Bologna, Italy: the perfect launchpad to explore Emilia Romagna
Bologna is one of Italy’s most underrated cities. It’s halfway between Venice and Florence, yet it’s somehow managed to keep a low profile and remain one of Italy’s best hidden gems. As the capital of Emilia Romagna, Bologna is a big city that feels like a small town. It’s a foodie’s paradise and a bastion of medieval architecture at the same time. And once you’ve eaten your way through its world-class trattorias, crisscrossed by nearly 40 kilometers of porticoes, you’ll be happy to know that there are many other incredible places nearby worth exploring. Based on my recent visit to Emilia Romagna, here’s my round-up of the 11 best day trips from Bologna by train or car.
Table of Contents
Where is Bologna?
Before jumping into the meat (or should I say, bologna) of the matter, here’s a map of Bologna and the surrounding region. I’ve included each of the places on this list of the best day trips from Bologna. As you can see, it’s smack-dab in the center of all the action.
Best day trips from Bologna in Emilia Romagna
Here are my favorite day trips from Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. If you’re planning to take trains to get around, I highly recommend using either Omio (formerly GoEuro) or TrenItalia.
|Brisighella in 3 words:||Medieval fairytale town|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 4 minutes (1 change)|
|Car ride:||50 minutes|
Bologna to Brisighella day trip
Looking for a cool Bologna road trip? This place will blow your mind!
Brisighella is a medieval fairytale town southeast of Bologna. It’s incredibly quaint and picturesque yet somehow, it’s managed to avoid the crowds. Grazie Dio!
Old world charm tucked between three majestic hills
What I like most about Brisighella are its three hills perched above the village. At the top of these hills, you’ll discover a castle (La Rocca), a clock tower (La Torre), and a church (Il Monticino). The entire town has a compelling history and makes for the perfect Instagram photo, which begs the question: how has this storybook village remained a hidden gem for so long? A shopkeeper later told me that it gets busier during the summer months, but only on the weekends. Having the whole medieval village to myself on a Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t complaining though.
After making the steep climb up the hills, I was rewarded with sweeping views of the fairytale village below. I couldn’t believe my eyes how quaint and vibrant the town is. Even on a rainy day, Brisighella is postcard worthy. With colorful buildings twirled around mysterious, low-hanging clouds, the whole scene felt scripted from the pages of a fairytale. On a clear day, you’ll see gently rolling hills covered with vineyards and olive plantations extending as far as the eye can see.
It was raining cats and dogs during my visit, which ultimately made sightseeing difficult. However, even pouring rain can’t detract from Brisighella’s raw beauty. I was so impressed with this medieval village on a rainy day that I can’t imagine how beautiful it is on a sunny one.
Whether you’re into medieval towns or abundant nature, Brisighella is one of the top places to visit near Bologna.
How to get to Brisighella from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, take a train to Faenza where you can hop on another regional train or take a bus or taxi the rest of the way. Trains between Faenza and Brisighella don’t run very frequently, so the latter could be a great option.
|Dozza in 3 words:||Historic walled town|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 30 minutes (1-2 connections)|
|Car ride:||45 minutes|
Bologna to Dozza day trip
Dozza is one of the best day trips from Bologna, Italy. Like Brisighella, Dozza is a dreamy medieval village just south of Bologna. It’s one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, an association of the best-preserved and most beautiful Italian villages. Based on my short and sweet visit, I can confirm it’s worthy of that title.
Rocca di Dozza
Watching over this pocket-sized town is the Rocca di Dozza, an imposing castle dating back to the 13th century. It costs €5 to go inside, where you’ll learn all about the Campeggi family who ruled here centuries ago.
In the castle, there’s also a lot of artwork and antique furniture, but the biggest draw of all is the dungeon that lies below. This dungeon-turned-enoteca (or wine bar) called the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, serves 800 select wines from the Emilia Romagna region. I did a wine tasting here, and it was one of the highlights of my visit. Besides having a buzz at noon-time on a Tuesday, it was wonderful to learn about this up-and-coming wine region.
Emilia Romagna produces 15% of Italy’s wine, including everything from Lambrusco wine (sparkling), Albana and Pignoletto (whites) and Sangiovese (red). In recent years, it’s become one of the top wine regions in the world.
Charming streets splashed with art
From one end of this historic walled town to the other (less than a 5-minute walk), you’ll feel like you’re in an open-air museum. Cobbled streets are lined with charming homes splashed with paint. That’s because each year, Dozza hosts an event called Biennale del Muro Dipinto, where artists are invited to paint the streets and buildings. It’s a clever way to breathe life into an old and sleepy town.
