South of France to Rome, Italy: Why So Hard?

When I leave today for Rome from sunny Montpellier, I will walk to the end of my street and board an express train to Nice. I have an hour and a half layover in Nice – just enough time to stroll down to the sea while munching on a delicious sandwich from Paul – and then I take the overnight train to Rome.

The train is lovely. I am usually alone in my sleeper compartment; there are fresh cotton sheets and a snug wool blanket; the porter brings me bottled water at night and tea, pastry and the newspaper in the morning. It’s a hotel that hurtles me toward my destination as I sleep, with constantly changing panoramic views and St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning sunrise. I step off the train at Termini refreshed and relaxed, and within 10 minutes I am at the door of my friends’ house.

The entire trip takes 19 hours, due to the layover and several lengthy stops in Italy throughout the night, which go unexplained but I think allow other trains to pass and also let passengers arrive in Rome at an hour when things are actually open (9.45AM as opposed to the previous arrival of 6ishAM).

Nineteen hours! People exclaim. Surely there must be a better way to get there?

The answer? No, not really. There are some that might take less time by the clock, but are infinitely more hassle, due to the fact that they all involve flights.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love flying. But trains were made to be easy, and they are. Heck, on the return tip’s Nice layover I rent a chair on the beach for the morning!

Sure, Ryanair, EasyJet and the rest of them fly from roughly my area (Carcassonne, Lyon, Marseilles, Paris; I mean, it’s all the same country, at least) to Rome’s two airports. But the airports are a hassle to get to from the trains I have to take to get to those towns (Paris Beauvais, anyone?); the planes often leave at bizarre hours, prompting either overnight hotel stays (goodbye, savings) or bizarre contortions of time and space (I can’t get to the airport 14 minutes before my flight; my only other choice is seven hours before my flight).

No, give me my train every time. Clean, comfortable, less chance of death, and you leave from and arrive in the center of each town. Also, one time an old Italian porter pinched my cheek and told me I was a star! When’s the last time someone did that on a plane? NEVER.

[EDIT: Ms. Adventures reminded me of another great thing about trains – bring as much heavy, awkwardly-shaped, or fragile luggage as you want!]

(P.S. You think I’m a foodie? Ms. Adventures has me beat! Check her out.)

A reader I suggested I look for cruises!  HA!  Love it.  I think cruise vacations are pretty cool, and that’s my little secret. You never have to worry about finding holiday apartments, and you can get good travel deals that tie in with the cruise part of your trip, too.

11 thoughts on “South of France to Rome, Italy: Why So Hard?

  1. I have taken the train a few times – and while the plane is much faster – you have a huge advantage in being able to bring 1 or 2 BIG bags with you and loading them up with goodies. Try that on Ryan Air and you’re paying €8/kilo for overage. Viva i treni!🙂

  2. I was like, man, who is reading my post so early in the morning (EST)? LOL

    I forgot about the luggage factor! You are so right. I’m adding it now!

  3. I”m with you. There’s times and trips for planes; and equally times and trips for trains.

    I think you know I share your love of trains. Generally, I err on the side of the longer the train trip the better (as far as time on train – not if you have to get off it). I also enjoy breakdowns that further delay the trip (during trips where time is of no issue). My fav trip of that sort was a trip from calcutta to siliguri (closest town to Darjeeling). 24 hour train trip. Took 48 hrs with breakdowns and random unexplained stops mid-track (one random one for 6 hours alone).

    ahhhhhhhhh…..Must train.

    Have a great trip.

  4. what train company is all this through? i am trying to travel from nice to rome and i just need to be to the rome airport before noon

    • You’ll need to do an overnight train which gets you into Rome early morning. SNCF for France, FDS for Italy.

    • The earlier you can get it, the cheaper it will be. Just make sure you can print it out as you need to. Also, note that they sometimes don’t sell the ticket between Nice and Ventimiglia – don’t ask why. LOL

  5. I want to travel from Nice to Rome in 7 days along the coast. Where are good places to stop over?. Does the train go along the coast? I want to make a weeks holiday of the trip.

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