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!
Make sure to also read my post 26 Best Things To Do In Bologna, Italy.
Best Day Trips From Bologna
Day trips from Bologna within Emilia-Romagna
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
Day trip to San Marino from Bologna
For the chance to visit a separate country entirely, San Marino is a tantalizing day trip option from Bologna. This tiny republic, covering an area of just over 61 square kilometers (24 square miles) is the fifth smallest independent country in the world.
Set on the slopes of Mount Titano – a location that helps to explain its long independence – this nation is a landlocked enigma of a destination. San Marino is the only survivor of Italy’s once numerous city-states, able to maintain its sovereignty long after the other powerful duchies, kingdoms, and principalities fell (and eventually unified).
Not only is San Marino one of the world’s smallest countries, but it’s also the world’s oldest independent country and the oldest republic (and has been since 301 AD).
It’s also a wealthy country, taking the title of having the highest GDP per capita anywhere on Earth. The UNESCO-listed Città di San Marino, the state’s central city with medieval streets and towers soaring above clifftops, is one of its nine municipalities – and the place where most daytrippers spend their time.
Interested in visiting? The fastest way to get there is to take the high-speed train to Rimini, then take the bus from there to San Marino (taking over 2 hours in total). Alternatively, you could go by car; the 130-kilometer (80.8 miles) route takes an hour and a half to drive. Once there, you can join a walking tour such as this one to explore the lovely town.
Another option would be to join one of the may guided day trips from Bologna that depart regularly to San Marino, such as this one.
Day trip from Bologna to Florence
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is the birthplace of the Renaissance. Crowned by its iconic black-and-white cathedral, Florence (or Firenze in Italian) is one of those cities that you should make a point visiting in your lifetime. As romantic as it is religious, around every corner there you’ll find a work of art in the form of architecture, buildings, statues, a fountain in a piazza. Simply put, it is enchanting.
Much of this small city has remained practically unchanged since the days of the Renaissance, enabling you to simply lose yourself in its cobbled streets. You can stumble upon 15th-century palazzi, peering inside medieval chapels, and explore its countless museums. Florence deserves a whole trip by itself, but a day trip here is enough to give you an introduction to this stunner of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get there, thankfully there’s a direct train from Bologna. The fastest one takes 34 minutes. Once there, you may want to join a guided tour to take in all the incredible sights. I recommend this Florence In A Day With David, Duomo, Uffizi & Walking Tour.
Day trips from Bologna to Lombardia
The capital of the Lombardy region, Milan is also known as the fashion capital of Italy. This high-speed, urban metropolis is where big business and industry play out on a backdrop of medieval attractions and early 20th-century architecture.
Known in its Roman era as Mediolanum, Milan has been since ruled over by many a ruler: the Lombards, Napoleon, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Mussolini.
Milan was and remains an important center for modern-day Italy. A good place to get a feel of this is at the Triennale Museum, a design-focused cultural hub that promotes the history of modern Italian design. Elsewhere, there’s the Duomo di Milano, the city’s Gothic cathedral (dating to 1386), the medieval Sforzesco Castle, and the sparkling high-end 19th-century shopping arcade that is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
You can also explore the city’s canal district in the Navigli area, while if you’ve got time for a show, Milan is also home to Teatro Alla Scala, one of Italy’s most famous opera houses, which opened in 1778.
You should also make it a point to visit the Cenacolo Vinciano, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – though for that you will need to get tickets three months ahead of your visit, or join a guided tour such as this one.
If all this sounds good to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that the 199 kilometers (123.6 miles) between Bologna and Milan can be traversed by train in 51 minutes flat.
Surrounded by three artificial lakes, the city of Mantua (Mantova in Italian) owes much of its current status to the notorious Gonzaga family. Though not always benevolent, this noble dynasty reigned over this city from the 14th to the 18th century, imbuing the city of Mantua with a lasting identity.
The Gonzaga family helped make Mantua a focal point of the Renaissance, enlisting the skills of artists and artisans of the age to create the city you see today.
One of the highlights of Mantua is the Ducal Palace, an enormous complex that was built between the 14th and 17th centuries; in fact, this is the sixth-largest palace in Europe. There’s also the 11th-century Rotonda di San Lorenzo (a cylindrical brick-built church) and slightly further from the center is Palazzo Te, a huge Mannerist mansion known for its magnificent frescoes and murals.