This brings me to my next point: despite its irresistible beauty, you’ll hardly find any tourists here. Even a couple of locals I met from Ferrara, a city just an hour away, hadn’t even heard of it! It was refreshing to walk around such a beautiful and quiet place, which made taking vlog videos much less daunting.
How to get to Dozza from Bologna
Add Dozza to your Bologna road trip, as the easiest way to get here is by driving. If you choose to take public transportation, you have three options to get here:
- Take a train to Imola and then a taxi to Dozza’s historic center. This is the easiest way to get to Dozza, as the buses don’t run frequently and are a bit tricky to navigate.
- Take a train to Imola, walk five minutes to the Autostazione Bus Station, and then take 1-2 buses to Dozza’s historic center. I don’t recommend this route, particularly during the off season, as the bus connections aren’t frequent nor reliable. You would need to take Bus 101 to Toscanella and then Bus 147 to the Piazza Rocca Sforzesca in Dozza. Bus 147 can only be arranged by request, where you’ll need to call the company one hour prior to the trip.
- Take a bus from Bologna Autostazione to Dozza Bivio (57 minutes), and then walk 35 minutes to the walled old town of Dozza. I did this route one way, and it was incredible! Since you must walk along a country road, you have to be careful, but the views of the pastures and vineyards were stunning.
|Ravenna in 3 words:||City of mosaics|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 9 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour|
Bologna to Ravenna day trip
Ravenna is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” kind of city. The streets and buildings aren’t the most charming and vibrant in the region, but the real treasure is what lies within.
As the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402-476 AD, Ravenna is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many of these impressive structures are Byzantine basilicas, packed with 5th and 6th-century mosaics – the most amazing I’ve seen outside of Istanbul. These mosaics are incredibly vibrant and well-preserved examples of early Christian art.
Though these basilicas are so rich in culture, they’re cheap to get into. There’s a combo ticket for only €9.50 which gives you access to five ancient buildings, including the Basilica di San Vitale, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Battistero Neoniano, and Museo Arcivescovile. Another cultural gem worth noting is the UNESCO Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe, which is a 20-minute bus ride from the city center.
As I wandered through each basilica, my jaw was practically touching the floor. I can’t fathom how people 1,500 years ago were able to create such elaborate works of art. The attention to detail and patience required is just staggering and mind-boggling. I’ve seen many beautiful cathedrals that are between 500-1,000 years old, but these ancient basilicas and their sophisticated mosaics are one of a kind.
Even if you’re not an avid churchgoer, visiting Ravenna’s basilicas is one of the top things to do near Bologna.
Fantastic food scene
People come to Ravenna for the ancient mosaics, but they stay for the food. Here, you’ll find many regional specialties, including piadina, a thin Italian flatbread served with a variety of fillings. My go-to is the prosciutto and squacquerone (cheese from Romagna). Buon appetito!
Because nearly all its treasures are indoors, Ravenna is the perfect day trip from Bologna on a rainy day.
How to get to Ravenna from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a regional train directly to Ravenna. Trains run every hour.
|Modena in 3 words:||Food, wine, cars|
|Train ride:||27 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||45 minutes|
Bologna to Modena day trip
Take your Bologna road trip to the next level by visiting this city known for its fast cars.
Modena is a bite-sized city and an easy day trip from Bologna. Known for its food and Ferraris, it’s a place where delight meets hedonism. If you enjoy fast cars, delicious food, and fine wines, you’ll find a home in Modena.
As the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari, Modena has a museum dedicated to his work and achievements. Inside the Museo Enzo Ferrari, you’ll find Ferrari sports cars on display from the 1950s through today. There’s also a collection of Formula One race cars. When you’re in the presence of such striking vehicles, you really want to jump inside and take them for a spin. The museum worker scanning tickets at the entrance even had to remind visitors not to do that.
The other main draw to Modena is its food, namely its Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. One of the highlights of my visit was taking a guided tour of Quattro Madonne, a Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy facility, where I learned about the different stages of production. It’s one of the top things to do near Bologna for many reasons. Here are some fun facts about Parmigiano-Reggiano, the “king of cheeses,” that I didn’t know beforehand:
- Only parmesan cheese from certain areas in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy can be designated as “Parmigiano-Reggiano”
- It must be aged for at least a year
- It doesn’t need to be refrigerated
- It’s lactose-free
At the end of the tour, there was a taste test, where we got to try cheeses aged for 12, 18, 24, and 36 months. As cheese ages, it becomes more bitter and less acidic. My favorite was the 24-month cheese, but to be honest if I took the test again tomorrow, I’d probably mix them all up. Coming from someone who rarely eats cheese other than on pizza, the quality across the board was second-to-none.
