Bologna and Florence are two fabulous Italian cities less than two hours apart by car and only 30 minutes by train. So, like any normal person visiting the Tuscany region on assignment, I decided to conquer these two cities over three days.
My Florence and Bologna itinerary started by flying from Amsterdam‘s Schiphol Airport on a Sunday afternoon flight to Florence. I spent my first day exploring the Santa Croce Christmas market and other markets within this much-loved Italian city.
On day two, I took a day trip courtesy of Tourist Italy. I then spent the last day visiting Bologna for the first time before heading home.
Because I was visiting during the winter, I packed some sweaters, long sleeves, and a long winter coat for my two-day stay in Florence and a one-day itinerary in Bologna. Despite my caution, the weather was great for this time of year, with temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
What We Cover
- Day One: Arrival in Florence
- Day Two: Olive Oil, Coffee, Wine, plus San Gimignano and Siena
- Fattoria di Maiano
- Caffe Magnelli Coffee Factory Tour
- Lunch and Wine Tasting at Il Ciliegio
- San Gimignano
- Aperitivo in Siena
- Day Three: Travel to Bologna, Italy
- Getting from Florence to Bologna
- Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio
- Biblioteca de Communale dell’Archiginnasio
- Walking the Portici (Porticos of Bologna)
- Traditional Bolognese Cuisine for Dinner
- Final Day: Heading Back to Amsterdam
Day One: Arrival in Florence
Upon my arrival in Florence, I was greeted with a beautiful Tuscan sunset. I took a taxi from Florence Airport to the city, which cost me €24 (holiday rate). On non-holiday days, the fixed fee is €22.
Alternatively, a tram is available that takes around 33 minutes and costs a few euros. I chose the taxi because I had limited time in Florence and wanted more time to explore the city. Time is money!
There are tons of great places to stay in Florence. I checked into the Hotel Milu, a beautiful Art Deco hotel with beautiful designs blending modern art throughout the building. The art is also available for purchase.
The hotel is located along Via Tournaboui, next to Palazzo Strossi. After checking in, I explored the city’s Christmas markets, making extra time for the Santa Croce Christmas market.
Florence was bustling on a Sunday night, but I was pleased to see it compared to summertime, filled with tourists. The city looked beautiful at night with all the lights.
Everyone was out for dinner, enjoying Sunday night and Christmas market activities. I took plenty of great pictures of the decorations.
I sourced dinner at Pizza Napoli, a Neapolitan pizza spot I’ve visited several times. I know pizza’s more southern Italy, but I wanted an all-Italian vibe on this quick trip. Besides, you can never go wrong with pizza.
See Related: Ultimate Italy Travel Guide
Day Two: Olive Oil, Coffee, Wine, plus San Gimignano and Siena
Tourist Italy graciously invited me to join them and several other content creators based in Italy and other locations worldwide on a full-day tour featuring local experiences surrounding Italian culture and food. Grazi Tourist Italy!
We had the best time. Here’s what we got to enjoy in the space of a day:
Fattoria di Maiano
On the first leg of our day trip from Florence, we stopped at Fattoria di Maiano, a farm park home to the largest botanical garden in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. They have olive groves consisting of over 20,000 trees for producing extra-virgin olive oil.
We had the opportunity to learn about its production and try a few samples. The olive oil was amazing. We first tried a spicy one with a clean finish.
Then we tasted an unfiltered olive oil with a less robust flavor and clean finish but a delightful hint of apple that rode through. I grabbed each bottle before we moved on to the next stop.
Caffe Magnelli Coffee Factory Tour
Next, we visited Cafe Magnelli, a famous family-owned coffee roasting business in Italy, well-known for its generational tradition. Italy is the home of good coffee, and this place is no exception!
During our visit, we got a tour of their factory. We tasted different forms of coffee, including filtered coffee, a single-press shot of espresso, and traditional pepper preparation.
I learned that to make the best-tasting espresso. It is important to use the espresso machine for around 20 to 25 seconds and have a single shot freshly ground and pressed simultaneously to achieve optimal flavor without burning the coffee.
I may have tested this theory rather liberally, and I highly recommend it (the theory and the testing). After all, practice makes perfect, and I needed the extra pep in my step to carry on the tour!
