilatero area, but there are a few more around too.
Spoiler alert: you might hate this last one.
Do some life admin (and then reward yourself)
I did tell you that this was an alternative guide…
After much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that staying at home on a rainy day is so depressing because not only do you not do anything fun, but you don’t feel like you’ve achieved anything either. So, if you’re not in the mood to get out of the house but still want that sense of satisfaction by bedtime, use this time to sort out all those boring bits you’ve been putting off; purge your wardrobe, make a really OCD colour-coordinated filing system for all those old invoices, trawl through the Italian government service websites until you finally figure out which forms you need to fill in to change your residency address (the sun will probably be out again by the time you finish that one).
But there’s an upside, of course. If you’re ticking all these things off your to-do list, you definitely deserve a treat when you’re done. Download a delivery app (try Foodora, Deliveroo, or JustEat), get breakfast (in my area, Sweet Lab never disappoints) or afternoon cake (Convitto Cafè is fab in my delivery zone) brought right to your door, and eat your way through those rainy day blues.
And remember, this is the Mediterranean, so the weather will be glorious again before you know it.