Tip: During peak season, these guided tours fill up fast. So I recommend booking online well in advance of your visit.
It was also fascinating to tour a traditional Acetaia (balsamic vinegar producer) called Villa San Donnino. Nicolina, our knowledgeable and friendly guide, showed us around the facility and explained what makes “Tradizionale di Modena” so special (and a tad bit pricey).
Interestingly, balsamic vinegar undergoes an aging process that’s pretty much the opposite of wine. Here are some interesting tidbits:
- Balsamic grapes are aged in attics rather than cellars. Unlike wine, variability in temperatures is a good thing; so hot and summers and cooler winters are an important part of the aging process.
- Barrels don’t need to be changed, so they can be quite old. One barrel in the facility dates to 1512.
- These barrels have an opening at the top, covered by a cloth, which is used for air circulation.
- Over the years, contents from larger barrels are shifted to smaller ones. After 12 years, they only take out 10% of the barrel’s contents, and then keep the rest to age.
- For the DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin), balsamic vinegar must be aged for 12-25 years. Some in the facility have been aged more than 100 years.
For all the reasons above, traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena can be on the expensive side.
Prior to visiting here, I thought balsamic vinegar was mostly used for salads. As it turns out, this kind from Modena is so exquisite (and expensive) that it’s used most often on meat and fish, and rarely for salads.
At the end of the tour, we got to try some balsamic glaze on gelato. So delicious! Not sure if I’d order it at a gelateria over chocolate or stracciatella, but it was a pleasant surprise at the end of the tour, nonetheless.
Other must-dos in Modena
Aside from its food and cars, Modena has a lively historic center that’s worth a stroll. There’s an interesting mix of medieval, Romanesque. and Renaissance architecture, which altogether make up the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some beautiful places around the old town include the Duomo di Modena (cathedral), Piazza Grande (main square), and Ghirlandina Tower.
I recommend having a bite to eat in the main square, which is a great place for people-watching. If you’re into wine, consider checking out a local winery or enoteca. On a Sunday afternoon in October, I found that most lunch spots and trattorias were fully booked. So I went to Archer Modena, an authentic enoteca which proved to be much better than the TripAdvisor reviews let on. Thank you Giulia for the recommendation!
If you’re looking for a small Italian city with great food for one of your day trips from Bologna, look no further than Modena.
How to get to Modena from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a regional train directly to Modena. Trains run every 30 minutes. If you have extra time, consider making a stop in Parma, a city that lies along the same train route.
|Ferrara in 3 words:||Lovely Renaissance city|
|Train ride:||30 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||45 minutes|
Bologna to Ferrara day trip
Tucked between Bologna and Venice is a beautiful city that deserves a spot in the limelight. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its art and culture, Ferrara is a place most foreign visitors haven’t visited nor heard about. It brims with stunning architecture and delicious food and drinks, which is why it merits a mention on this list of the best day trips from Bologna.
Renaissance and medieval architecture
In Ferrara, the star of the show is undoubtedly the Castello Estense (Este Castle). This imposing structure dates to the 14th century and is a symbol of power for the House of Este that once ruled from it.
Inside, you’ll find some nice frescoes and paintings from centuries past. There are also lots of mirrors where you can perfect your selfie game.
The castle’s rosy brick façade, moat, and drawbridges all bring you back to a bygone era.
Not far from the castle is the Ferrara Cathedral, another impressive structure. Unfortunately, this 12th-century church was closed for restoration work during my visit, so I couldn’t go inside.
If you’re into quaint cobbled streets, take a stroll down the Via delle Volte, which transports you back to medieval times. There are many overhead passageways and side alleys that capture the essence of Italy’s old-world charm. During a weekday in October, I pretty much had the whole street to myself.
Food and drink
One of the other highlights of a visit to Ferrara is its food and drink.
Ferrara is home to the world’s oldest wine bar, Enoteca Al Brindisi, which has been serving high quality, and surprisingly inexpensive, wines since 1435. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the waiters, who showed me their mention in the Guinness World Record book, which sits atop a dusty (and seemingly ancient) wine rack. The oldest wine bottle on display that I could see was from 1936. For the record, I think the overly dusty bottles were just for show.
