Taking the long way round, I travelled to Milan via the South of France. After a few days on the Côte d’Azur I took advantage of the Thello service from Nice to Milan. Operated as an independent venture, this is the only direct train service from the French Riviera to Milan.
Thello operates 3 times per day between Nice Ville and Milan Centrale, with one journey per day starting at Marseille St Charles. Journey time from Nice to Milan is approximately 4 hours 40 mins. On my journey the train was almost empty on the section between Nice, Monaco and Genoa, in contrast to the heaving commuter trains I saw pulling out of Nice towards Monaco – SNCF tickets are not accepted on Thello services.
Once we’d crossed into Italy and made an extended stop at Genoa, the train did fill up as it gained Intercity passengers heading up to Milan.
The train seemed to be calibrated to a international market with automated announcements in French, Italian and English; however, human announcements were made only in French and Italian – this could be rather problematic as it was the human announcement that included a notification that SNCF tickets are not valid on Thello trains.
Though I bought my ticket online but buying one at the station could be stressful as the ticket office doesn’t open until less than 20 minutes before the morning train departs.
Once on board, there is a lot of space – this is not a cosy train. It takes minimalism to the extreme, although this does mean that it remains roomy even when full.
If you are making the journey between Nice and Milan, you’ll want to sit on the right-hand but, unfortunately, it is not possible to select your pre-booked seat. Further, I still have not been able to find a seat map online anyway so you may have to make a new friend on board in order to see the spectacular coastline views along the way.
Author: Liam Henderson