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3 Days in Provence

Hello! I need help planning 3 days in Provence. I am an American female 60 yr old solo traveler who is participating in two all-inclusive retreat tours in Tuscany and the Avignon area. I need to make my way from Florence, on Sept 1st when the first tour ends, to the Avignon train station, where I will be picked up on Sept 4th for the second tour. I have 3 or so days between tours.

Ideally, I would love a one-way tour that could take me to my next destination, but that is likely just wishful thinking. I could take some slow trains hugging the coast to France, but I do not trust myself to make the two or more train connections. I could fly into Marseilles, spend some time anywhere in the surrounding area, then get to the Avignon train station in time for my pickup there.

The language barrier and being a solo female is causing me to feel much less confident about navigating and getting around during this 3 day period. I would love suggestions on what to do, where to stay, or a tour that could accommodate me during this interim period between my scheduled tours. Thank you so much for any tips or advice you can offer.

Sincerely, Jill

Posted by
18746 posts

I think a tour would be unlikely, but you can do this yourself without any problems. Managing train transfers is a useful life skill. Do it once and you'll see how easy it is. Just don't load yourself down with heavy luggage.

You'll need to change trains in Milan, but it appears that the schedules usually allow about 30 minutes there, which is plenty of time. You should arrive well before the platform number for your second train is posted. If you want extra time, you can book an itinerary that gives you more time at Milano Centrale.

There are several possible routes from Milan to Avignon. One goes through Switzerland (Brig-Lausanne-Geneva). There should be some nice scenery along that route, but the fare will likely be higher and it requires more transfers. You might prefer the route that sticks closer to the coast and requires only one additional change after Milan, in Nice. If you opted to spend your free time in that city (or taking daily side trips from it), you wouldn't have a transfer there at all. Or you might consider spending a night or two in the Italian town of San Remo, which is much smaller. You might be more comfortable there.

There's also the Thello, but I have no experience with that train.

I'm 65 years old and in the last 3 years I've traveled solo by train and bus through Italy, France, and a bunch of other countries. I am by no means the only not-young female doing that. It's perfectly manageable. The folks at the staffed ticket counters often speak some English, but when I'm not using a ticket machine (those are usually easy), I normally write down my destination, travel date and departure time so there's no confusion. In your case, you may want to buy your tickets now, in order to save (possibly substantially) on the fare. The bargain fares usually come with restrictions; they are typically non-refundable and non-changeable. Therefore you'll want to have your hotel(s) booked before committing to specific trains.

I don't mean to discourage your spending time in Provence. You can certainly go straight through to Avignon on September 1 (if you're free to leave early that day). But that's a long 10- or 11-hour train ride if you don't break up the trip somewhere. Avignon is a city of very manageable size. You could also investigate flying into Marseille or Nice.

Posted by
16852 posts

Trains from Florence to Avignon take about 11 hours and 3 connections. If you break the trip with a stay in Nice, then you only make one connection on each travel day. These tickets will be cheaper if you buy them soon. They're operated by 2-3 different railways but both Rail Europe and www.trainline.eu sell all the parts.

On Sept. 1, you can fly nonstop Florence-Nice on an afternoon flight by Mistral Air. The only nonstop flights that I see to Marseille are departing from Rome or Venice, per www.skyscanner.com.

Posted by
2 posts

Fantastic! Thank you, acraven and Laura, for your suggestions for ways to get to Provence from Italy.
I am most grateful for your encouragement of solo female travel. Taking your leads, and feeling much more empowered, I looked into many options for making this journey.

I have decided to take a coastal train Sept 1st from Florence to Ventimiglia. (6 hrs) I will stay there as my base for 3 nights to enjoy its more relaxed charms. From there I could consider day trips. From Ventimiglia on Sept 4th, I will take a train to Avignon TGV station (6 hrs) , where I get picked up at 3:30 for my second tour.

I wish I had known about these wonderful tours months ago and had as much time to research all there is to know and plan. It is quite overwhelming to learn trains, routes, layovers, schedules, connections, and the like. I am now ready to pull the trigger and book whichever train tickets I can, but I am still in need of learning which to book in advance and which to buy at the station. If you have suggestions for which train to use, and how to purchase, for the various legs of the trip from Florence to Avignon, I would surely appreciate it.

I would like to mention how incredibly wonderful all of you make this forum. I have learned a tremendous deal reading all of your thoughtful replies to queries. I contacted at least 6 travel agents to help me with this particular journey of mine. None of them were helpful at all, and usually made me think I spoke a different language - but still willing to take my money. So thank you to all of you who chime in and help us travelers - especially a novice one like me.