Ferrara is also home to my favorite type of chocolate cake (after lava cakes, of course) called Torta Ferrara. It’s tender, flourless, and extra chocolatey, which is exactly what I look for in my cakes. I stopped by two authentic bakeries that served these decadent delights: Panificio Cappelli and Panificio Perdonati. I was in heaven.
I’ve been to many incredible gelaterias across Italy. From Rome to Venice and Florence to the Dolomites, I’ve never resisted the urge to indulge in these sweet treats. However, I can say with full confidence that my favorite gelateria thus far happens to be right in the heart of Ferrara, called Gelateria La Romana Ferrara. My friend Sofie, who also partook in BlogVille, agreed with this superlative. So it wasn’t just a heat of the moment type of thing; I don’t throw these superlatives around often.
Whether you’re into beautiful architecture or world-class food, Ferrara is one of the top places to visit near Bologna.
How to get to Ferrara from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a cheap regional train directly to Ferrara. Trains run every 20 minutes. From the station, it’s about a 20-minute walk to the city center. Consider renting a bike to get around using the Mobike app, as Ferrara is a very bike-friendly city.
6. San Marino
|San Marino in 3 words:||Majestic hilltop castles|
|Train and bus ride:||2+ hours (1 bus connection)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 30 minutes|
Bologna to San Marino day trip
This is one of the best Bologna day trips, yet it isn’t even in Italy!
Though San Marino isn’t technically in Emilia Romagna, or even Italy for that matter, it’s entirely enclosed by the region. As such, I felt it was suitable to include on this list of the best day trips from Bologna.
San Marino: A special place people know little about
As one of the world’s smallest countries and oldest republics, San Marino has always been an enigma to me. Dubbed “The Most Serene Republic of San Marino,” I’ve wondered how this city-state-turned-landlocked-country retained its sovereignty while more powerful kingdoms like Venice became absorbed into Italy. It’s also fascinating that San Marino, a country with just 30,000 people (the size of my hometown), has two presidents who serve 6-month terms. This microstate is shrouded in mystery, which made visiting here on a Bologna road trip such a treat.
An enchanting hilltop setting
Perched atop Monte Titano (elevation: 2,425 feet), San Marino’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s very walkable – you can cover its limestone streets, defensive gates, towers, and fortifications in about an hour if you wish. There’s a beautiful path that connects the Three Towers of San Marino, which makes for a magical stroll.
If it weren’t for all the jewelry stores and gun shops (not sure why the latter are so prevalent here), you’d feel like you’re back in ancient times. From Monte Titano’s peak, you can see parts of San Marino, the Italian countryside, the Adriatic coastline, and on a clear day, even Croatia.
The highlight of my trip to San Marino was catching the sunset, which illuminated the old towers and surrounding countryside in golden, purple, and orange hues. Golden hour also coincided with the time the tour groups left, leaving this mystical place quiet and serene. I think to properly experience San Marino, you should stay overnight in order to catch both the sunrise and sunset.
Before leaving San Marino, be sure to get your passport stamped. Though San Marino is not a part of the EU, you don’t have to go through customs or border control upon entering. As such, the only way to prove your visit (other than by Instagram, of course) is by getting your passport stamped in the tourist office for €5. Well worth it!
Getting here was also an adventure, and added to the suspense of visiting one of Europe’s best hidden gems.
A journey to a foreign land
On the bus ride from Rimini to San Marino, it felt like I was entering a mystical land. As I approached Monte Titano, San Marino’s historic center was blanketed by clouds. When I drew closer to the top, the fog and clouds began to clear. It was then, when the medieval fortresses and limestone streets became unveiled. The UNESCO Site’s timeless charm began to take hold. The majestic hilltop setting, paired with ancient architecture and fog covering parts of the fortress, made for the perfect scene.
Unfortunately, due to a few logistical obstacles (including a train strike), I was only able to spend an hour here before sunset rolled around. But when it did, boy, was it worth the 2+ hour commute to get here. San Marino is a gem, and I can’t wait to come back again soon!
How to get to San Marino from Bologna
Either drive or take a train and bus. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a regional train to Rimini, where you’ll then have to take a bus to San Marino. The fare each way is €5, which must be paid in cash to the bus driver. Buses come every 75 minutes, with the last one departing San Marino at 7:15pm. Here’s the official Bonelli Bus schedule.
|Rimini in 3 words:||Charming coastal city|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 30 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 20 minutes|
Bologna to Rimini day trips
After exploring Emilia Romagna’s bustling cities and quaint villages, you’re probably ready for a beach day. There’s no better place to spend a day vegging at the beach than Rimini.
