19 Easy Day Trips from Bologna to Some of Italy’s Most Unique Destinations

Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy surprised us the first time we visited several years ago. We never expected to fall in love with its urban charms: good food and wine of course, and friendly people, for sure. But being the solitude seekers and slow travelers that we are, we didn’t expect to find such a comfortable embrace in one of Italy’s largest cities. Bologna was different. We not only felt at home on our first visit but wanted more, which is why we go back again and again.

Despite the recent tourism growth Bologna still feels undiscovered…which is exactly why you should go now, or at least add it to your Italy bucket list! You’ll need a few days to enjoy all the things the city has to offer, then get out and explore the surrounding regions on one of these 19 easy day trips from Bologna: to Emilia Romagna, northern Tuscany, parts of Lombardy and the Veneto. There are so many charming hilltop Italian borgos, iconic cities, natural hot springs, unexpected food and music festivals, and seaside towns all within an hour and a half by car or train. But be warned, it’s hard to break away from Bologna, even for a minute.


Emilia Romagna


1. Parma (1 hr by Train)

Northwest of Bologna is the university city of Parma, famous for Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham, all DOP of course. Foodies will love the fantastic food tours that include a visit to producers of both. A glass of new Lambrusco while you savor aged Parmegiano-Reggiano and paper thin slices of prosciutto will get you hooked on this region’s cuisine. Filled pastas, tortelli and cappelletti, hearty second courses, and incredible desserts keep us coming back. In between courses a must see are the beautiful frescoes in the Cathedral of Parma with those in the dome painted by Correggio. Go for the Romanesque buildings, visit the pink marble Baptistery, take in the art and the history, but definitely go for the incredible food.

  • How to get from Bologna to Parma - The Bologna to Parma train is on the same rail line as Modena and only takes 50-70 minutes.

2. San Marino (1.5-2 hrs by Train)

Republic of San Marino, Italy

This is the longest day trip listed here from Bologna, but since it’s such a beautiful and interesting place, we definitely wanted to include it. The mountainous Republic of San Marino is unique in the world — an independent microstate government in the north-central Apennine mountains of Italy. Right? How could we not include it! Since the 16th century, the city atop craggy mountain peaks has had its own governing constitution, making it one of the world’s oldest and most stable governments. It’s also a very cool day trip from Bologna to explore its historic architecture. On the slopes of Monte Titano sits the capital, also called San Marino, known for its medieval walled old town and narrow cobblestone streets. The Three Towers, castlelike citadels dating to the 11th century, sit atop Titano’s neighboring peaks.

  • How to get from Bologna to San Marino - The Bologna to San Marino train takes around 2 hours, but takes you through small towns and pretty countryside along the way.

3. Modena (1 hr by Train)

Modena, Italy is home to several bastions of Italian genius — Ferrari, Pavarotti, and balsamic vinegar — and is our pick for one of the best day trips from Bologna. Modena was the birthplace of both Enzo Ferrari and Luciano Pavarotti, two of Italy’s most beloved heroes who retained close ties with the city throughout their lifetimes. And balsamic vinegar, the sweet and delicious food made from cooked grape juice, is known around the world as one of Italy’s most important food products. A perfect Bologna day trip is to visit all three in the same tour. The Ferrari and Pavarotti Tour visits the two Ferrari Museums, a small winery, and a visit and tour to Guiseppe Giusti, a famous producer of balsamic vinegar.

  • How to get from Bologna to Modena - The most convenient way to get there is the direct Bologna to Modena train that takes one hour.

TIP: There are two Ferrari museums on the Ferrari tour, one in Modena and one in Maranello. The Modena museum is Enzo Ferrari’s birthplace with an adjacent modern museum that shows an interesting video on a split screen. In Maranello, you can visit the Ferrari Museum, which is more of an engineering and car museum, however, it is not the Ferrari factory. 

