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Day trips from Bologna: 16 best things to do in Emilia Romagna

Not only is Bologna a cool city full of “food, glorious food” – it’s also a great place to base yourself for an amazing adventure in Italy. The region in which Bologna is situated, Emilia-Romagna, is already dotted with other fascinating, food-centric cities. Modena and Parma are prime examples, as well as the stunning history-packed Ravenna. All of these can be comfortably visited on day trips from Bologna. But it’s possible to get further even afield to Tuscany and the Renaissance marvels of Florence, to the canals of Venice, and to the mountainous republic of San Marino (another nation in itself!). You can, if you’re feeling extra intrepid, even head on a day trip to Rome. Day trips from Bologna are definitely not lacking in intrigue, with a long list of places to head when you’re finally satisfied with all that Bolognese cuisine. Curious to find out more? Then continue reading for the perfect places to add to your Emilia Romagna itinerary. Make sure to also read my post 26 Best Things To Do In Bologna, Italy. day trips from Bologna Table of Contents Best Day Trips From Bologna Day trips from Bologna within Emilia-Romagna Modena The beautiful city of Modena is, like Bologna, well known for its food. But even though it may be similar in terms of its culinary fame, Modena has an identity all of its own. Among its historic buildings, the Romanesque cathedral (dating back to 1184), situated in the heart of the city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Elsewhere, the Galleria Estense hosts a wealth of paintings and sculptures amassed by the wealthy Este family, who moved here from Ferrara in 1598. The best way to reach Modena from Bologna is by taking the Trenitalia train that leaves Bologna Centrale. It takes between 20 minutes and half an hour and it is very budget friendly. You could also consider this guided day trip to Modena that includes a visit at the main landmarks in Modena, including the Ferrari Museum and Luciano Pavarotti Museum. Maranello day trips from Bologna Maranello Just 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) from Modena, and in the province of the same name, lies the town of Maranello. For most people, coming to Maranello is all about visiting the birthplace and home of the Ferrari: this is one of the most popular day trips from Bologna. The Ferrari Museum is where people come from all over the world to learn about the history of this globally renowned Italian car brand. There’s the option to take pre-arranged tours directly from Bologna to the Museo Ferrari, and other Ferrari-related spots in Maranello (but also more expensive) – ideal if you’re particularly interested in cars and Ferrari in particular. To get to Maranello from Bologna, firstly take the high-speed train from Bologna Centrale to Modena; from there, if you’re going to the Museo Ferrari you can take a shuttle bus from Modena train station (leaving every 90 minutes; free). You may also want to consider this guided tour to Modena which also stops at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Otherwise, just opt for this Ferrari VIP day experience – it includes a visit to the museum and lunch at an exclusive restaurant. Parma day trips from Bologna Parma Another gastronomic hotspot in the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is, of course, famous as being home to Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma, or in English, Parma ham. In fact, it was the first Italian city to be recognized by UNESCO for its culinary traditions. And so as you might expect, you can enjoy sampling a whole lot of delicious food in any number of picturesque restaurants and eateries scattered around the city. There are also several historical sights in the area, with multiple castles dotted around the outskirts of the city. It’s also in Parma that you’ll find the Galleria Nazionale, home to artworks by such masters as Leonardo da Vinci. Easy to see why it’s one of the best day trips from Bologna. To get there from Bologna, the Freccia Bianca train from Bologna takes 50 minutes. You can also opt for this Parma Gastronomic Tour departing from Bologna – it lasts up to eight hours and includes tastings of Parmigiano and Prosciutto. Ferrara Ferrara Ferrara was for centuries the home of the powerful Este family. This eccentric noble dynasty patronized a variety of artists and architects over the years, and in doing so created a lavish urban landscape in Ferrara, even though the city is relatively small. It remains a beautifully elegant town and all the main sights centered around the Este Castle, of course, are all within walking distance of each other. The city is known for the weekday market that takes place in Piazza Travaglio, as well as a number of museums that tell the tale of this fascinating city. To get to Ferrara from Bologna, take the Regionale Veloce train; it takes 30 minutes. Alternatively it’s a 45-minute drive by car. Once you get there, you may want to join a guided walking tour such as this one. Piacenza day trips from Bologna Piacenza Set on the right bank of the River Po, just a few kilometers from the Apennine Mountains, the medieval city of Piacenza is not a common place to visit on day trips from Bologna. The lovely city, however, hides some beautiful architecture behind its Renaissance-era defensive Farnesiane walls (a sight in themselves). The historic center is the place to start. Walking the cobbled streets of Piacenza, you’ll pass colorful old townhouses and get a real sense of its history. In Piacenza, you’ll discover squares like Piazza dei Cavalli, home to the stunning Palazzo Gotico (dating back to 1281), and get to glimpse its beautiful pink-hued cathedral. Don’t miss the oldest church in town, Basilica di Sant’Antonio; construction began on this impressive brick building in 350 AD. Getting to Piacenza from Bologna is a simple matter of hopping on a train, taking about one hour and 20 minutes to ply the 143-kilometer (around 89 miles) route. Ravenna Ravenna Though choc-a-block with amazing sights, Ravenna remains blissfully untouristed compared to hotspots like Florence and Venice. Surprising, then, when you consider its UNESCO World Heritage Site credentials. It’s here that you’ll find a rich array of early Christian artwork, namely in the form of incredible 4th-century mosaics in its 1,500-year-old churches and baptistries dotted around the town. Ravenna is delightfully unassuming. But it’s here that thousands of years of history have played out. It was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the principal city of the Ostrogothic kingdom, and a center of Byzantine power in the region. During a time when the Italian peninsula was beset with invasions and gradual collapse, Ravenna remained a pocket of artistic industry and power. You can easily get to Ravenna by taking the train from Bologna. It takes just under an hour to travel the 69 kilometers (about 43 miles) between the two cities. However, a guided tour (such as this private full-day Ravenna and Rimini day trip) could be a good option if you want a more in-depth look at the city’s illustrious history. Otherwise, this half day guided tour of Ravenna from Bologna is another good option. Rimini Rimini Rimini is a coastal city home to both Roman relics and a vibrant nightlife scene. Despite its history, it’s the town’s long beach, nightclubs, and resorts that draw most visitors here. In 1843, the first beach bathing establishment opened its doors, and since then it’s attracted holidaymakers from across Europe. The town itself is surprisingly charming and features old stone buildings, twin central piazzas, old town ramparts, and a port canal. It’s surprisingly sophisticated when compared to its seafront nightlife scene. For film buffs, the connection to famed director Federico Fellini will be enough to entice you. To get there, it’s a 52-minute train ride from Bologna to Rimini (110 kilometers – or 68.3 miles – away). You could also consider this private tour to Rimini and Ravenna departing from Bologna – it lasts 10 hours and includes in depth visits and walking tours of both cities. Reggio Emilia Reggio Emilia Reggio Emilia began life in the second century BC as a Roman colony along the ancient Via Emilia. Fast-forward to 1406, and much of the city and surrounding area had been extensively developed by the powerful Este family, who controlled the town for around 400 years in total. The city is often overlooked by travelers to the region, who pass by on the Via Emilia without a second thought. But this lesser-trodden destination has a lot going for it and is a great destination for day trips from Bologna. Any exploration of Reggio Emilia should begin at its central Piazza Prampolini. The square is edged by impressive buildings, including the Sala del Tricolore – home to the first Italian flag (it was invented in this city!). And don’t miss its impressive Romanesque cathedral. Getting to Reggio Emilia is quick and easy. Trains from Bologna take just 30 minutes to cover the 59 kilometers (36.6 miles) between the two cities.