Day Trip to Italy

The train to Italy takes less than an hour from Nice, so it’s well worth adding a taste of Italian adventure to your trip!

What to do in Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia is the first town across the boarder, but even though it is so close to France, it looks and feels totally different and you really get a dose of Italian life.  There is a lovely daily covered food market (Tues-Sun)  just down from the train station on your right, with amazing produce, wonderful fresh pastas and raviolis, and great prices.

Market vendors with Ventimiglia's old town in backgroundFriday Market Day in Ventimiglia is an all-day affair, and although the police have chased away the counterfeit designer bag men, it’s still worth going not only for the discounted delectables, but also for the rock-bottom prices on leather goods, clothes, jewelry, basic housewares, gadgets, etc.   Just walk straight out of the Ventimiglia train station and in minutes you’re in the thick of the massive sprawl of stands in every direction.  It’s very fun, but again, just watch out for pickpockets.

On the second and fourth Saturdays, there is an open-air antique market open all day, lining the street next to the covered food market.

Take a break from shopping and savor a real Italian cappuccino.  The thing to know is that at some cafés and bars (including in the train station) you first decide what you want from the display, then go pay at the cashier, then return to the counter with your receipt and they will only then make your order.  Oh, and there are two prices depending on if you plan to drink your coffee standing at the counter or sitting down!

Restaurants in Italy are great, with emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients, home cooking, and much better prices than Nice, so be sure to have a long Italian lunch while you’re here!  My favorites in Ventimiglia that are great and not expensive include:

  • Geppy’s Bistro 15 via Hanbury
  • La Musa 7 via Hanbury
  • Osteria Consani 4 via del Teatro
  • Enoteca Consani 29 via Cavour
  • La BBQ 13 via Giuseppi Manzini

By the way, all Italian restaurants add a set cover charge, or coperto, usually 1-3€ per person depending on the restaurant, so don’t be surprised when you see this on your bill.  If you haven’t already, check out my Avoiding French Restaurant Pitfalls… it’s all on point for Italy too.

And don’t miss aperitivo, which is kind of like an Italian Happy Hour: for the price of a glass of wine or cocktail, almost all cafés and bars bring you a complementary selection of appetizers.

Continuing a little farther in Italy

Just down the coast, Bordighera’s Market Day is Thursday morning, and Sanremo has similar Morning Market Days on Tuesdays and Saturdays, both of which are smaller and less overwhelming than Ventimiglia, and both end around 1pm, just in time to have that long Italian lunch.

Day trip to Sanremo

Map of NoloBici bike rentals in ItalyYou can rent e-bikes in Sanremo and pedal down the Italian coast on a flat and peaceful bike path that goes for 24 km (15 miles), with gorgeous scenery and lots of beachside restaurants to stop at for lunch or refreshments along the way.  From the  Sanremo train station, just head down to the beach path where you’ll find NoloBici bike rentals; they are super friendly and helpful, have cruiser bikes and electric bikes, and have locations in all the little towns along the coast.

You can also do a scenic walk between Menton and Ventimiglia, or along the Italian coast between Ventimiglia and Bordighera (6 kilometers/4 miles); for all the details just click on the helpful links above from EasyHiker.

Getting to Italy from Nice

Trainline App logoThe trains from Nice to the Italian border town of Vintimille/Ventimiglia leave Nice roughly every half hour, cost 8.70€ one-way, and will take around an hour.   Click here for an interactive train schedule in English or just download the app, and you can even buy your tickets online.  This route is included in the Day Passes and Carte Isabelle Passes, so if you have one of these, just get on the train and go, no lines, no tickets.  At the Italian train stations on the way back you’ll see Nice listed on the board as Nizza.

Coming back from Italy, know that all trains going in the direction of France stop at Monaco, Nice, Antibes and Cannes, so you can come back on any train including ones with a destination of Grasse or other French cities.

Bring your passport as there is sometimes a passport check on the train, but then put it somewhere where it cannot get pick-pocketed.

Choose seats on the right side of the train for best coastal views going to Italy, and on the left for the return trip.

As the Ventimiglia train station is right on the Italian border, there are migrants hanging around there trying to reach France, which makes for kind of a zooey atmosphere.  But don’t let that stop you…!  Just take precautions against pickpockets.

To go a little farther and see some other Italian towns you will have to change to an Italian train in Ventimiglia.  You can buy your ticket from Nice to anywhere in Italy from the Nice SNCF ticket office, but you’ll save by either buying your Italian portion online (but do this once you get to Europe as it is much less expensive), or just buy your continuing ticket from the ticket booth at the Ventimiglia train station.  If you buy it from the train station, be sure to punch it in the little machine to validate it before going to your train.

Italian Train AppHere’s the Italian train site in English to check schedules and buy tickets, or just download the really well designed TrenItalia app (in English!) so that you will know on the fly if your train is delayed.


Photo credits:  Ventimiglia Friday Market by Best of Nice

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