4. Maranello (1 hr by Car or Tour)

Ferrari Museum Maranello, Italy

Headquarters to the legendary Italian sports car brand, Ferrari, the town of Maranello is synonymous with manufacturing these world-class cars and Formula race cars. If you happen to own one or are thinking of purchasing one, you may be able to reserve an exclusive Ferrari Factory Tour. If not, head over to the Ferrari Museum Maranello and take in the research and development that goes into building these machines and the engineering marvel of the 12-cylinder engine. Even if you’re not necessarily a sports car fan, a visit to Maranello gives you an appreciation for the iconic Italian brand and amazing craftsmanship that goes into the making of one. If you’d like to do a test drive, Maranello is the place to do it for the true Ferrari experience.

  • How to get from Bologna to Maranello - There’s no direct train from Bologna to Maranello, but you can take a train to Modena, then taxi it from there. If you decide to rent a car, it’s a one hour drive from Bologna.


5. Faenza (1 hr by Train)

Pottery lovers rejoice! If you’re looking for something a little different with an artisanal handcrafted twist, Faenza is a great choice for a day trip in Emilia Romagna. Located southeast of Bologna in the province of Ravenna, the city of Faenza is famous for its pottery known as faience, an enameled ceramic also known as maiolica in Italy. This delicate pottery has been produced since the 15th century and is still produced by artisans today. A white background created by using a tin glaze is painted with intricate and detailed brightly colored patterns. Take a tour to see artists making these unique ceramic pieces. For an appreciation of ceramics from around the world through the ages, a visit to the International Museum of Ceramics should be on your list. Wine making is also a tradition here so take advantage of tastings around town, especially one of the prize wines of the region and a favorite of ours, Pignoletto wine.

  • How to get from Bologna to Faenza - Getting there is easy. There are 40 trains per day and the average time between towns is only 37 minutes.

6. Porretta Terme (1 hr by Train)

Poretta Terme, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Attention: Soul and R&B music lovers! Tucked away in the mountains between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany is a tiny place called Porretta Terme, site of the Porretta Terme Soul Festival dedicated to the memory of one of soul music’s most beloved artists, Otis Redding. Founded by a passionate soul music fan after he attended a commemorative music festival in Macon, Georgia in the US honoring the great artist, Graziano Uliani created this festival as a tribute. Since 1987, the festival has attracted top soul and R&B talent and music lovers from around the world. What an awesome and unexpected find this is. If you’re visiting the region in mid-late July and love soul music, make the easy day trip from Bologna to catch the show. There’s also the Castelluccio Castle to see with its fairy tale museum and 18th century sanctuary of the Madonna del Faggio. And, as the name of the town implies, there are indeed hot springs here. The Hotel delle Acque & Natural Spa is open to the public with thermal spring-fed pools and is just down the road from the Corno alle Scale ski resort.

  • How to get from Bologna to Porretta Terme - Porretta Terme is easily reached by car on the SS64 highway from Bologna, or by an easy and direct train ride as well.

7. Savigno (30 min by Car)

The small town of Savigno near Bologna is the truffle capital of Emilia Romagna, so if you’re a fan of the funghi, Savigno is surely your place. Each year, the annual Savigno Truffle Festival is held in November, and it’s a great way to introduce your taste buds to tartufo if they haven’t already met. We took a truffle hunting tour during the day with local truffle hunter Adriano Bartolini and his truffle dog Macchia, whose nose was to the ground the entire time we walked the dirt roads in the quiet country hills. Macchia seemed ravenous with the occasional heady scent of truffles on the breeze and in his trained nose, and Adriano kept a close eye on him lest he didn’t quickly gulp one down. The Italian Lagotto dogs are water retrievers highly trained to sniff out the treasured truffles buried in the ground, and he dug up three good size nuggets within an hour. Estimated price tag for these 3? Several hundred dollars a piece, or close to $1,000 USD. After your hunting expedition, reserve a table (well in advance) at one of Emilia Romagna’s most acclaimed restaurants, Michelin star honored Amerigo 1934 in Savigno. Chef Alberto Bettini is known for his creative and innovative cuisine and may very well feature the treasured tartufo found by Macchia that afternoon!

