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driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

NY
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driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

I am very recently widowed. We had been planning to drive from Nice to Florence with our 10 year old daughter. I am still going to Nice and Florence, but I am a far more timid driver than my husband was.

What is the best and easiest way to get from Nice to Florence? Is there a train route we can figure out without speaking Italian! What is the best route-- best meaning easiest, with fewest changes and some nice scenery. (My French at least is passable.) Also, from Florence, I thought I would just fly back to Paris, which is where we need to be next.

Do we dare drive from Nice to Florence? How long will that take, and how are the roads, the scenery and tolls? Flying is quite expensive-- especially between Nice and Florence. Can we rent a car in Nice and return it to Florence?

My daughter would enjoy a comfortable train that sold snacks-- and if they have wireless on board, she'd be ecstatic. We have driven, the two of us, from NY to Florida-- so we don't mind long trips. It's just a bit scary in two foreign countries, with road signs in other languages.Thanks!

Thanks for any and all advice.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

To get from Nice to Florence by train, you would take a local French train to Ventimiglia, then Italian trains. You would have to change trains at Ventimiglia and usually at two places in Italy, although the detail varies depending on the departure time. It would take at least 6.5 hours, but it is taking longer at present because a landslide has blocked the tracks just east of Ventimiglia and Trenitalia is using buses to get around the obstruction. See www.trenitalia.com clicking the UK flag to change to English and looking for trains from Ventimiglia to Firenze SM Novella.

You do best to take your own food onto the trains.

Going by car from Nice to Florence would take a bit over 5 hours of driving (plus stops), at a cost of €43.40 in tolls and about €50 in fuel. Most of the way would be on toll motorway, of much the same standard as a US Interstate. Most of the road signs do not use any language. The ones telling you which way to go use town names (needed no translation) and the ones giving warnings or instructions use pictograms. After all, there are many people driving in Italy who speak only French or German. See http://www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/RoadSigns.htm

However, if you pick up a rental car in France and drop off in Italy, there will be a very substantial one-way fee. Someone has to go to Italy and drive the car back to France.

Edited: 03 March 2014, 02:11
NY
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2. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

Very helpful! Sounds like the car option is far better. How do I find out what car rental agencies there are in Nice? I can drive to Florence and back down to Nice-- or even into Provence, if it doesn't matter where in France I return the car. But I will need an automatic! And a GPS, despite your kind assurances.

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

The car option is not necessarily better.

It's a 4 hour drive each way from Nice to Florence.

You absolutely do NOT want a car in Florence. You will find your way into a ZTL and you will get hundreds of dollars in fines coming your way.

So yould need to stay outside of Florence (and probably train into Florence) and then drive all the way back to NIce.

Edited: 03 March 2014, 02:43
Vence, France
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4. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

Florence again??? We had that just a few days ago, scroll down.

In brief: Parts of the city are restricted (ZTL). You can still drive into the town center and park your car outside these areas or at paid parking lots:

www.firenzeparcheggi.it/index.php?id=99

When you booked a hotel within the ZTL you are permitted to drive into the ZTL too.

Indeed you don't need a car in Florence. But a car is helpful to access some very nice restaurants out of town or for trips to Siena, Lucca...

Imperia, Italy
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5. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

The car option is certainly not better if you want to save money, unless you are returning the car to France. And it will take much longer than the four hours suggested earlier. And do not use a GPS in Florence as it could take into prohibited areas and along bus lanes.

http://www.viamichelin.com/ estimates five hours 7 minutes by car from Nice to Florence, and this website often underestimates the journey times taken by tourists unused to European roads. Plus you probably will need at least one and possibly two rest stops along the way, and if returning your car you will require additional time for refuelling and administration. Personally, I'd allow seven hours, and I drive much of this route regularly. If you are a timid driver, you may well not enjoy the section of autostrada around Genoa, which has narrow lanes and is often very busy indeed. There are also around 100 tunnels, which not everyone enjoys.

Trenitalia is now hoping to re-open the coastal train line past the landslide later this week, so this will not affect you later in the year.

In addition to the train route suggested in your first reply, you can also go via Milan with just two changes in Ventimiglia and Milano Centrale. This route is very much longer in distance so is more expensive if buying on the day of travel, but can be shorter in time because the trains are so fast between Milan and Florence. It can be reasonably priced in advance, but on the Trenitalia website you must buy Ventimiglia-Milano Centrale and Milano Centrale- Firenze S. M. Novella trains in two separate transactions.

Vence, France
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6. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

Its 420 km from Nice to Florence, so 4:30 - 5h it will take. But there are a lot of nice places on the way, Genoa, Portofino, Sestri, Lucca... so I would definetely make that a day, starting early, arriving late.

Edited: 03 March 2014, 14:03
Imperia, Italy
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7. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

To repeat, viamichelin says five hours 7 minutes centre-to-centre, calculated on fast driving near to prevailing speed limits and without rest stops, and without any allowance for roadworks and traffic congestion.

A timid driver with a ten year-old will almost certainly drive slower than this, and will almost certainly require one and maybe two rest stops along the way. From Nice to the other side of Genoa is a far more demanding drive than the typical toll highway, and from Pisa to Florence is also sometimes difficult. Allow six hours, and possibly seven.

Leaving the autostrada to visit nice places along the way will increase the time considerably, as you will then be driving along roads with low speed limits and are very likely to get tangled up in traffic. Visiting Genoa is particularly inadvisable, as congestion there is often a major problem, and driving there can be demanding even for those who are used to driving in Italy.

Vence, France
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8. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

7 hours for 420 km would mean an average of 60 km/h, right? On an "Autostrada"?

From Vence to the Swiss border (Como) I need 3 - 3:15h. Thats 380 km. Do not take this as a benchmark, but 5h to Florence will work out easily.

I wouldn't do Genoa on that day either (although I once did exactly that: Vence, afternoon in Genoa, picking up my daughter at the ferry, dinner, 11:30 pm. in Florence), but Sestri or Lucca are easy to access from the Autostrada without a long detour.

Imperia, Italy
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9. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

To repeat once again, five hours is highly unlikely to be enough time for the original poster.

It could well be enough for someone who is confident and used to European roads, who drives fast in a fast car and who takes no breaks whatsoever.

For someone on vacation who calls herself a 'timid driver' and who is accompanied only by a ten year old daughter who likes snacks, much longer may well be required.

Vence, France
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10. Re: driving, flying, or taking train from Nice to Florence

Yes, and I recommended a full day, with stops in nice places. Will be appreciated by the whole family.