Day 9: Thello and Trenitalia from Marseille to Rome

The journey to Rome is actually an overnight one, as I am not travelling by high-speed rail. There are also no direct trains from Marseille to Rome, so I took the option with the least transfers, and yet is the cheapest way to get there, at the time of my booking.

Marseille-Saint-Charles is the main railway station of Marseille. Though it seems to be a dead end, some trains travel through from the Paris-Marseille Railway and the Marseille-Ventimiglia Railway, so they change directions at this station to continue their onward travel.

The view of Marseille from the railway station.

I was at the station about an hour before departure, so the screens did not show the platform of my train yet. But since I was travelling on the only Thello departure for the day, the train was rather easy to spot.

My Thello to Genova, beside a Eurostar e300 standing by for a Marseille to London St. Pancras through service.

Thello is a private railway company operating with leased locomotives and coaches, so you may not find it on regular booking sites such as SNCF’s. However, they offer one of the most time-effective and cheapest connections between France and Italy by conventional rail.

An SNCF Class BB 36000 leased from Akiem leads the way from Marseille to Ventimiglia.

The interior of 2nd Class.

A power socket is provided at the side of the table for every seat.

Getting ready to depart Marseille.

Almost all seats are in bays of fours, despite the seat selection on the website saying otherwise. Nevertheless, the train was relatively empty on my day of travel, so I had more space to stretch out.

The cafe-bar on board.


There is also an accessible 2nd Class car, sharing the same car with the cafe-bar.

The interior of 1st Class.

The seaside view on the right side of the train is better for the east-bound journey to Italy.

My only picture of Monaco from the train, since the line through Monaco runs entirely underground. Monaco is the world’s second smallest country with a land area of about 2 km².

At Ventimiglia after the France-Italy border, there is a locomotive change for the onward journey.

The SNCF locomotive returning to wait for the opposing Thello back to Nice in France.

I got my dinner from the bar on board. A sandwich, mineral water and coffee costs €6.

Collecting my coffee after having my sandwich. The coffee is prepared fresh, and the barista would even advise you to collect your coffee later so as to ensure its quality.

Don’t get a culture shock when you receive it though, the barista on board has probably seen too many. He actually asked me if I wanted more water in my coffee because, and I quote, “Italy caffè is very small”. When I responded with a puzzled face and said, “No thanks, it’s an espresso”, he was actually genuinely delighted.

Still travelling along the coast while having my coffee.

I arrived at Genova surprisingly on time, considering how much I have heard about train delays in Italy. Which also means I have to wait out my almost 3 hours in the station as it was night time already.

Price I paid from Marseille to Genova: €25 (Offer SMART)

The train then continues on to Milan where it terminates.

The facade of the station. There are 2 stations in Genova, Genova Piazza Principe and Genova Brignole, so make sure you know where your train departs from when booking. Most trains pass through both, though more actually stops at Genova Piazza Principe.

Finally after my almost-3-hours walking around the station, sitting down for a break, and repeating the process for about 3 times, my train to Rome was about to arrive.

My Trenitalia Intercitynotte to Rome, arriving on time.

As this was a short 6-hour hop to Rome, I decided not to book a sleeper and to just get the cheapest fare in 2nd Class, just to try the coach out. I’d have time to get the sleeper on my next leg anyway.

The corridor of the 2nd Class coach.

The seats come in compartments of 6, so there’s actually not much legroom and bag storage. It is the cheapest ticket though, so I can’t really complain.

Each seat comes with a partitioned headrest, so you could lean onto one side comfortably without the need for a neck pillow, and also to not disturb your neighbours.

Arrived at Roma Ostiense about 1 hour late, which I actually almost missed my stop as the conductor didn’t come around to wake passengers up, and my neighbours weren’t alighting here as well. Luckily I got off just 3 minutes before the train departed.

Price I paid from Genova to Rome: €19 (Economy) (could have been cheaper, but Super Economy was not available/sold out)

I will spend 4 full days in Rome, thanks to time-effective night trains available, saving me on lodging costs and allowing me to travel while I sleep, waking up in a brand new city the next morning.

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