Bologna is home to a globally celebrated cuisine, the oldest university in Europe, historic terracotta old town, and its commanding medieval towers. With all the nicknames attached to this city — the fat, the learned, the red, and the towered, Bologna proves to be worth your time and effort.
Bologna has many interesting sites worth visiting, but you can also use it as a base for day trips to other famous destinations in the country. Bologna Centrale is a major transportation hub because it connects the city to east-west and north-south directions.
Here are just some of the places you can visit on a day tour. These are accessible by train or bus. If you are taking the train, you have cheaper regional trains and the more expensive but faster high-speed trains.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Modena is another city in the region of Emilia-Romagna. It is situated northwest of Bologna in the southern part of Po Valley. The map of the city is dotted with cultural sites such as Modena Cathedral, Piazza Grande, and Torre della Ghirlandina, which are all listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ducal Palace, the Town Hall (near the Piazza Grande), and the Museum Enzo Ferrari are other noteworthy sites.
Modena has an indelible contribution to the culinary world — the balsamic vinegar. And for car enthusiasts, the city is the home to some of the world’s high-end sports car brands like Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini. This is also Luciano Pavarotti’s hometown.
From Bologna Centrale, there are direct train routes to Modena. The travel time is 15-40 minutes. The fare is €3.85 – €16, depending on the class and type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Modena Station
Also in the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is strategically situated between Bologna and Milan. Major roads and railways cut through the city, making it easily accessible. It cradles one of the oldest universities in the West, Parma University.
The city map is peppered with a good number of ancient churches and palaces. Some significant landmarks are Parma Cathedral, the National Museum of Antiquities, and Palazzo della Pilotta. For the gastronomic adventurers, especially cheese lovers, Parma is the birthplace of Parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham).
From Bologna Centrale, there are direct routes to Parma by train. The travel time is about an hour. The fare is €7.35 – €21.50, depending on the class and type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Parma Station
Reggio Emilia is another city in the Emilia-Romagna region and is situated between Parma (west) and Modena (east). On the map, you will notice the hexagonal shape of the old town center which can be traced back to the age-old walls that surrounded it.
The city has a long list of churches and palaces, some of them are historically significant — Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, San Prospero Basilica, and Palazzo dei Musei among others.
From Bologna Centrale, it will take about 35-60 minutes to reach Reggio Emilia. The fare is €6 – €19, depending on the class and type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Reggio Emilia Station
Traveling east of Bologna, towards the Adriatic Sea and still in the Emilia-Romagna region, is the city of Ravenna. It flourished during the ancient period, where it became the capital and seat of power of empires and kingdoms — Western Roman Empire, Ostrogothic Kingdom, Byzantine Empire, and the Kingdom of the Lombards.
The city’s architecture is reminiscent of a bygone era. The most prominent are the vibrant mosaic dressing some cultural landmarks in the city.
Some of the popular sites are Basilica di San Vitale, Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, Mausoleo di Teodorico, Orthodox Baptistry, Arian Baptistry, Archiepiscopal Chapel, and Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe. These eight are also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, collectively known as the “Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna”.
From Bologna Centrale, there are direct train routes to Ravenna. The travel time is about an hour. The fare starts at €7.35.
Nearest Train Station: Ravenna Station
Ferrara is located northeast of Bologna, along the Po Delta. Hailed as the “City of the Renaissance”, it boasts many of its structures and cultural contributions that are attributed to that period. The royal Este family and their love for the Renaissance period greatly influenced the city’s history and culture formation. Its most iconic landmark sits at the heart of the city — Este Castle.
The 4th-century castle, bounded by a moat, had undergone renovations throughout time. Other famous attractions are Diamanti Palace, and Ferrara Cathedral (Cathedral of St. George).
From Bologna Centrale, there are direct train routes to Ferrara. The trip will take 30-60 minutes and fare ranges from €4.75 to €20.50.
Nearest Train Station: Ferrara Station
Rimini is a coastal city along the shores of the Adriatic Sea. It is located southeast of Bologna and is founded by the Romans in the mid 200 BC. Aside from the Roman structures, the city is also home to centuries-old Renaissance landmarks. The city is known for its resorts and seaside nightlife, making it one of the favorite holiday destinations of local and foreign tourists.
The city has plenty of cultural landmarks in the form of religious and secular buildings, archaeological sites, and monuments. Some of the well-known historical sites are Malatestiano Temple, Castel Sismondo, Ponte de Tiberio (Tiberius Bridge), and Arch of Augustus.
From Bologna Centrale, the travel time is 1-2 hours, depending on the route and type of train. The fare is €9.85 – €30, depending on the ticket class and train type.
Nearest Train Station: Rimini Station
The city also serves as the jump-off point to San Marino. Speaking of San Marino…
7. San Marino
San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world at just around 61 square km and a population of approximately 33,500. Some of the attractions to include in your itinerary are the Guaita Fortress, Monte Titano, Piazza della Liberta, Palazzo Pubblico, and Basilica di San Marino just to name some.
San Marino has no railway system. The closest gateway by train is the Rimini Station on the coastal side of the Emilia-Romagna region. From Bologna Centrale, there’s a direct train route to Rimini that will take about an hour. Once in Rimini, board the bus bound for San Marino. We have a step-by-step guide here: HOW TO GET FROM BOLOGNA TO SAN MARINO!
