Just south of Bologna, the capital of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, lies a dreamy medieval village called Dozza. It’s one of the Borghi piu belli d’italia, an association of the best-preserved and most beautiful Italian villages, yet it’s totally off the radar for most travelers.
In fact, Dozza is so off the beaten path that two people I met from Ferrara, a city just an hour away, hadn’t even heard of it. Now that’s what I call a hidden gem!
Dozza is a pocket-sized town with lots of character. It’s one of my favorite day trips from Bologna, as it truly feels like a hidden gem plucked from the pages of a fairytale. There’s not a whole lot to do here, as it only takes 5-10 minutes to walk from one end of the walled town to the other, but it’s the perfect place to spend a day or afternoon exploring its charming streets. Here’s what you can expect to see in the magical, medieval village of Dozza.
Street art in Dozza
Dozza Italy is perhaps one of the most vibrant towns I’ve ever been to. That’s because every other year, Dozza hosts a week-long event called Biennale del Muro Dipinto, where artists are invited to paint the streets. This signature art festival occurs on the third week of September during odd-numbered years. I think it’s an amazing way to breathe life into an old and sleepy town.
Once this festival is over, the precious artwork is left behind in the form of street art and murals, making Dozza the open-air art museum that it is.
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In addition to admiring the street murals, you can also head inside the Research and Documentation Centre of the Biennial of the Painted Wall (Centro Studi e Documentazione della Biennale del Muro Dipinto), where you can see the archives and sketches relating to this biennial event.
Rocca di Dozza (Dozza Castle)
Dating back to the 13th century, the Dozza Castle was built in the medieval and Renaissance styles. It’s relatively petite compared to other castles in Italy, though fitting for a small village.
It only costs 5€ to go inside the Museo della Rocca di Dozza, which contains old artwork and antique furniture left behind from the Campeggi and Malvezzi families who ruled here centuries ago. You can also explore the towers and prisons that are still in tact.
The museum also has a justice room and a traditional, well-preserved Italian kitchen.
Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna in Dozza
After visiting Dozza’s resident castle, which can be covered in 1-1.5 hours, head downstairs to the basement and you’ll find an enoteca, or wine cellar. This dungeon-turned-enoteca is called the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, and is definitely one of the highlights of a visit to Dozza.
Here, sommeliers host more than 800 select wines from the Emilia Romagna region, including specialties like Lambrusco, Albana, and Sangiovese. Though not a famous and well-known wine region, Emilia-Romagna does account for 15% of Italy’s total wine production. You get a great deal for what you get here.
Inside the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, you can do wine tastings and courses. Not gonna lie, it was pretty nice having a buzz at noon-time on a Tuesday. It made exploring this colorful, small town even more entertaining.
Sellustra River Valley
The medieval village of Dozza stands on a hill overlooking the Sellustra River Valley. It’s surrounded by unspoiled countryside that includes gently rolling hills and vineyards – it’s truly a postcard-worthy scene.
Here’s a TikTok video I made, showcasing Dozza’s serene hilltop setting:
Chiesa Di Santa Maria Assunta in Piscina (the church of Santa Maria Assunta)
Dating back to the 12th century, the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Piscina is a magnificent structure in the heart of Dozza’s old town. This small church is often glossed over for the street art and murals, but it’s definitely worth paying a visit to see its ancient relics, including a marble statue of Mary and Jesus and a colorful high altar.
The Chiesa Di Santa Maria Assunta in Piscina sticks out amid beautiful street art and porticoes, yet the church itself is simple and elegant on the inside. Unfortunately, this church was locked both times I tried to walk in, but I saw pictures of the interior online and they looked stunning.
Palazzo Comunale in Dozza
Right next to the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Dozza is the Palazzo Comunale, a pretty palace that serves as Dozza’s town hall.
The Palazzo Comunale is home to lots of beautiful paintings, arches, and a clock arch. Just behind the palace, you can look out over the scenic Italian countryside.
Hike or bike along St. Anthony’s Way
Extending from Italy’s Veneto region to Emilia Romagna, St. Anthony’s Way has been a pilgrimage path for centuries.
Stage 10 of St. Anthony’s lies just outside of Dozza’s medieval walls, where you’ll have plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. There are several other trails nearby as well.
Where and what to eat in Dozza
Given its size, Dozza doesn’t have an endless supply of food establishments. I only spotted a few within the medieval walls, which include La Scuderia and Canè. I’ve included a map below where you can find each of them in relation to the castle.
