Inside Tina Turner's Peaceful Days in Switzerland: She Had a 'Completely Normal Life'
The singer, who died on Wednesday at age 83, relinquished her U.S. citizenship, and lived with husband Erwin Bach in a small lakefront town in Switzerland for many years
When Tina Turner walked into a room, people took notice.
"You can't imagine the looks, the way people dropped their knives and forks, when they saw who it was entering the dining room," Rico Zandonella, owner of a restaurant the late superstar frequented in Switzerland, tells PEOPLE. "Because she was Tina and she had a presence, an allure like no one else."
Turner — who died on Wednesday at age 83 after a long illness — may have attracted attention, but it was the privacy afforded to her by her quiet life in Switzerland that ultimately lured her across the pond.
She and husband Erwin Bach moved to the country together in 1995, and she later renounced her American citizenship. Turner owned two homes on Lake Zurich, and enjoyed an idyllic life in the Swiss municipality of Küsnacht, which has a population of about 13,000 people.
Zandonella, owner of the local Rico's Restaurant, says Turner became a regular at his establishment after celebrating her 60th birthday there.
Related: Cher Reveals She Visited Tina Turner Shortly Before Her Death: 'She Was Really Happy'
"It was her first time here in the restaurant and it was a surprise party," he recalls. "The surprise was that Lionel Richie was there and that he’d come to sing for her."
He says the "What's Love Got to Do with It?" singer's favorite dishes included Asian-spiced meat and lemongrass soup with langoustine, and that she always paired her meals with French red wine. When she wasn't dining in, Zandonella often spotted her out and about in town.
"[I've] lost a friend. [She] lived 100 yards away from the restaurant and we would run into one another all the time along the lake while I was walking my dogs. She would walk alongside and we would tell one another stories, and we would laugh," he says. "Her laugh was so strong, you could hear its echo out in the kitchen. She was a really happy, down-to-earth person."
Upon moving to the lakefront Villa Algonquin property with Bach in 1998, Turner endeared herself to Küsnacht and its residents, donating Christmas lights and sponsoring a municipal rescue boat named "Tina."
"One of the reasons she came to Switzerland was to have a completely normal life," Mayor Markus Ernst told the Associated Press. "She could go to restaurants without being photographed all the time … in the street, people didn’t stare at her or ask for her autograph."
Related: Inside the $76 Million Switzerland Home Where Tina Turner Spent Her Peaceful Final Years with Erwin Bach
In moving to a small town overseas, the Grammy-winning star found a sense of peace she'd long been seeking.
"The Swiss are incredibly respectful when it comes to other people's privacy. And they are polite," she told Swiss paper Tages-Anzeiger in 2021. "The people here are extremely friendly and accommodating, with manners that you would probably find old-fashioned anywhere else in the world. But I love that. Apart from that, some regions in Switzerland remind me of the natural beauty of Tennessee, the rural places where I grew up."
Turner added that she'd "worked very hard for a very long time," and was happy with the downtime she felt she had earned.
"The first few years of my so-called retirement were also quite busy," she said. "Now I'm ripe for real entertainment, a time to rest and recharge. I want to see what comes next now. If that just means that Erwin and I enjoy our life together, then I would be absolutely happy and satisfied."
In her 2020 book Tina Turner: That’s My Life, the "Proud Mary" singer wrote that she was "happier than [she'd] ever been," and enjoyed spending time with Bach, working in her garden and "doing nothing."
Turner and her husband, a former music executive, married at their home in 2013 after 27 years together.
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