  • How to get from Bologna to Savigno - Drive or take the bus. Driving will get you there in a half hour, and the inexpensive bus is twice that time and costs around USD$5

8. Monteveglio (30 min by Car)

Monteveglio is a charming town located in Valsamoggia, not far from Bologna. Hike the Regional Park of the Abbey of Monteveglio or visit the Romanesque church of Santa Maria, one of the oldest pievi (a rural church with a baptistery) in the area. And bonus…the park lies in the heart of the Pignoletto wine region and is a great place to do a wine tasting at nearby Corte d’Aibo winery (make sure you taste the sparkling Barbera — so unique!) Leave yourself enough time to have dinner at Trattoria del Borgo, one of the best restaurants we’ve eaten at in Emilia Romagna. We recommend a reservation here especially during the season, and ask for an outside table in the courtyard when the weather is warm. You’ll love Monteveglio and a day trip here is easily combined with a visit to Savigno.

  • How to get from Bologna to Monteveglio - Drive, taxi or bus. it’s not far from Bologna and easy to get to.

9. Bagno di Romagna (1-1.5 hrs by Car)

Photo courtesy: Emilia Romagna Tourism

Photo courtesy: Emilia Romagna Tourism

This day trip is a little further from Bologna (56 miles/90 km) but it’s truly a unique experience of Tuscany thermal spas and local food — always a winning combo in our book! The small town of Bagno di Romagna is southeast of Bologna near the Tuscany border and was founded by the Romans who did one of the things that the Romans did best — they took advantage of the hot mineral water and constructed a bath. Today you can relax in one of several excellent spa resorts with thermal waters like the Roseo Euroterme Wellness Resort and the Hotel Delle Terme Santa Agnese. There are plenty of other outdoor activities in the area as well like bicycling, hiking, and horseback riding. The town itself has historic buildings and former palaces like the Palazzo Biozzi which is now a hotel. Being so close to the border of Tuscany there’s a wonderful fusion of local food traditions. Bagno di Romagna is the only place where you can enjoy basotti, noodles that are baked in broth then browned, sprinkled with cheese and cut into squares. Basotti is also traditionally served on the Festa del Perdono (Feast of Forgiveness), celebrated on the second Friday in March. Walking is the best way to see the town, do a little shopping and enjoy some special foods. If you can work it into your schedule we recommend a day here.

  • How to get from Bologna to Bagno di Romagna - The fastest and easiest way to get from Bologna to Bagno di Romagna is to drive yourself which takes about an hour and a half. You could take the train from Bologna to Cesena and there, after an hour’s wait, transfer to the Punto Bus to Bagno di Ramagno but that’ll takes about two hours and fifty minutes. Definitely drive yourself.


10. Ferrara (45 min by Train)

Any easy day trip, Ferrara was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its art and culture in 1995, and the Bologna to Ferrara train covers the 27 miles in 35 minutes on average. It’s most famous for its beautiful Renaissance architecture and city design while ruled by the House of Este. There are walking tours to see the main buildings like the massive and moated Castello Estense in the town’s center and the Cathedral of St. George. We couldn’t find a food tour per se, but there is no shortage of places to try the unique cuisine with some dishes that date as far back as the Middle Ages. Try the pasticcio di maccheroni alla ferrarese, a crunchy crust dome that covers macaroni with bechamel sauce, porcini mushrooms and truffles, served only here in Ferrara. But what we fell in love with was the cappellacci di zucca, a kind of hat shaped (no doubt worn in the Middle Ages) pasta with a pumpkin filling, and it is so yummy.

  • How to get from Bologna to Ferrara - The train from Bologna is direct and inexpensive.

11. Brisighella (1 hr)

Brisighella, Emilia Romagna, Italy

If you love enchanting medieval borgos, the medieval Italian villages that surround a castle or palace, head to Brisighella to immerse yourself in its charms. Italy has many towns like this but Brisighella is one of our faves. There are thermal spas here as well and quiet spas offering unique treatments like inhalations and medicated aerosols. Visit the 14th century Fortress Rocca Manfrediana, or stroll down Via degli Asini, a covered walk over the town’s ancient fortified wall. After exploring the town, grab a late lunch or early dinner at Trattoria Sant'Eufemia, where you can enjoy a hearty plate of local stews and homemade pastas to die for.

  • How to get from Bologna to Brisighella - Drive. Or take a train to Faenza then take a taxi or bus the last few miles to Brisighella. Watch your time, however, as many buses and taxis are limited at night.