We also have a detailed sample itinerary here: SAN MARINO DAY TOUR ITINERARY!
Nearest Train Station: Rimini Station
Probably one of the most famous cities in Italy, Venice elicits images of gondola rides, canals, and beautiful buildings that date back to centuries ago. This thriving trade port played a huge role in shaping the region’s history during its heyday in ancient times. Some of the noteworthy destinations you can visit include the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, The Grand Canal, Francesco Guardi, and the Piazza San Marco.
There are many trains departing from Bologna Centrale to Venice. The trip takes approximately an hour and a half to two hours. Fare is around €12.90 to €36, depending on class and train. Check for prices online.
Nearest Train Station: Venice Santa Lucia Station
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the City of Verona doesn’t have the same name recall as Venice, Florence, and Milan, but it has its own charm. You might know this because of Shakespeare, who used it as the setting for his novels Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Some of the attractions you can visit during your stay are the Arena di Verona, Castle Vecchio, Ponte di Castle Vecchio, Basilica of San Zeon Maggiore, Piazza Delle Erbe and others.
From Bologna Centrale to Verona Porta Nuova, the fare starts at €11 and higher. The trip can take up to an hour and a half.
Nearest Train Station: Verona Porta Nuova Station
10. Padua (Padova)
Padua in the Veneto region is one of the possible day trip destinations from Bologna and for those heading to Venice. The city is located northeast of Bologna and west of Venice. Numerous branches of Bacchiglione River cut through the city, giving rise to the construction of bridges in and around the city.
The old town has noticeable buildings with connected arches. These arcaded streets are brimming with shops and cafes. Popular sites are Basilica of St. Anthony, Scrovegni Chapel, Palazzo della Ragione, and Prato della Valle. The city also has several piazzas (plazas).
From Bologna Centrale, it will take about an hour and a half to get to Padua by train. The fare is €10.40 – €27.50, depending on the train type and ticket class.
Nearest Train Station: Padova Centrale Station
Milan is another city you can visit as a day trip from Bologna. It is not just a fashion capital, but it is also home to many historic sites and many attractions. Some places of interest include the Milan Cathedral, Sforza Castle, La Scala, Arch of Peace, Milano Centrale Railway Station, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
There are several trains traveling from Bologna Centrale to Milan. Travel time takes anywhere from an hour to approximately three hours. Fare is around €16.80 to €56, depending on the train and class. You can find ticket prices and availability online.
Nearest Train Station: Milan Centrale Station
The capital of the Tuscany region, simply put, is beautiful. Florence was a thriving trade and financial hub of Medieval Europe. Many consider the city as the Renaissance’s birthplace. The historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.
Some notable attractions include the Florence Cathedral, Giotto’s Campanile, Palazzo Vecchio, Basilica of Santa Croce, Uffizi Palace and Gallery, Piazzale Michelangelo and many others.
You can take the coach bus from Bologna to Florence the trip takes anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour and a half. Fare is approximately €10; check online for prices and availability. If you want to take the train from Bologna Centrale, the travel time is from 40 minutes to two hours. The fare is €9.45 – €33, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station
13. Chianti Region
This rural region of Tuscany is located southwest of Bologna. The mountainous or hilly region’s economy depends mainly on agriculture with wine being the main product; hence, vineyards and wineries abound in the region.
Siena is part of Chianti and it’s known for the medieval buildings made of bricks. The most important landmark is Piazza del Campo, where you can also spot other historical structures. While in the region, visit the hilly town of San Gimignano, particularly the walled medieval town center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can find the Piazza della Cisterna and the ancient tower houses. The town is also known for its white wine production.
From Bologna to the Chianti region, you have to make a stop in Florence (Empoli Station) to get to either Castellina in Chianti-Monteriggioni Station or Poggibonsi Station in Siena. The travel time is 2-3 hours.
Nearest Train Station: Castellina in Chianti-Monteriggioni Station or Poggibonsi Station
Lucca is located in the Tuscany region and the capital of its namesake province. It is situated southwest of Bologna, near the Ligurian Sea. Its history traces back to the Etruscan reign, but it’s most famous for its intact wall fortress from the Renaissance period, which surrounds the old town center. The walls’ rampart became a scenic strolling and cycling spot. Visit these significant landmarks — Guinigi Tower, Piazza Cittadella, Lucca Cathedral, Casa di Puccini, and the Clock Tower.
From Bologna Centrale, you need to transfer to another train at Prato Centrale to Lucca. The travel time is 2-3 hours. The fare is €13.35 – €40.90, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Lucca Station
Traveling further southwest of Lucca is Pisa, also in the Tuscany Region. It is home to the world-famous bell tower — the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Who could have missed that? But aside from that, the city nestles a considerable number of historic structures such as churches, squares, palaces, and bridges.
Some notable ones are Piazza dei Miracoli (Piazza del Duomo), Camposanto Monumentale cemetery, Pisa Cathedral, and Palazzo della Carovana.
From Bologna Centrale, it requires one to two train transfers to Pisa. The usual interchange station is Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station and Prato Centrale Station. The travel time is about three hours. The fare is €15.75 – €49.50, depending on the route, train type, and class.
Nearest Train Station: Pisa Centrale Station
TOP APARTMENTS & GUESTHOUSES IN BOLOGNA
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Edited by Asta Alvarez