Cagnes-sur-Mer and Le Haut-des-Cagnes also make a fine day trip from Nice.
Roya Valley & the Mercantour National Park
The timeless Roya Valley and the Mercantour forests (one of only seven National Parks in mainland France) are a train hop away from Nice. The entire area was once the private hunting ground of Italy’s Turin-based kings. It only became part of France in 1947, and the Italianate train stations and tumbling hill villages remain. Thankfully, a lot of wildlife is left, too, in the form of wolves, marmots, ibex, eagles, and deer.
The Train de Merveilles (tendemerveilles.com), climbs up into the Roya Valley from Nice-Ville station up to six times daily. A stunning stop is Sospel, 45 min. from Nice. This age-old village is sliced in two by a raging river, and is a center for mountain biking, horseback riding, and alpine hikes.
Further north up the valley, the village of Breil-sur-Roya has stolen a few hearts, too. It lies at the nexus of several hiking paths, one of them leading downhill to Sospel.
The large ex-Italian town of Tende, 2 hr. from Nice, is the train’s final stop. The names above its stores, on its churches, and in its rococo graveyard are distinctly non-French. It’s also the gateway to the Mercantour National Park (www.parc-mercantour.eu). Before partaking in the park’s 100 hiking routes, make a visit to Tende’s Musée des Merveilles (www.museedesmerveilles.com; tel. 04-93-04-32-50), which highlight’s the area’s prehistory, cave paintings, and fairytale geography.
Lovers of la bella italia may continue on to Cuneo in Italy using a locals-only train that runs from Tende towards Turin several times each day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.