This coastal city is known to be one of the top resort destinations in Europe. There are nearly 9 miles of golden sand beach, packed with plenty of beach bars and restaurants. But if lounging and sipping cocktails under colorful umbrellas isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know that Rimini’s old town is just a short walk away.
Must-see sights in Rimini
Unfortunately, due to a train strike, my time in Rimini was cut very short. I only had an hour to run around the city, which won’t do my write-up justice. However, in my recent leading up to this trip, and my brief time exploring the city, here are some things worth mentioning.
Rimini is home to ancient Roman structures, including the Augustus Arch and Tiberius Bridge. Named after Emperor Augustus, the Augustus Arch was built in 27 BC and is the oldest surviving Roman arch. The Tiberius Bridge, just a short 10-minute walk away, is also 2,000 years old. Though constructed so long ago, each monument still commands attention given their grandiose stature.
Just across from the Tiberius Bridge is a colorful neighborhood called the Borgo San Giuliano. It was originally a fishing village before becoming the artistic locality it is today. Street art and murals line its streets, which make for the perfect Instagram photo. If I had more time here, I definitely would have gone into one of its restaurants and cafés. I peeked inside some, and they appeared to mesh hipster vibes with Rimini’s fishing village charm.
Rimini also hosts a collection of other Medieval and Renaissance landmarks, including the Piazza Cavour, Castel Sismondo, and Malatestiano Temple. However, I wasn’t able to make it to any of them, so I’ll save those for another article.
Whether you’re a beach bum, history buff, or a little bit of both, Rimini is one of the top Bologna day trips.
How to get to Rimini from Bologna
Either drive or take a train and bus. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a regional train to Rimini, which runs every 30 minutes. If you’re willing to pay double the price, you can take a faster train that will get you to Rimini in 53 minutes rather than 1.5 hours.
Best day trips from Bologna outside of Emilia Romagna
Emilia Romagna deserves at least a week of your attention before you take your adventure to another region. There are so many incredible day trips from Bologna within 1-2 hours, that it makes sense to focus on the nearby cities and towns before venturing further away. If you do wish to explore outside of Emilia Romagna, here are a few additional day trips you should consider.
|Florence in 3 words:||A Renaissance masterpiece|
|Train ride:||40 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 30 minutes|
Bologna to Florence day trips
As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is an artist and architect’s dream. It is also a convenient day trip from Bologna.
This compact city in the heart of Tuscany screams Dolce Vita (sweet life) in every sense of the term, as it has since the days of the powerful Medici family. The entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where magnificent churches and palazzi (palaces) are stringed together by sprawling piazzas and narrow cobblestone streets. And then there’s the food and wine…which, are just as rich as the art for which this city is known!
From the top of a rooftop terrace, the bell tower, or the Piazzale Michelangelo, you’ll see why this city is a feast for the eyes, with the star of the show undoubtedly being the Duomo, Florence’s colossal cathedral.
According to UNESCO, Florence is home to 1/3 of the world’s art treasures. With magnificent masterpieces at every turn, this small historic center is full of some of the most important artwork of the Renaissance.
How to get to Florence from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you can take a TrenItalia train directly to Florence Santa Maria Novella station. This is the pricey option, but it will get you to Florence in under 40 minutes. If you want to save some cash and don’t mind making a connection, instead take a regional train to Florence, which will take 2 hours.
|Verona in 3 words:||Romantic, charming, timeless|
|Train ride:||1 hour (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 40 minutes|
Bologna to Verona day trips
Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” perfectly sets the scene for Verona. This city in the heart of Northern Italy is romantic, charming, and timeless.
As you walk down its cobbled streets, you’ll stumble upon a treasure trove of ancient sights connected by grand piazzas. It’s also home to the Arena di Verona, a massive amphitheater that’s just as impressive, yet better preserved than its Roman doppelgänger, the Colosseum. Verona doesn’t draw crowds like Venice and Rome, but it does offer plenty to see, do, eat (and drink), making it a great day trip from Bologna.
How to get to Verona from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you have several trains to choose from that will get you to Verona without any changes. These companies include TrenItalia, Deutsche Bahn, and Italo, all of which can be booked directly from the Omio app.
|Venice in 3 words:||City of canals|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 27 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 45 minutes|
Bologna to Venice day trips
Nicknamed La Serenissima (“the most serene”), Venice is a city of canals that’s been a cultural and commercial center since medieval times. It’s a place where you can spend hours on end watching gondolas glide in and out of the canals, while enjoying Spaghetti Carbonara and Venetian wine. Serenissima!