Lunch and Wine Tasting at Il Ciliegio
After visiting the coffee factory, we went to the Il Ciliegio winery, where we enjoyed a brief apéritif consisting of a sparkling rosé and a Moscato. I particularly liked the rosé.
We then had lunch with a wine pairing. The pairings start with a white wine from Chianti, then a Super Tuscan to go with the Bolognese pasta, and ending with a Chianti Classico.
For dessert, we had biscotti and wine. Despite previously living in Florence for some months, this was the first time I dipped biscotti into the dessert wine. I’ve dipped croissants in coffee, Hobnobs in tea, and fries in a milkshake, but none compare to this treat.
Of all the wines we had, my favorite was the Super Tuscan. It’s a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon with a 15% alcohol content. Even though it was a strong glass of wine, it was fabulous and paired well with the rich Bolognese sauce.
See Related: Wine Regions in Italy to Visit
After the lunch and wine tasting, we hopped back in the private van to San Gimignano. We arrived just before 5 o’clock, during a beautiful golden hour sunset.
Like Florence, the city was adorned with numerous tasteful Christmas decorations. We had the town to ourselves as we got there before the evening rush.
Read Also: Bologna vs Florence: What’s Better to Visit?
Aperitivo in Siena
My only gripe about the tour is that after San Gimignano, we ended up going in the opposite direction of Florence to Siena. It was a long day.
I love Siena, and I’m glad to have visited before because I was wiped out after visiting so many spots. After a yummy nightcap, the van dropped us off at Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence.
Day Three: Travel to Bologna, Italy
After spending a few days in and around Florence, my journey took me to Bologna, just north of the Tuscan border into the Emilia-Romagna region. This beautiful city is filled with stunning architecture and rich history, making it an ideal destination for any traveler exploring more of Italy’s offerings.
I’d never visited Bologna before, so I had to visit Bologna this time around Italy since I’d heard so many good things about the city and the food scene. I opted to wake up early for my Florence to Bologna journey to make the most of it.
Getting from Florence to Bologna
The journey to Bologna from the city center of Florence is incredibly easy. Train travel time is 30-40 minutes from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella to Bologna train station. It’s a popular day trip, and looking back on it, I’m baffled that I never made the day trip when I lived in Florence.
The cost of train tickets was approximately 30 euros. I opted to purchase tickets online at the train station since trains run nearly every 20 minutes.
Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio
My first stop was at the Piazza Maggiore, one of Europe’s most iconic squares. The square features several impressive structures, including the San Petronio church and Palazzo dei Notai.
The next mini-stop on my itinerary was the Fountain of Neptune, located in the heart of Piazza Maggiore. This majestic fountain dates back to 1565 and is a testament to the city’s long history and culture. The intricate details of the sculpture are something considering its age.
Biblioteca de Communale dell’Archiginnasio
Next, I visited the Biblioteca de Communale dell’Archiginnasio, first opened in 1563. When I visited the Biblioteca de Communale dell’Archiginnasio, it was lit with festive finery, making it all the more nostalgic and charming.
This old library houses an extensive collection of medieval manuscripts and historical documents that provide valuable insights into Bologna’s past. It is worth visiting to learn about the city’s lengthy heritage.
Walking the Portici (Porticos of Bologna)
I also had the opportunity to visit and walk the portici, a series of arched passages connecting various buildings throughout the city. These arches create a unique atmosphere as they are adorned with shops and cafes, making them a great place for exploration and discovery.
Traditional Bolognese Cuisine for Dinner
Lastly, I enjoyed a traditional meal of tortellini in brodo for dinner. The flavorful broth and the tender meat filling made this dish special, reflecting Bologna’s culinary traditions. They don’t call it the Fat City for nothing.
See Related: Ultimate Italy Travel Guide
Final Day: Heading Back to Amsterdam
The next day, I spent just a few hours enjoying the city by having an espresso, a light breakfast, and another espresso in the city center of Bologna before taking an Uber to the Bologna Airport for a flight back to Amsterdam.
I cannot believe I never visited this place when I lived less than an hour’s train ride away. But boy, am I glad to have the opportunity to see it.
Visiting Bologna offers a unique blend of historic landmarks, cultural attractions, and delicious food scenes. Its charm lies in its ability to provide visitors with an authentic Italian experience and a glimpse into the country’s rich past without the crowds that can clog Florence.