12. Piacenza (1 hr 37 min by Train)

Piacenza is 89 miles (144 kilometers) from Bologna and an excellent day trip. The driving distance is just a bit longer at 95 miles (152 kilometers). Although no Roman ruins have survived there are wonderful period buildings to visit. There is so much here to see. In the central Piazza Cavalli there are two equestrian statues and the medieval Palazzo Gotico (Gothic Palace). This palace was never completed and only the north side was built. It was later finished and today serves as an administration building. The Piacenza Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy and a must see when visiting if not for the architecture then for the beautiful frescoes inside and the bell tower with a revolving golden copper angel on top. One of the best museums we visited was the Farnese Palazzo Civic Museums whose twenty-six rooms house paintings, sculptures, frescoes and weapons. There are food tours if you’re so inclined or excellent restaurants to enjoy the unique foods and wines of Emilia Romagna.

  • How to get to Piacenza - The best way to get from Bologna to Piacenza without a car is to take the train which takes on average one hour and thirty-seven minutes, and 41 trains/day on weekdays.


13. Rimini (1 hr by Train)

beach umbrellas, Rimini, Italy

Need a beach fix? Nine miles of golden sand beaches make this resort town on the Adriatic a favorite with Italians. Yes, there are Roman ruins, museums, historical sites and a Renaissance cathedral, but make no mistake, this is a beachside party town. There are cafes, bars and restaurants galore. So if you’re tired of hopping from museum to museum and need a day of sun and fun, plan a day in Rimini.

  • How to get from Bologna to Rimini - The Bologna to Rimini train ride takes just under an hour, and 32 trains run each day.


14. Ravenna (1-1.5 hrs by Train)

Not visited by as many tourists as Bologna, Ravenna is an easily managed day excursion. Having eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this is the premier city for historic Byzantine mosaics. Most of the sites can be covered in a day but we thought the Basilica of San Vitale to be the most remarkable. There are mosaics just about everywhere and the tomb of Dante Alighieri who wrote “The Divine Comedy” is buried in the graveyard next to the San Francesco Basilica. But architecture and mosaics are not the only reasons to visit Ravenna. There is a vibrant food scene here featuring many of the familiar dishes of the region but also things like piadina, a peasant bread made without yeast and usually eaten while still warm. Homemade pastas dishes typical of the region and fabulous fresh seafood can be had in most all restaurants. Go for the mosaics, yes, but stay for the food.

  • How to get from Bologna to Ravenna - East of Bologna and not quite on the coast, the Bologna to Ravenna train takes about an hour and a half with the fast train taking less than an hour.


Tuscany


Florence, Italy

15. Florence (1 hr by Train)

Many visitors to Bologna don’t realize that it has such a prime location smack dab in between Venice and Florence, and from Bologna to Florence, train travel is fast and easy — just an hour away. So if you’ve been dreaming of visiting Italy and exploring Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, it’s a very easy day trip from Bologna on a direct train through beautiful countryside, then a quick taxi ride to the historic center of the city. If you only have one day in Florence, check out the Day Trippers one-day itinerary in our Florence itineraries guide, for ideas on what to see in Florence near the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio.

  • How to get from Bologna to Florence - You definitely want to take the direct train to Florence. Getting around the city by car is challenging and not for out-of-towners.



Veneto


16. Venice (1.5 hrs by Train)

Did you know that Venice is reachable from Bologna in just an hour and a half? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true — one of Italy’s most underrated cities is that close to one of its most visited cities. And while we absolutely recommend spending more time there, if a day trip to Venice is all you have, then be all means go. Because after all, it’s Venice. If you can spare one overnight from Bologna to walk the narrow streets of Venice at night after the tourists leave or take a sunset boat tour in the Venice lagoon, do it. Visit the main attractions like the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square to see the main Venice attractions or to catch a gondola ride. If you want to get off-the-beaten-path, download our self-guided Venice walking tour that circles these areas and takes you to the less-crowded streets and canals.

  • How to get from Bologna to Venice - Train travel is definitely the way to go for a Bologna to Venice day trip and it’s a comfortable 1.5 hours.