La Scuderia is an authentic restaurant in town with a front-row view of the Dozza Castle. I’m usually not someone who advocates for dining in front of a castle, but given that this one isn’t touristy, the prices aren’t bad and the food is fantastic. The Tagliata al Sale Grosso di Cervia e Rosmarino (tagliata with Cervia salt and rosemary) is quite typical for the region, as are tagliatelle and garganelli dishes with ricotta and sage or ragù. Also, you can never go wrong with the classic Ragù alla Bolognese.
Not far down the road is Canè, another popular restaurant in Dozza. It boast a beautiful outdoor terrace, where you can enjoy stunning views of the rolling hills and vineyards that surround Dozza.
Emilia Romagna as a whole is well-known for having some of the best cuisine in Italy. As such, it’s definitely worth eating out at the region’s top trattorias, osterias, and gelaterias whenever you find them.
When is the best time to visit Dozza, Italy
Ideally, you can plan your visit to Dozza around the Biennale del Muro Dipinto that occurs every other September. During this festival, you can watch and even talk with the artists who come to paint the medieval town.
Another popular time to visit Dozza is the first Sunday of May, when the town hosts Dozza Il Vino è in Festa, an annual wine festival. Stands are set up around the quaint town, where you get to sample the best local wines as well as cheese, oils, and other authentic specialties that pair well with wine.
Otherwise, I think your best bet is to visit Dozza (and Emilia Romagna in general) during the spring or fall months. This is when accommodation prices are relatively inexpensive across the region, especially when compared to July or August. The temperatures are generally mild, so you’ll encounter the fewest tourists then (which isn’t really an issue in Dozza, but the fewer tourists, the better, right?).
Getting to Dozza from Bologna
Fittingly for a lesser known hidden gem, Dozza is tricky to get to.
Public transportation options, though plentiful throughout Emilia Romagna, are not convenient nor reliable for getting to Dozza. So if you’re looking to take a tour or otherwise get to Dozza by a certain time, your best bet is to drive here or take a taxi. There’s a free parking lot at the bottom of the hill before the entrance of the medieval town.
If you’d rather take public transportation to get to Dozza, here are some options.
Option #1: Take a train to Imola, and then a taxi to Dozza’s historic center. The taxi fare is about 15€ or so from the Imola station, which is significantly cheaper than taking a cab from Bologna.
Option #2: Take a train to Imola, and then a bus to Dozza. However, there’s an important caveat here. Bus 147, which is the preferred route via Google Maps, can only be arranged by request, where you’ll need to call the company one hour prior to the trip. I wouldn’t recommend this option, as you’ll be out of luck if your train to Imola is delayed (which happens somewhat regularly).
Option #3: Take Bus 101 from Bologna Autostazione to Dozza Bivio, and then walk 3 kilometers along the country road to Dozza’s medieval center. Note: There’s no sidewalk here, so you’ll have to walk on a grassy path next to the road. I did this on my way back to Bologna, and it was incredibly scenic. It’s about a 40-minute walk up the hill to Dozza, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. Though if you do, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of beautiful Italian countryside.
Additionally, Dozza is about a two-hour drive from Florence, but it’s similarly challenging to access via public transportation.
To get around Italy, I recommend using TrenItalia, Deutsche Bahn, and Italo, all of which can be booked directly from the Omio app.
Where to stay in Dozza
Given that there aren’t many things to do in Dozza, I would recommend visiting as a day trip rather than doing an overnight. If you insist on staying here for longer, you really can’t go wrong with any of the hotels or vacation rentals inside its historic walls. It takes just five minutes to walk from one end to the other, so location shouldn’t be a major consideration. I recommend taking a peek at Booking.com and Airbnb to find a unique accommodation available during your dates!
Dozza is not touristy at all
During my visit to Dozza, I only saw a handful of tourists. From what I could see, there was just one souvenir shop, a tiny grocery store, and a few cafés and restaurants where you’ll find locals playing card games.
Dozza is a small and simple village. It’s quaint and quiet, and despite the contemporary art that lines its streets today, this historic walled town still harkens back older and much simpler times.
As shown in my TikTok video below, there was virtually no one in Dozza during my visit in the fall:
Are you planning to visit the beautiful village of Dozza anytime soon? I hope you found this guide of the best things to see and do in Dozza to be a helpful resource! For more information about top attractions in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, check out my Bologna day trips article.
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