Something very dear to my heart this week: Turin’s excellent market. It’s called Porta Palazzo and you can read all about how it’s massive and old and a commercial hub here. Certainly, if you’re planning on doing an Erasmus year in Turin it’s something you should know about as soon as possible. There are actually markets all over Turin, but I focus on this one because it’s:
a) the best, and
b) very good indeed.
Porta Palazzo is just beyond Piazza Castello, which immediately upon arriving in Turin anyone will realise is the heart of the city. The market’s main draw is its truly staggering choice of fruit and vegetable stalls, the best of which you’d have to be a veteran Turinian to be able to pick out. For me, it’s all good. I tend to stand at a vantage point until I’ve worked out what’s going cheapest. Generally fruit and vegetables go for around a euro a kilo, but there are common sightings of 1.50eu for two kilo deals. Go for artichokes and you might pay a bit more. Amongst the stalls is also a great selection of cheeses, olives, nuts, seeds, eggs, and beans. Inside the two buildings are a complex of butchers, bakers, and cheesemongers. I mostly stick to the bread in here, but going in does give you a nice horror-house thrill: check out the sheep skins, which I very much hope are for clothes and not for eating.
Swelling out from the central point like an old Italian gentleman after the last slice of tiramisu are stalls selling clothes of varying quality, gadgets, utilities, shoes, and so on. The prices are probably impossible to beat. The market is on every weekday until the early afternoon, and then on Saturday it runs until the early evening. But Saturday has some other things going for it too, because it’s the day of the Balon.
The Balon is a huge flea market not far from Porta Palazzo. It’s vast, crammed full of curios, and on every second Sunday it transforms into the Gran Balon: a retro and antiques fair where anyone who likes old clocks, old radios, records, candlestick holders, 70’s decor, and perfect theatre props will probably lose their mind. But not their wallet, because it’s also inexplicably cheap. I say ‘inexplicably’, because if you found this stuff in a shop you’d probably pay more than if it were new. Not in the Gran Balon, where old stuff costs like old stuff, even if it’s better than new stuff.
Could a person do their weekly shopping at Porta Palazzo? My answer is they should try. Everything can be bought from there. The only times I’d say to go elsewhere are if you’re looking for something very specific; the market is too big for that kind of mentality. For everything else, the canny Erasmus student need never step inside a supermarket. You wouldn’t want to be uncanny — would you?