17. Verona (1.5 hrs by Train)

verona-1700454_640 (1).jpg

A major tourist destination north of Bologna in northern Italy, Verona has a large metropolitan area, and the history, rich culture, and well preserved Roman and medieval structures have distinguished it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made famous by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, there is no shortage of sites to visit here including ‘Juliet’s House’, a building that dates to the fourteenth century with a small balcony overlooking a courtyard. There’s no real evidence that the play was anything other than The Bard’s imagination but it’s fun to romanticize. Visit the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater that predates the Roman Colosseum where live performances are held. If you love the architecture of old churches, definitely go to the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore which dates to between the tenth and twelfth centuries. It’s simply beautiful. When it comes to dining, the food of Verona is hearty stuff and they have some unique traditional dishes. Along with with beans and polenta, one of the most popular foods is gnocchi, a filling potato/pasta dumpling that’s traditionally served with horse meat stew. Meat is popular here and horse meat in particular, which is served in a variety of ways. And by all means, do a tasting of the wonderful full bodied and fruity regional wines.

  • How to get from Bologna to Verona - The Bologna to Verona train is the best option and takes less than one and a half hours. They run on time and are clean and comfortable. A bus is less expensive but takes a bit longer.


18. Padua (1.5 hrs by Train)

Prato della Valle piazza, Padua, Italy

The ancient city of Padua is just 30 minutes from Venice, and is known as one of the most beautiful and charming cities in northern Italy. Visit the amazing painted frescoes in the 12th century Scrovegni Chapel, like a mini Sistine Chapel. The popular Prato della Valle piazza is a great place to hang out for locals and visitors, and is the largest square in Italy and also in Europe at a whopping 90,000 square meters. The 11th century University of Padua, one of the oldest universities in Europe, adds a fresh and youthful vibe to this ancient city, especially in the Old Town where you could spend the afternoon in a vibrant cafe or among the students favorite gathering places.

  • How to get from Bologna to Padua - You can easily get from Bologna to Padua by train or bus, though the train is faster, more comfortable, and a direct route.


Lombardy

19. Mantua (1-1.5 hrs by Car or Bus)

Castello Gonzaga, Mantua, Italy

Surrounded by three artificial lakes in the northern region of Lombardy is Mantua, a city known for the architectural legacy of the Renaissance Gonzaga rulers who ruled until 1707 and built the Ducal Palace, the largest residence in Italy after the Vatican. The Gonzagas also built the Te Palace, known for the Sala dei Giganti or Chamber of the Giants, where every surface is painted with mythological scenes. It’s rare to find a medieval city like Mantua that hasn’t been rebuilt or torn down, but this is a hallmark of Mantua, definitely a great place to delve deep into Italy’s medieval past. The city was declared the Italian Capital of Culture in 2016 and the European Capital of Gastronomy in 2017. It’s probably time to go!

  • How to get from Bologna to Mantua - Drive. Or take the Marino bus for the 1.5 hour ride.



Where to Stay in Bologna


Hotel Touring

Rooftop terrace at the Hotel Touring, Bologna, Italy

Centrally located in the historic centre down a quiet street is the Hotel Touring, a family-owned and operated hotel with a homey feel, but one of its best features is a panoramic rooftop terrace. Simple, ultra comfortable, and just a few minutes’ walk from Piazza Maggiore. Check prices and details.

Portici Hotel

If you're looking for modern elegance, Portici Hotel is a good choice. Located within walking distance to the city center near the University, one of the best parts about staying here are the cooking classes through Bottega Portici! Check out the latest rates and more details.

Hotel Corona d'Oro

The city's only 4-star luxury is at the Hotel Corona d'Oro, super close to the Piazza Maggiore. Get the latest prices and details.

Hotel Novecento

The Viennese-style Hotel Novecento on Piazza Galileo has gorgeous contemporary rooms & suites with marble bathrooms. Some rooms also have outdoor terraces with great views! Check out the latest prices and details.

Art Hotel Orologio

Simple, elegant, and generally under $100 USD/night, the Art Hotel Orologio is a great value in the heart of the city centre. Check out the best rates and more details.

Hotel Metropolitan

The Hotel Metropolitan is a great choice if you love chic elegance in a great location (just a few blocks from Piazza Maggiore), with a beautiful outdoor space. Check out the latest prices and more details.


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