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Top 10 Day Trips from Bologna, Italy

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Welcome to Bologna, Italy, a cultural hub of history, art, and amazing food. Although you can easily spend a while exploring this beautiful historic city without running out of things to do, it’s nice to think about getting out there and seeing more of this sensational country. 

The good news is that Bologna isn’t just a pretty face. It’s also extremely well-connected. This dreamy destination in Northern Italy is within striking distance of several major cities and hidden gems, making it an ideal base camp for day trips.

In this guide, we’ll embark on a journey through the best day trips from this vibrant city, from the medieval charm of Florence to the timeless allure of Venice.

Delving into each destination, prepare to use Italy’s excellent rail network (mostly departing from Bologna Centrale train station) for speedy and cheap transportation. Booking train tickets ahead of time can help streamline your journey, but don’t be afraid to think about renting a car or driving.

This list has a couple of attractions that will appeal to auto fans, and there is a beautiful driving country between Bologna and most of these destinations.

So let’s get cracking as we embark on a voyage of exploration and enlightenment. From the cobblestone streets of Modena to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ravenna, each day trip on this list offers unique attractions, fascinating local culture, and history, as well as gastronomical delights to get your tongue around. Here are our favorite Bologna day trips!

TL;DR – Best Day Trips from Bologna

Destination Travel Time Transport Mode Highlights
Ferrara 50 minutes Train Estense Castle, Palazzo dei Diamanti
Modena 30 minutes Train Modena Cathedral, Museo Ferrari
Parma 1 hour Train Parma Cathedral, Parco Ducale
Ravenna 1.5 hours Train Ravenna Mosaics, Dante’s Tomb

1. Modena

Aerial view of the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, Italy
DVisions – stock.adobe.com
  • By Car: ~1 hr
  • By Train: ~20 mins
  • By Bus: ~20-30 mins

First up on this list of day trips from Bologna, let’s look at the Medieval city of Modena, which is a very easy day trip (if not within walking distance). This historic town is so nearby and home to many attractions that a Modena day trip is practically mandatory.

The best way to get there is by hopping aboard a fast train, whisking you away from Bologna Train Station to the heart of Modena. This short train ride is extremely convenient and offers stunning views of the Italian countryside over a 15-20-minute journey.

Once you’ve arrived in the historic center of Modena, start with a visit to the magnificent Modena Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site boasting breathtaking Romanesque architecture. And let’s not forget about the legendary Enzo Ferrari Museum, where car lovers can marvel at some of the world’s most iconic sports cars and learn about the man behind them.

Ensure you also investigate Modena’s most famous contribution to Italian cuisine; balsamic vinegar. Most “balsamic” vinegar you’ll find in supermarkets is artificial, but Modena is one of the world’s biggest producers of the real deal. As well as being great for cooking and salad dressings, genuine Modena balsamic makes great souvenirs and gifts.

2. Ravenna

Santuario del Monticino in  Brisighella, Ravenna
hibiscus81 / Adobe Stock
  • By Car: ~1 hr 10 mins
  • By Train: ~1 hr 15 mins
  • By Bus: ~2 hrs 10 mins

Ravenna is also pretty close by and a great day out from Bologna if you fancy a day at the beach or a whiff of sea air. This lovely town is also a prime destination for history buffs, foodies, and shopaholics looking for cool boutiques.

When planning your Ravenna day trip, car and train travel takes around the same amount of time and follows the same rough route. You can also find cheap local bus services, but the journey drags a bit.

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll definitely want to grab yourself an espresso or a bite from a family-run trattoria. The seafood in Ravenna is freshly caught every day and some of the best you’ll find in this part of the country.

Aside from delicious food, you’ll be dazzled by Ravenna’s historical and cultural attractions. The awe-inspiring Basilica di San Vitale, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture adorned with stunning mosaics, is the best place to start.

One of several fascinating churches and cathedrals to explore in Ravenna, it’s also home to Dante’s tomb! Other hits include the beautiful Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the Baptistry of Neon.

3. Florence

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers
  • By Car: ~2+ hrs
  • By Train: ~40 mins
  • By Bus: ~1-2+ hrs

If you’re not catching a high-speed direct train from Bologna’s central station to the heart of Florence – what are you doing?! The drive up the A1 is scenic enough, but it’s a busy toll road. The train, however, is a smooth ride that will have you from A to B in less than an hour, with some great views and zero traffic to contend with.

It always amazes me just how geographically close these hugely famous cities are but they maintain their own distinct character. Bologna isn’t exactly under the radar concerning Italian history, culture, architecture, food, etc., but Florence’s wealth of iconic attractions and stunning architecture is something else. 

