We just arrived in Nice after a whirlwind 8-day trip through Italy. We hit several hot spots between here and Rome given our limited time. It went like this:
Rome for the ancient history
Florence for the Renaissance art
The Cinque Terre for the rugged natural beauty
Alassio as a random pick on the map for a stopping point on the way to Nice,
There aren’t a lot of revelations about Rome or Florence, they are what you’d expect and we saw the usual sights. The Cinque Terre was far more beautiful - absolutely stunning, actually - than I ever imagined. But it was crawling with Americans - and I mean throngs and throngs and throngs of them. I can’t really complain, because of course we were among the throngs, but there was almost the weird feeling sometimes that we were actually in the States since all the voices we heard were American (and probably Canadian as well, I can’t always tell the difference.)
So anyway, the surprising highlight was Alassio. When I was planning the journey from CT to Nice, it looked like a long train trip so I decided on a last night in Italy along the way to break it up. I considered the halfway point of Genoa, but my google research didn’t sound very appealing (big city and some sketchy areas, I didn’t want to deal with that.). I just started googling the towns along the way one by one. When I got to Alassio, it looked like a beautiful seaside resort on the Riviera, with hotels in walking distance of the train station. BINGO.
Well, it was all that and more. The best part was that we spent a day and night in Alassio and didn’t hear a SINGLE ENGLISH SPEAKER! It is a beautiful small-town Riviera resort, very refined and elegant, yet practically no foreign tourists at the end of September. The weather is still gorgeous, in the mid-70s, and people were on the beaches and swimming. But apparently it is already the off-season and we strolled through quiet streets and had leisurely meals at restaurants where everyone seemed to be a local. There is plenty of shopping in the commercial center near the beach, and the shops are mostly nicer, upscale stores. No beggars, no scam artists, no pushy souvenir vendors, just a nice place to wander, shop, have a cappuccino, dine on fresh seafood, and sit on the public pier admiring the gorgeous view of the Mediterranean without being pushed, shoved, and jostled. No offense to my fellow tourists, I know we all want to see the same sights, and who can blame us, but I REALLY enjoyed a day as apparently the only tourist in town!
We did the whole trip by trains, and I do want to make a comment about that. Just like when I’ve been in France, I find they don’t ever check your tickets on the train. We’ve gone from Rome to Nice, with multiple stops along the way - and of course we paid for every ticket like we’re supposed to - and not once ever showed anyone our tickets. I did all my tickets on the Rome2Rio app, so we had e-tickets. One time I asked a Trenitalia employee on the platform how to validate an e-ticket, and she assured me that it wasn’t necessary. So basically we paid, but we could have NOT paid, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Same thing in the CT where we paid 29 euros each for a two day pass and rode the trains and buses without ever showing our pass to anyone.
Of course I would never steal a ride by hopping on without paying, but I do wonder how many other people are doing that. Even if you risk a fine, you could conceivably get hundreds of euros of free trips before you were ever caught and the fine wouldn’t amount to that. Just wondering why they are so lax is all...