Are you heading to Bologna? Keep reading to find out how you can explore Emilia-Romagna and beyond on the best day trips from Bologna!
I’ve always wondered why first-time visitors to Italy never include Bologna in their itineraries. True, the city may lack the big-name attractions of places like Florence and Rome (Uffizi and Vatican Museums, I’m looking at you!) – but instead, you’ll find a much more pleasant atmosphere, smaller crowds, and lots of delicious food.
We’ve been lucky to visit the city several times during the last few years, and already wrote about the best non-touristy things to do in Bologna, as well as about the best small towns in Emilia-Romagna, many of which can be reached easily from Bologna.
But there’s more! Bologna is in the perfect location for road trips, with the Adriatic Coast and Apennine Mountains a short drive away. To make things better, Bologna is perfectly located along Italy’s high-speed rail line, so even day trips to cities like Milan, Venice or Florence are easy to arrange.
Here are the 18 best day trips from Bologna to Emilia-Romagna and beyond!
No time to read? Check out these day trips from Bologna!
- Private Full-Day Ravenna and Rimini Day Trip
- From Bologna: Romagna Region Wine Tasting Tour
- From Bologna: Balsamic Vinegar, Pavarotti and Ferrari Tour
- Emilia Excellence Food Tour
Day Trips from Bologna to Larger Towns in Emilia-Romagna
Very different from the bustling streets of Bologna, Modena may be a smaller and quieter town, but it holds great importance for Italian industrial development.
Let’s start with the peaceful and relaxing city centre, with narrow streets filled with classy shops and bars. The main square, Piazza Grande, hosts the Modena Duomo and the famous Ghirlandina, a 86 meter-tall bell tower, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
If you are into fast cars and motorsports, you don’t want to miss a visit to the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, an exhibition dedicated to Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the world-famous automotive company, which is partly set in his old house. You can also head to Modena Autodrome to test-drive a Ferrari!
While visiting Modena, stop by Tigellino Ducale to try some tigelle, round breads with cold cuts and cheese, which were invented in Modena and then spread all over Emilia-Romagna.
Getting to Modena from Bologna by car – Take the A1. Travel time approx 45 minutes.
Getting to Modena from Bologna by train – There are 3/4 trains per hour between the two cities, travel time is 30 minutes.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Emilia-Romagna, Ravenna was the capital of the western Roman Empire and of the European capital of the Byzantine empire. Therefore, the city has plenty to offer in terms of art and culture, especially for its spectacular mosaics.
The Galla Placida Mausoleum hosts some of the city’s most precious and ancient mosaics, depicting the starry night in spectacular fashion. Other incredible mosaics can be seen in the Battistero degli Ariani, where you can see a depiction of the baptism of Christ, surrounded by his twelve disciples.
If you are into literature and history, you may want to pay a visit to Dante Alighieri’s tomb. The poet, born in Florence, was exiled from his city and spent his final days in Ravenna, where he was buried.
On the culinary side, Ravenna is famous for its pasta-based main courses and for the piadina, a type of flatbread and one of the symbols of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Getting to Ravenna from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until the Ravenna exit, then continue along SS309 Romea. It takes just over an hour.
Getting to Ravenna from Bologna by train – Trains depart Bologna Centrale station for Ravenna twice every hour, taking about 1 hour 15.
Rimini is a city on the Adriatic sea, which became world famous during the ’70 and the ‘80s, when it became a symbol of the ‘Italian summer’, with beach clubs, bars, and restaurants.
On the promenade, you’ll find vintage hotels, which still have that unique 70’s design, and of course it is still a very popular summer destination for young people and families alike. The Adriatic sea is not one of the best in Italy, but if you are looking for some fun and good seafood, as well as a large fully equipped beach, then the Rimini promenade is surely the place to be. It’s probably the easiest day trip from Bologna to the beach, as it’s super easy to access.
Even if it is widely known for the summer life, Rimini has also a very nice historical city centre, with the old fishing village (Borgo San Giuliano), with wall paintings made on the old houses, still occupied by some of the elder citizens and even young students or workers. The village is full of tourists and restaurants, among which I recommend Borghetto, where you can try a delicious seafood Carbonara.
In the centre you can find some Roman remains, as well as the stunning Tempio Malatestiano church, with exquisite bas-reliefs and a painting by Piero della Francesca.
Getting to Rimini from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until the Rimini Nord or Sud exit, travel time 1 hour and a half.
Getting to Rimini from Bologna by train – There are 3/4 trains per hour between Bologna and Rimini, taking approx 1 hour and a half.
Perhaps even livelier and more bustling than Rimini, Riccione is the other famous Emilia-Romagna seaside town. Like Rimini, Riccione is a monument to the Italian economic boom and to the inventive mind of the Emilia-Romagna citizens.