Firstly there’s the legendary Uffizi Gallery, one of the most famous art museums in the world. Home to masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci any first-time visitor needs to pay the Uffizi a visit.

Then there’s the awe-inspiring Florence Cathedral, which dominates the city skyline. Taking over 200 years to build, this Medieval masterpiece is well known for its brick dome, the largest of its kind on Earth.

Don’t forget about the Ponte Vecchio bridge, a rare merchant bridge where you can find breathtaking views of the Arno River while you hunt for gifts. And then there’s Florence’s tasty food!

The city’s dining scene is legendary; it’s the home of the Florentine steak, among other tasty treats. It’s also easy to find superb local wines to wash it all down with.

See Related: Three Days in Florence and Bologna

4. San Marino

Statues and historic buildings in the castle of San Marino
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers
  • By Car: ~2 hrs 10 mins
  • By Train: ~3+ hrs
  • By Bus: ~1 hr 30 mins

If you’re thinking of more unique day trips from Bologna, consider going international without leaving Italy – and no, I’m not talking about the Vatican. A few hours away from Bologna by bus, car, or train will land you in a tiny but mighty microstate called San Marino. 

The best way to kick off this adventure is by renting a car or hopping on a bus from Bologna to San Marino. It’s a scenic drive through the picturesque countryside, offering stunning landscapes. You might even want to opt for a private all-inclusive tour from Bologna to San Marino and back.

San Marino is a unique destination to check off your list. This rocky micronation is the fifth smallest country in the world, and its entire population can fit inside Michigan Stadium – three times over! Surrounded by Italy, San Marino has a fascinating story and scenery that could just as easily come from the Tolkien pages.

While the Vatican still feels like being in Italy, San Marino has a bit more of its distinctive flavor. You can see it in San Marino’s Guards of the Rock at the Palazzo Publico and taste it in a local Three Mountain Cake. A large portion of the population speaks Romangol.

Start your day by exploring the iconic Three Towers of San Marino. Cresting the three majestic mountains that define San Marino’s topography (and lend their name to the aforementioned waffle cake), they’re the defining symbol of the city and nation of San Marino, making them a must-see.

The ancient fortress of Guaita, perched high atop Mount Titano, is the oldest of the three. This fairytale castle offers panoramic views of the capital city and surrounding countryside.

5. Venice

Couple wearing venitian carnival mask in front of gondolas in Grand Canal during Venice carnival in Italy
Maresol / Adobe Stock
  • By Car: ~1 hr 45 mins
  • By Train: ~1 hr 45 mins
  • By Bus: ~1 hr 45 mins – 3hrs

The island city of Venice is a bucket list destination for countless travelers. Famous for its gondolas, mask culture, Carnival, canals, and sinking buildings, this is an easy day trip from Bologna.

While the train is a seamless and cost-effective way of transportation for your Venice day trip, I’d actually recommend driving or taking the bus. This means you’ll drive along Ponte della Liberta (Liberty Bridge), home to some of Northern Italy’s most spectacular vistas.

Once you’ve arrived in Venice, you’ll be just as bowled over by its timeless beauty. Start your visit with a stroll along the iconic Grand Canal, where you can admire the evolution of the architecture, as well as the city’s gaudy palaces and churches.

A must-see site is the legendary St. Mark’s Square, home to the utterly majestic St. Mark’s Basilica and the iconic Campanile Tower. The Doge’s palace, built in the Middle Ages, is another famous Venetian landmark deserving a visit.

And, of course, no first-time trip to Venice is complete without the obligatory traditional gondola ride. It’s a little cliched, but a romantic cruise through the city’s winding waterways, taking in the sights and sounds of this enchanting city, is cliched for a reason – it is pretty magical.

See Related: Where To Stay in Venice

6. Milan

Duomo di Milano, one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy
Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock
  • By Car: ~2 hrs 30+ mins
  • By Train: ~1 hr 15 mins
  • By Bus: ~2 hrs 20 mins – 3+ hrs

Yes! The fashion powerhouse of Milan is reachable in less than two hours by high-speed train. Milan is renowned for its world-class shopping districts, including the illustrious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a four-story luxury mall and the oldest of its kind in the country. 

Along with being one of the world’s premier shopping destinations, Milan is also a major cultural hub and has a little bit of everything for any sort of traveler. It’s hard to think anyone wouldn’t be blown away by the magnificent Milan Cathedral, a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural prowess.

It’s the largest church in the Italian Republic, taking about six centuries to build (being finished in 1965). It beggars belief, both inside and out.