Venice is home to historic treasures such as the Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco, Grand Canal, and Palazzo Ducale, among many others. Today, Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the top things to see and do from Bologna!
How to get to Venice from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, you have several trains to choose from that will get you to Venice without any changes. These companies include TrenItalia and Italo, which can be booked directly through the Omio app.
|Milan in 3 words:||Historic, modern, fashionable|
|Train ride:||1 hour, 2 minutes (0 connections)|
|Car ride:||1 hour, 45 minutes|
Bologna to Milan day trips
Milan is the fashion capital of Italy, a place where you can shop ‘til you drop (or empty your bank account). It’s also a financial center known to be one of the richest cities in the country.
Milan is also home to the Bosco Verticale, a super modern condo building that has 20,000 plants growing on it. Not only is this good for the environment by reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, but it also regulates the temperature inside each of the units and cancels noise pollution.
But aside from the city’s contemporary nature, Milan also has a historic side. The Duomo di Milano is one of the biggest and most intricately designed Gothic cathedrals in Europe. I could spend hours just sitting in that piazza, gazing at this impressive cathedral that took centuries to build.
Milan is both modern and historic at same time, making it an interesting day trip from Bologna.
How to get to Milan from Bologna
Either drive or take a train. From Bologna Centrale, the Frecciarossa high-speed train is your best bet, as it will get you to Milan in an hourwithout any changes. The other trains take around 3 hours, which aren’t convenient for day trips from Bologna. Trains can be booked directly through the Omio app.
Where to stay in Bologna
- If you’d like to stay in middle of action, find an accommodation in the Centro Storico (historical center). I stayed right in the Piazza Maggiore (Main Square) and loved it!
- If you’d prefer to stay near the train station, consider the Bolognina (“Little Bologna”) neighborhood. This makes a lot of sense if you plan to do lots of day trips from Bologna and don’t want to walk too far to the station.
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How long to stay in Bologna (to give you plenty of time for day trips)
Ideally, I recommend staying in Bologna for at least 1 week to properly see the city and explore the surrounding cities and towns. However, because vacation time is limited, give yourself at least 2-3 days to explore Bologna. Then, tack on a day for each day trip you decide to do on your Bologna road trip. A week provided me with a holistic view of the region, but it’s really a matter of personal preference and how long you’re able and willing to explore this area.
Getting around Bologna and Emilia Romagna for day trips
Bologna is a very walkable city, so I think walking is the best way to explore it all. However, if your feet get tired, there are also plenty of buses and taxis to get you around.
The region as a whole is best explored by train or car. Each of the day trip destinations in this article are connected to Bologna via public transportation. As mentioned above, I prefer using Omio and TrenItalia rather than purchasing the tickets at a kiosk at the station. However, if you want to explore Emilia Romagna’s lesser known hidden gems, or simply want added flexibility, I recommend renting a car.
To discover the best prices across the different rental car companies, I recommend using Skyscanner. Sometimes, I book car rentals through small local companies, but these tend to carry additional risks. If you prefer peace of mind, then I recommend going through a company like Hertz or Sixt, which have stellar international reputations and I’ve used through them many times without any issues.
What to do in Bologna (aside from day trips)
I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Bologna, as I was so busy doing day trips. But during the evenings, I went for many pizza and gelato runs and tried out different trattorias.
One day, however, I had time to do a free walking tour and some other exploring, which gave me a high-level overview of the city. I also explored several kilometers of porticoes, including the 3.5-km trek with 666 arches that led all the way up to the Sanctuary of San Luca.
Here are my Instagram stories with my highlights of Bologna!
If you’re into Italian food (who isn’t?), I recommend doing a cooking class while you’re here. After all, Bologna is a foodie’s paradise and it wouldn’t have felt right to leave without gaining some understanding of the food culture. Ragù alla bolognese, anyone?!
I did a cooking class with Italy Food Nest, which was phenomenal. I came here with an appetite and limited knowledge of cooking, and left inspired to cook Tortelloni from scratch at home. Cristina was a fantastic teacher who’s passionate about the local specialties in Bologna. She also provided interesting cultural context behind the food, which I appreciated. Oh, and by the way, two hours after beginning the class, I tasted the best pasta I’ve ever had (by far!).
This cooking class with Cristina was one of the highlights of my trip to Emilia Romagna. I think doing something like this, whether it be a cooking class or food tour, is a must before or after your day trips from Bologna.
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