The promenade was recently renovated, with an underground parking and green areas which makes it even more pleasant. Of course, like Rimini, Riccione has plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars, many of which opened in the late 20th century – it’s perfect for a day trip from Bologna to the beach, but you can also stay longer if you wish to relax (or party!)
If you are in for some shopping, be sure to have a stroll in Viale Ceccarini, where you can find some of the best fashion boutiques and shops. Riccione is also famous for the seafood dishes and the typical Emilia-Romagna’s main courses. Ristorante Tanimodi is one of the best in town to try some great dishes on the seaside.
Getting to Riccione from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until the Riccione exit, travel time 1 hour and a half.
Getting to Riccione from Bologna by train – There are 3/4 trains per hour between Bologna and Riccione, taking approx 1 hour and 45 minutes. Rimini and Riccione are very close to one another, so you can easily visit both on the same day trip from Bologna.
Parma is a very rich town, with plenty of art and a lovely city centre. It lacks the alternative and somewhat chaotic charm of Bologna or Ferrara, in fact Parma is closer to Modena in terms of architecture and lifestyle.
That said, the city made a name for itself thanks to the museums, the theaters, and the monuments which are kept in a pristine state, thanks to continuous renovations. Among those, the Monastero of San Giovanni Evangelista is a must-see, especially for the cupola painted by Correggio, a perspective depiction of Jesus Christ and his disciples.
For more paintings and masterpieces, be sure to visit the Galleria Nazionale di Parma, a truly wonderful museum where you can admire the works of Italian and foreign painters such as Carracci, Guercino, El Greco, Van Dyck, Correggio and Beato Angelico.
Speaking of another kind of art, Parma is well known for Parmesan cheese and for cold cuts, such as the famous Parma ham or culatello which is considered the best type of ham in the world. You can book a table at Osteria dello Zingaro, or at the Antica Osteria della Ghiaia, if you want to try some of the best cold cuts in town.
Getting to Parma from Bologna by car – Take the A1 to Parma, travel time is approximately 1 hour 15.
Getting to Parma from Bologna by train – There are 3/4 trains per hour between Bologna and Parma, reaching the city in about 1 hour.
6) Reggio Emilia
Tourists and Italians alike often ignore the eternal underdog among Emilia-Romagna’s cities: Reggio Emilia.
The reason is unknown, because Reggio Emilia has a lot to offer and it also holds a great historical importance for Italy. It was, in fact, the birthplace of the Italian flag, which the city celebrates every year with a festival.
The spectacular Town Hall also hosts the Sala del Tricolore, the hall where the Italian flag was created, and the Museo del Tricolore, where is possible to learn more on the history of the flag.
The Town Hall, is located in Piazza Grande (or Piazza Prampolini), a large square that also hosts the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, which hosts medieval and modern paintings. For more art, visit the Basilica e Chiostro della Ghiara, to admire the masterpiece of baroque painter Guercino, the Crocifissione.
Getting to Reggio Emilia from Bologna by car – Travel along the A1 for about 1 hour until you reach the Reggio Emilia exit, located right next to the stunning high-speed station by Calatrava.
Getting to Reggio Emilia from Bologna by train – There are two stations, Reggio Emilia and Reggio Emilia AV. If you are planning to visit the town on a day trip from Bologna, opt for the former – the AV station is nowhere near the city. There are 2/3 trains every hour from Bologna and travel time is about 50 minutes.
Ferrara is another important city in Emilia-Romagna that features a charming historical center.
Ferrara was an independent state during the Renaissance, a period of which the Castello Estense is still a testimony. This castle stands tall in the city centre, complete with a moat and towers. It is incredibly picturesque, especially at night.
Close to the castle, the main city square Piazza Trento e Trieste is usually bustling with university students and workers, which populate the many restaurants, pubs, and bars of the city.
In the square, you will find the Cathedral of San Giorgio and the town hall, which dates back to the 13th century. The cathedral features a particular union of various architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque. As for the food, one of the best places in town is Da Noemi, where you can try the salama da sugo, a pork salami typical of Ferrara.
Getting to Ferrara from Bologna by car – Drive along the A13 for about 50 minutes.
Getting to Ferrara from Bologna by train – There are several trains every hour between Ferrara and Bologna, and travel time is between 20 and 50 minutes depending on whether you opt for a high-speed or regional train.
Day Trips from Bologna to Small Towns in Emilia-Romagna
Also known as “little Venice”, Comacchio is a small town close to Ferrara. Its ancient origin is still well preserved in the historical center, which features a system of canals connected to the Po river.
The bridge Trepponti welcomes visitors and citizens into town, and it’s also a great spot for taking amazing pictures of the canals. Close to the bridge you’ll find the Vecchia Pescheria, an old fish market now used for art exhibitions and other events.