For the culture vultures, a visit to the illustrious La Scala Opera House is essential. Considered one of the world’s most famous opera houses, it’s one of Italy’s most beloved cultural landmarks. Even if you can’t get tickets for a show, it is open for tours and has its museum.

Oh yeah, Milan is also home to The Last Supper. Yeah, that Last Supper.

7. Verona

Aerial view of Verona, Italy
Olena Zn / Adobe Stock
  • By Car: ~1 hr 45 mins
  • By Train: >1 hr
  • By Bus: ~2-3+ hrs

Now let’s talk about day trips from Bologna to Verona, the city of love made famous by the Shakespearean drama Romeo and Juliet. Just look at this dreamy city, and you’ll understand why it became the backdrop to the most famous love story of all time.

The best way to get there is by train from Bologna’s central station. It’s quick easy, and’ll have you in Verona in just under an hour. That said, the drive is exquisite.

Once you’re in Verona, stroll through the charming streets of the historic city center, where you’ll find a mix of ancient Roman ruins, stunning Renaissance architecture, and bustling piazzas, where you can grab a cheeky espresso.

Be sure to make time for the iconic Juliet’s House, where you can see the famous balcony that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the city and is a favorite photo op.

And let’s not forget about Verona’s culinary scene! Indulge in some traditional Veneto cuisine at one of the city’s cozy trattorias, and don’t miss out on a glass of local vino from the surrounding wine region.

8. Maranello

Horse statue and sign in Maranello, Italy
lapas77 – stock.adobe.com
  • By Car: >1 hr
  • By Train: ~1 hr 15 mins
  • By Bus: ~2-3 hrs

Maranello, the home of fast cars and good times, is an easy scenic drive for a Bologna day trip. The drive takes about an hour, and you should be driving, because once you arrive in Maranello, we’re heading straight to the Ferrari Museum Maranello. Yep! Another one!

Gearheads know Maranello as the home of the Ferrari factory and its Formula One team. At the museum, you can check out some of the coolest cars on the planet, learn about the company’s race teams, and maybe even test one of their latest models in the supercar simulator.

And auto addicts can even book a private tour of the famous Fiorano Circuit. Ferrari uses this savage racing track to test their Formula One cars. Depending on who you ask, you might even be able to spin around it!

9. Parma

Duomo and Baptistery in Parma, Italy
Renáta Sedmáková / Adobe Stock
  • By Car: ~1 hr 15 mins
  • By Train: ~1 hr
  • By Bus: ~1hr 30 mins

Anyone interested in taking an Italian food tour from Bologna should consider Parma. Known for its fine ham and parmesan cheese, this fantastic city might be the stuffed pasta capital of Northern Italy and is also known for its hearty soups and stews.

The gastronomically inclined should absolutely make a pilgrimage to a local Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese factory. There you can see the meticulous process behind Italy’s most iconic cheese firsthand, and sample some of this tangy hard cheese from the source!

Apart from its mouthwatering cuisine Parma’s understated elegance, a subtle symphony of Medieval and Renaissance architecture, divided by the pretty Parma River, is a sight to behold. A visit to the Parma Cathedral is essential, its magnificent facade is a big draw, matched only in beauty by the beautiful Baptistry.

More of the city’s inherent beauty can be admired at Parco Ducale. This sprawling public park is popular with locals and home to the impressive Palazzo Ducale di Parma.

See Related: Most Beautiful Towns in Europe to Visit

10. Ferrara

Aerial view of Castello Estense in Ferrara, Italy
dudlajzov / Adobe Stock
  • By Car: ~50 mins
  • By Train: ~30-40 mins
  • By Bus: ~30-40 mins

Last up is Ferrara, a city-wide UNESCO World Heritage Site, just a stone’s throw away from Bologna. Catching a train ride from Bologna’s central station is the most efficient way of getting into the heart of Ferrara. Buses (depending on stops and service) roughly take around the same time but are generally cheaper if you want to save some cash.

Ferrara’s splendid collection of Renaissance architecture will delight any building buff or history nerd. And the best part is that it can be absorbed in a short walk!

A stroll through the city center reveals the majestic Castello Estense, a medieval-renaissance fortress towering over the skyline. This boxy, moated castle museum is an amazing site with broad appeal.

Art fans want to head to the Palazzo dei Diamanti or Diamond Palace. This stunning Renaissance palace is home to the National Gallery and is pretty close to a number of fantastic eateries.

Yeah, it should come as no surprise, but Ferrara’s culinary delights don’t disappoint either. Ferrara is known for its rustic cuisine, featuring lots of fresh vegetables and preserved meats.

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