From Nice, the train to Italy takes less than an hour, so it’s well worth adding a day of Italian adventure to your trip!
Taking the French TER train to Italy
The trains from Nice to the Italian border town of Vintimille/Ventimiglia leave Nice roughly every half hour, cost 7.50€ one-way, 15€ round-trip, and will take around an hour. Click here for an interactive schedule in English, and you can even buy your tickets online.
This route is included in the Zou Day Passes, Weekly and Monthly Passes and Carte Isabelle, so just get on the train and go, no lines, no tickets.
But if you are getting some other discount (like from the Zou 50/75 discount card for instance), the website sellers can’t take them into account, so either order online and pay full price, or buy your ticket in the train station from the machine or ticket office and get your discount.
Be sure to download the MaGare SNCF app so that you can know if your train is going to be late. For your return from Italy, know that all trains going in the direction of France stop at Monaco and Nice, then Antibes and Cannes, so you can take any train including ones with a destination of Grasse or other French cities.
A few tips for your day in Ventimiglia
Passport: Take it as there is usually a passport check on the train, but then put it somewhere where it cannot get pick-pocketed.
Best view: Choose seats on the right side of the train for going to Italy, and on the left for the return trip.
Ventimiglia Train Station: As this is the Italian border, the train station is full of migrants trying to reach France, which makes for kind of a zooey atmosphere. Beware of pickpockets.
Ventimiglia town: 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 Days: Friday 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.
Continuing to Sanremo or farther in Italy
Just down the coast, Bordighera’s Market Day is Thursday morning, and Sanremo has similar 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 a long Italian lunch.
To see some other less touristy 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.
Here’s the Italian train site in English to check schedules and buy tickets.
Italian trains are always late, so download the TrenItalia app (in English!) so that you will know ahead of time if your train is delayed.
For Sporty Types
You can rent bicycles 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 along the way. In Sanremo, 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.
Italian Café and Restaurant Quirks
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.
The cappuccinos in Italy are amazing, but know that at most stand up cafes 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!
If you haven’t already, read my Avoiding French Restaurant Pitfalls… all the tips are on point for Italy too.
See Related Pages:
- Mountain Trains
- Cheap Train Tickets and Rail Pass Deals
- Coastal Trains along the French Riviera
- Day Trips from Nice
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