Walking in Comacchio is by itself a great experience, but if you want to find out more about the history of this town and of the river Po communities, then I recommend a visit to the Delta Antico Museum.
Of course, once in Comacchio, you really should take a boat tour through the famous Valli di Comacchio, a series of lagoons, where you can observe the ancient fishing houses and also watch pink flamingos in their natural habitat.
Getting to Comacchio from Bologna by car – Drive along the A13 until Ferrara and then take the SP15. It will take about 1 hour 15 (depending on traffic) to reach Comacchio.
Getting to Comacchio from Bologna by bus/train – There’s no station in Comacchio, but you can take a train from Bologna to Ferrara and then a bus. Travel time is about 2 hours each way.
Dozza is a small town in the province of Bologna, pretty famous for the murals painted on its buildings.
It all started back in the ’60s when Dozza hosted the festival “Il Muro Dipinto” (the painted wall) and invited numerous modern artists in order to paint the walls of buildings and houses. The festival takes place every two years, and is still ongoing. An actual open-air museum, you’ll be enchanted by wall paintings such as the Dragon or the Angel of Dozza in Via Edmondo de Amicis.
For more fantasy and marvel, you can also visit the Rocca Sforzesca di Dozza, the prison of the mighty dragon Frystan. This modern sculpture of a sleeping dragon that guards an egg, was created for the Dozza Fantasy Convention (named Fantastika) that takes place every two years.
Getting to Dozza from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until Castel San Pietro Terme and then take SP19 and SS9. It will take about 45 min to reach Dozza.
Getting to Dozza from Bologna by bus/train – There is no train station in Dozza, but you can get to the town by bus. Enquire at Bologna bus station (right next to the train station) for bus schedules and ticket prices, as they change regularly.
Brisighella is another historical town close to Bologna worth seeing. It may be less colourful than Dozza, but it’s still a pleasure to visit. It’s situated along Dante’s Way, a hiking/cycling path through Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.
The narrow streets and the façades of the buildings are made with chalk, and make for a pleasant stroll through the old town. The most famous street in Brisighella is Via del Borgo o degli Asini, where you can still admire medieval buildings with elevated arcs. In the past, these buildings were home to the workers, which brought chalk into town using donkeys.
Brisighella is also famous for the Clock Tower and for the Rocca Manfrediana, both overseeing the town. The clock tower was once a watchtower and is still connected to the fortress through a path. You can get there from Via degli Asini, but be prepared to climb a 300-step staircase.
After that, you may want to eat something! Brisighella has some good restaurants, such has Ristorante Locanda La Rocca, which also offers a splendid view of the town.
Getting to Brisighella from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until Faenza and then take SP72. Travel time is just over an hour, depending on traffic.
Getting to Brisighella from Bologna by bus/train – There is no train station in Brisighella, but you can get a train to Faenza and then change for a Brisighella-bound bus. The entire trip takes about 1 hour 20 each way.
A peaceful ancient village located on a hill and surrounded by trees, Monteveglio is a nice place to visit as a day trip from Bologna.
The arched gate, used as a guard tower in the past, now welcomes visitors into the town. The town features two towers, the Trecentesca and the Campanaria. The Trecentesca also hosts a museum with free access, where you can learn more about the history of Monteveglio.
There is also an ancient abbey built in the 12th century, that was recently open to public. Of course, being on top of a hill, Monteveglio offers some great panoramic sights of the Bologna countryside, perfect for taking wonderful pictures.
You can also find some good places to eat, like the Trattoria del Borgo, perfect to try out some traditional dishes like tagliatelle al ragù and truffle-based dishes.
Getting to Monteveglio from Bologna by car – It’s a quick 35-minutes drive along the SS9 and SP27. Monteveglio is just southwest of Bologna, in the Apennine hills.
Getting to Monteveglio from Bologna by bus/train – There’s no station in Monteveglio and bus connections are tricky. You’d better hire a car to visit from Bologna on a day trip!
Along with Reggio Emilia, Imola is the other city in Emilia Romagna that is often skipped by tourists.
Actually, it is pretty popular among motorsports fans for the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, a world-famous racing circuit, which was the theatre of moments of glory and also tragedy in Formula One history. The circuit also hosts a racing museum and a memorial dedicated to the legendary Ayrton Senna, who lost his life during a race in Imola.
Apart from the racing circuit, Imola has a very nice city center, with a splendid castle, built in the 13th century, which was once home to the powerful Caterina Sforza. In the center, you can also find the Complesso dell’Osservanza, a large complex used as a mental institute in the 19th century, now used for events and conventions during the summer. It still has a gloomy atmosphere, nonetheless it’s a rather unique place to visit.