Mantua is only an hour and 10 minutes (85 kilometers, or 52.8 miles) away from Bologna by train. Once you get there, I recommend joining a guided walking tour of the city such as this one to take in the most important sights.
Day trips from Bologna to Veneto
Venice needs no introduction. This iconic city, the capital of the Veneto region, is spread out across 118 small islands, all crisscrossed with canals that have dictated the history and current life of the city for centuries.
Building a capital on a lagoon seems an unlikely, almost unwise, decision, but Venice prospered as a result, heading up a maritime empire that ruled parts of the Mediterranean from its origins in 697 to 1797. Its position as the European terminus of the Silk Road, made it one of the world’s first important financial centers, which in turn made it the wealthy city it is today.
Much of the watery city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the backdrop for endless Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Start your exploration at Saint Mark’s Square, marvel at the Doge’s Palace, visit Saint Mark’s Basilica, cross the famous Bridge of Sighs, and stumble around seeing charming sights wherever you go. It’s Venice!
And a day trip here is easily done from Bologna. It takes an hour and 13 minutes to travel the 129 kilometers (little over 80 miles) between the two cities. Once there, you should join a guided tour to take in the most important sights. I recommend this Venice In A Day With St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, & Gondola Ride.
You should also read my post 24 Incredible Things To Do In Venice.
Set on the banks of the River Bacchiglione, Padua is another famed city in the Veneto region – particularly known for its artistic and religious heritage. The city had a long rivalry with neighboring Venice, mainly over who would control the Veneto Plains; but eventually in 1405 Venice overpowered and ultimately occupied Padua.
In the 20th century, Padua became a center of Fascism; it was a prime venue for Mussolini’s rallies, where Fascist architecture sprang up, and was a center for the Italian Resistance.
Though largely destroyed by heavy Allied bombing during World War II, with many Renaissance treasures lost, historic landmarks remain. There’s the 13th-century Basilica of Saint Antony, the medieval fresco-lined Scrovegni Chapel, and the University of Padua itself – the second-oldest university in Italy.
It takes just under an hour to travel the 110 kilometers (68.3 miles) between Bologna and Padua. Once there, you should join a guided tour of Padua to take in all that it has to offer. I recommend this Padua Private City Walking Tour & Scrovegni’s Chapel Visit.
Fair Verona is famously the setting for Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet. But there’s much more to this city than being the backdrop for an English play. Its medieval old town sits alongside the winding waterway that is the Adige River, and much of its historic buildings are incredibly well preserved.
Look beyond the touristic Romeo and Juliet connection and you’ll find much depth here (although a visit to the 14th-century building known as “Juliet’s House” is a must). For example, there’s Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater built in 30 AD that is remarkably still in use to this day – and in much better shape than Rome’s famous Colosseum.
Then there’s the long list of attractive churches that sit along the city’s pretty streets and a number of architectural gems in the form of bridges. Head up the Torre dei Lamberti for a bird’s eye view of the city and the mountains in the distance.
It takes 50 minutes to get to Verona from Bologna, 107 kilometers (66.5 miles) away. Once there, you may want to join a guided tour such as this one.
Day trip from Bologna to Rome
Let me start by saying that I don’t recommend day trips from Bologna to Rome. It may be a tempting idea. And while the Italian capital does offer up a compelling collection of sights – from the ancient to the eccentric – a day trip will put you on a very tight schedule.
It can be done if you really want to, but the train that travels the 304 kilometers (that’s almost 190 miles) between Bologna and Rome takes around two hours. Considering you’ll have to get the train back as well, that’s almost 4 hours of journey time you’ll have to plan around.
The key is leaving as early as possible. You could take the 7:07 am train from Bologna Centrale that would take you to Rome by 9:10 am. The last fast train from Rome to Bologna leaves at 8:10 pm.
Having an itinerary will help you make the most of your time. I would recommend seeing the Colosseum in the morning, then heading to the Roman Forum, before visiting the Vatican. You might not have time to fully explore all of these sights, so it’s a good idea to book in advance and secure skip-the-line tickets.
Alternatively, you could consider this Rome In A Day Tour with Vatican, Colosseum & Historic Center – it starts at 9:00 am.
If you are planning a trip to Bologna, these other posts may be useful:
- Where And How To Rent A Car In Bologna
- A Perfect One Day In Bologna Itinerary
- How To Visit Bologna Towers
- The Ultimate Bologna Food Guide
- Where To Stay In Bologna