Best ways to get from town to town along French and Italian riviera
March 15, 2016 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Traveling along the Côte d'Azur and the Ligurian Sea in the next few weeks. Need to optimize our travel between the towns on our itinerary but searching is giving me incomplete information. Can you walk me through it, step by step?

Hi, in a few weeks I and my two friends will be taking a trip along the French and Italian rivieras. We have flights and airbnbs/hotels booked, but I'm getting a bit confused about the best options to get from town to town, and we do not want to rent a car or hire a driver. So, mainly trying to figure out busses and trains between the various cities we are visiting.

Our itinerary: Marseilles airport (not going into Marseilles itself)>Aix (with possible day trips)>Nice (with day trip to Saint Paul de Vence)>San Remo>Genoa>Riomaggiore>Florence.

They don't have to be the cheapest options (although that would be nice), but ease and convenience and efficiency are key. And scenic also doesn't hurt. None of us speak any French or Italian really, but we are not shy and are seasoned travelers.

It would be incredibly helpful when telling me which bus or train to take, to inform me where exactly to find said bus or train in the departing town, and where we will be dropped off in the arriving town. That seems to be really hard information to find (especially for busses). I've done what feels like a lot of research and there doesn't seem to be a good central resource to look at. If you know of a good place to find all this info (I've been to sooooo many travel sites), that would be great!

If important, travel dates are April 25-May 6.

posted by greta simone to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Chemins de Fer de Provence is a way to get from Nice to the Italian border.

Cute train and affordable IRRC. I got it at the train station in Nice. The page is translated, but it was a lovely little trek from Nice to Monte Carlo.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2016

Rome2Rio can provide ideas and will include local transit directions if you put in your start and stop addresses and not just the cities. Here is Marsielle Airport to Aix, for example.
posted by soelo at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

For ease, convenience, efficiency, and scenery, it's hard to beat traveling by train. You can buy train tickets in France on (click the flag to choose country and language). I find that the easiest way to search schedules, though, is to use the Deutche Bahn website. Even if you're not traveling in Germany, they have European schedules and the interface is a lot cleaner.

Note that if you buy tickets online to be printed out at a kiosk, you must have a chip-and-PIN credit card to retrieve them at the station. If you buy tickets in person, same thing. You can use a magnetic stripe or chip-and-signature card at a ticket counter, but since most people these days buy their tickets online or from a machine, there aren't many counters open, and the people who use them tend to have complicated itineraries or lots of questions, so the wait can be long. If you know your itinerary in advance and can print out tickets at home, that's probably the way to go. When I travel in Europe, I buy online tickets, save a PDF to my Dropbox, and then print them out; if I lose the tickets, I can always find a place to print them out again.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:54 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

For actually booking train tickets, LOCO2 is a pretty easy to use site. You can pay online and print your tickets at home.
posted by timelord at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2016

Must first respond to another comment – Chemins de Fer de Provence doesn't go to Italy, it goes to Digne (the opposite direction, and a bit north to boot). To go to Italy by train, you want the good ol' SNCF. It's cheap, quick, beautiful, and safe, buuuuut a lot less reliable these past few years.

The TGV from Aix to Nice is gorgeous. It doesn't go full speed, but it's quicker (fewer stops), quieter, and less crowded as reservations are required. Price is roughly the same as regional trains (TER).

Definitely train (by TER) to Antibes, Cannes, Monaco, Ventimiglia (great market). AVOID THE BUS. omigod. The Riviera has become a nightmare on the roads. Within the cities themselves, they're very walkable, and in Nice the tram is quite convenient for getting near good tourist spots. Monaco is very fun to walk, but you'll want a map as straight, parallel lines are hardly to be found. Staircases and elevators are sprinkled throughout, as well.

From Ventimiglia you can switch trains to Italian lines that do indeed go to Florence. Always keep an eye on your luggage.
posted by fraula at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

We took the train from Nice to Florence a couple of years ago. The Man in Seat 61 is a terrific resource. These are my notes from our trip. We started by dropping our rental car at the Nice Airport.:

Nice -> Ventimiglia
Express #99 Bus from Nice Airport to Nice Ville Station
(Bought the bus ticket at the Nice Airport - probably from a machine. I'm sorry I don't recall where we caught it. But there were lots of signs.)
Then regional train from Nice Ville to Ventimiglia
(Bought the ticket at the train station. Very helpful staff.)
(Sorry for yelling. That's just what my notes say.)

Ventimiglia -> Genoa Piazza Principe ItaliaRail via TrenItalia
Train: 745 (I don't know if that's constant like a flight number or sequential)
Dep: 10:59 Arrive: 13:06

Genoa -> La Spezia Centrale ItaliaRail via TrenItalia
Train: 665
Dep: 13:47 Arrive: 15:21

La Spezia Centrale -> Firenze Santa Maria Novella ItaliaRail via TrenItalia
Train: 23387
Dep: 15:40 Arrive: 18:07

For reasons I can't remember, some travel advice somewhere, I elected not to print out the last leg from La Spezia to Frienze. I read somewhere that it was easier not to but I can't recall the details. Huge mistake. I have a hyphenated last name and could not get the machine to accept my name or ticket number. The woman behind the counter was pretty awful person and had no interest in helping - we were not being shitty demanding American tourists for the record. We are exceedingly polite since we don't speak any foreign languages and were treated very kindly everywhere else we've traveled. Anyway, we'd heard horror stories about being fined without tickets so I just bought a new set and finally we were on our way.

So pro tip: print all the damned tickets ahead of time.
Pro tip #2: pack light - there's a lot of stairs.

Have a great trip! The Ventimiglia market is indeed fantastic. We were just talking two days ago about the pizza we had at Ventimiglia - I remember it was the greatest thing I'd ever eaten when my husband reminded me I drank about a liter of wine and was starving. Still. Greatest. Food. Ever. And I'd go back to Florence in a heartbeat.
posted by Beti at 7:01 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that April 25 and May 1 are public holidays in Italy! This will alter transport timetables on these dates
posted by Flashduck at 2:41 PM on March 16, 2016

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