Getting to Imola from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 until the Imola exit, taking approx 40 minutes.
Getting to Imola from Bologna by train – There are many trains every hour between the two cities, taking between 20 and 30 minutes.
13) Rocchetta Mattei
This bizarre hilltop palace seems a little out of place after so many traditional medieval villages around Bologna. In fact, Rocchetta Mattei is worth visiting because of its unique blend of Islamic and European architecture, which makes it really unique.
The palace was built in the 19th century by the Mattei family, and inhabited by the Count Cesare Mattei. The count conducted alchemical experiments in his private laboratory, in order to find alternative medical remedies. Inside the palace, you will see bizarre rooms with alchemical and Masonic symbols, which give the whole place an esoteric and magical atmosphere.
There are also rooms with archways typical of Islamic architecture, and the count’s own office with a splendid ceiling made of small pyramids. If you are not easily scared, you can also book a night tour of the palace, which adds even more mystery to the whole experience.
Getting to Rocchetta Mattei from Bologna by car – Rocchetta Mattei is approx 1 hour drive south of Bologna, in the Apennines. Drive along SS9 and SS64 Porrettana following signs until you reach the Palace.
Getting to Rocchetta Mattei from Bologna by train – Hop on a regional train bound to Porretta Terme and alight at Riola station. Rocchetta Mattei is about 1.5 km walk from the station.
Day Trips from Bologna Outside Emilia-Romagna
14) San Marino
San Marino is an independent state located between Emilia Romagna and Marche. It has its own government with two Captains Regent as heads of state and a Grand and General Council as a legislative body. It is also the oldest continuous Republic in the world, established in the 13th century.
Besides its peculiar politics, San Marino is a beautiful town that is really worth a visit. Take a walk through the Passo delle Streghe, where you can admire the three old towers of San Marino, as well as a breathtaking view of the landscape stretching all the way to the Adriatic Coast.
The towers were built in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, in order to protect the Republic of San Marino from the attacks of Rimini’s regents, the Malatesta family. In San Marino you can find plenty of souvenir shops, most of them selling ancient weaponry, so don’t be scared if someone tries to sell you a crossbow! Jokes aside, it’s a good place to go shopping as sales tax is lower compared to Italy.
The city is also home to the Museum of Torture, which for some could be gruesome, but it can give an insight on a darker part of this little country’s history.
Getting to San Marino from Bologna by car – Drive along the A14 to Rimini Sud, and then follow directions to San Marino SS72.
Getting to San Marino from Bologna by bus/train – Hop on a train to Rimini and connect to a San Marino-bound bus (departures every 90 minutes, travel time 1 hour). It would probably be long and inconvenient as a day trip from Bologna – why not spend the night in San Marino or Rimini instead?
As I mentioned above, Bologna is one of the main stops along Italy’s high-speed rail line, connecting it to many big cities (and tourist destinations).
Let’s start with Rome – day trips from Bologna to Rome are possible, as it takes two hours to travel between the two cities by train. Naturally, Rome deserves more than a day trip, but if this is all you can spare and it’s your first time in the city, we recommend visiting either the Colosseum or the Vatican, and spending the rest of your time just wandering around the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
Getting to Rome from Bologna by train – Book a seat on a Frecciarossa or Italo train in advance. Travel time is two hours each way.
Florence is actually not far from Bologna, so a day trip is really doable. The town needs no introduction – from the Uffizi to Florence Duomo and the statue of David at Accademia Gallery, there’s plenty to do on a day trip.
Other worthwhile activities include the view over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo, wandering around Giardino di Boboli, visiting Palazzo Pitti and eating out traditional Florentine food at places like I’Brindellone or 4 Leoni.
Getting to Florence from Bologna by train – It takes an hour to reach Florence from Bologna on high-speed trains like Frecciarossa or Italo. Make sure you book your tickets in advance.
Venice is not that far away, so visiting as a day trip from Bologna is totally doable! I would recommend spending the day wandering around Venice with no fixed itinerary – save visiting sights like Doge’s Palace and San Marco, or islands like Murano and Burano for another time.
Just walk around, enjoy the magical alleyways and canals of Venice, and stop for cicchetti and a spritz (or several) at Osteria al Squero or other bacari around the lagoon city.
Getting to Venice from Bologna by train – High-speed trains take 1 hour and a half, and cheaper regional trains just take 2 hours, so a day trip from Bologna to Venice is totally doable even on a budget!
Yes, you can organize an easy day trip from Bologna to Milan! A day trip is enough to go shopping or visit one or two of Milan’s famous tourist destinations like the Duomo or Last Supper. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance though!
Getting to Milan from Bologna by train – It takes an hour to reach Milan from Bologna on high-speed trains like Frecciarossa or Italo. Make sure you book your tickets in advance.