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As the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna captivates visitors with its characteristic red-brick buildings, bustling markets, and student-centric cultural scene. While I can promise that the city itself warrants at least a few days to explore its elegant porticos, quatre-teenth century towers, and art-laden museums and churches, its central location also makes it a convenient home base for an appealing array of day trip destinations. 

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The Beautiful City of Bologna is the Ideal Base for Exploring Northern Italy

day trips from Bologna

Photo by Felix M. Dorn on Unsplash

Thanks to Italy’s high-speed trains and excellent regional connections, a myriad of gems – from some of the country’s most culturally significant cities to smaller towns renowned for Italian culinary tradition – are easily accessible from Bologna. Which is great news for travelers who want to get to know Italy better!

Using this vibrant university city as your hub means you can tick off Northern Italy’s essential sites easily. It’s also possible to discover smaller hidden gems, via regular regional train routes. No matter which destinations are calling your name, Bologna will welcome your return with plenty of Bolognese pasta and wine, refueling you for the next adventure.

Here are six of the best places within 100 miles (or 150 kilometers) of Bologna. All of the following make ideal day trip destinations, and take two hours or less to get to. And for further inspiration, also covered beneath those are six more places to visit while you’re based in Bologna. 

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Photo by Max Nayman on Unsplash

6 of the Best Day Trips from Bologna

Art and Architecture in Florence – 90 Minutes Away

Florence is among Italy’s most captivating cities, and the best thing is that it takes only 80 minutes to reach. It’s really easy to get there, via the direct high-speed Frecciarossa train from Bologna Centrale station. 

As the epicenter of the Renaissance during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, Florence showcases the movement’s marvelous artistic legacy. Here you can stare in wide-eyed wonder, as I did, at architectural icons like Brunelleschi’s gravity-defying Duomo, Michelangelo’s statuesque David, and the Uffizi Gallery, which overflows with Botticelli and Da Vinci masterpieces.    

Beyond the canvases and limestone architecture, Florence is capable of enthralling visitors in other ways. You can enjoy experiences like crossing the Arno River on the iconic, gem-studded Ponte Vecchio bridge, catch golden hour panoramas from Piazzale Michelangelo, and taste fine Chianti wines and flavorful concoctions – including the local, tripe-based specialty lampredotto panino – from street food carts. 

If you want to hit the highlights in one day, planning ahead for this ever-popular city is essential. You can pre-book entry tickets online. These include skip-the-line Uffizi Gallery tickets that can save you valuable time. It’s something that’s well worth doing, trust me!

Visiting Florence with Teens

It’s also possible to reserve your place in advance for tours like the Hidden Florence guided walking tour, or Florence in a Day sightseeing experience. You can book these via the links below. 

6 of the Best Florence Tours and Tickets

Max out your time in Florence by booking one of these popular tours or ticket options before leaving home.

Coastal Fun and Local History in Rimini and Riviera Romagnola – 90 Minutes Away  

While the Italian Riviera often conjures images of glitzy coastal resort towns in Liguria, lesser-known Emilia-Romagna boasts nearly 100 miles of Adriatic coastline, dotted with beach destinations frequented by locals. 

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Regional trains trundle up the coast once or twice per hour from Bologna. This makes it easy to access any point along the Riviera Romagnola. You can choose between basing yourself in one town for the full day, and catching trains to a few places so you can sample a range of resorts.

Rimini leads the pack for those seeking a fun-filled seaside escape in the area. Here you can combine lounging on beloved Italian beaches with lively nightlife scenes. I also loved indulging in a spot of people-watching at stylish Marebello harbor. 

Also found in this area is the Piadina Experience Museum in Rimini, which is dedicated to the local culinary specialty. Another family theme park option, meanwhile, is provided by the Oltremare nature park in Riccione.

The mild climate also provides the perfect setting for family-friendly theme parks, such as the popular Aquafan, and reconstructed Roman towns at Italia in Miniatura. The latter also has around 5,000 miniature trees. 

In addition to Rimini, other notable beach towns include Riccione, known for its lively nightclubs and bars, as well as the family-friendly Bellaria-Igea Marina, which offers tons of hotels with kids clubs and waterparks. The entire region is also famous for its lively nightlife.

You can also head north to visit towns like the Belle époque gem Cervia, or peaceful Milano Marittima. This region also attracts travelers who want to take sailing excursions to the salty Cervia salt pans, which are still harvested using ancient Etruscan methods. Cycling through pine forests, fronting golden sandy beaches, is also popular in this area. 

Photo by Toni Louis Valaulta on Unsplash

6 of the Best Rimini and Riviera Romagnola Tours and Tickets

Plan and budget ahead of time by buying the following tickets for your time in the Rimini and Riviera Romagnola area.

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Photo by Nicola Gambetti on Unsplash

La Serenissima, the City of Canals, or Venice –  2 Hours Away

Despite welcoming over 20 million visitors annually, Venice maintains its mystical allure as Italy’s City of Canals that seems to float entirely on water. This is down to the city’s sprawling canal networks. Cruising past Byzantine domes and Gothic facades in a varnished, velvet-lined gondola offers the classic introduction, and is not an experience to be missed. 

Thanks to recent infrastructure upgrades, the high-speed Frecciarossa now connects Bologna to Venice in just over 2 hours, instead of nearly 5. This makes the UNESCO site a realistic day trip destination. 

The abbreviated timeline does require careful planning, however. So do book your Frecciarossa ticket and experiences like St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace tours, or gondola rides ahead to maximize sightseeing opportunities. 

Don’t be afraid of getting lost when in Venice, too! Wandering among the capillary network of narrow walkways and petite bridges across islands like Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, and iconic St. Marks can mean really getting under the skin of this unique city. 

Should you want to explore further, head to the neighboring island of Murano, where you can see glassblowing in action. Or choose Burano island, which is famous for lace making.  

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Photo by canmandawe on Unsplash

6 of the Best Venice Tours and Tickets

Venice is a very popular destination indeed, so it’s always wise to get ahead by booking tickets and tours in advance. 

Mosaics, UNESCO Sites and Food in Ravenna – 1 Hour Away   

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While small in size, Ravenna astonishes visitors like me with its treasure trove of glittering Byzantine mosaics and monumental buildings. These hail from the city’s role as the Western Roman Empire’s capital, during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. 

The compact, pedestrian-friendly town center makes it easy to hop between UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the otherworldly Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, awash in deep marine blues with gold starry skies, and the more austere Neonian Baptistery, with its iconic mosaic of Christ’s baptism. 

As well as magnificent mosaics and historic structures, Ravenna is also a foodie’s paradise. You can sample all sorts of Italian culinary delights in the city, including pasta dishes such as cappelletti al ragu, salami, cheeses, and ice cream or gelato. Very yummy indeed. 

Regional trains can whisk you between Bologna and Ravenna in just an hour. Services run frequently throughout the day. Ravenna’s small size allows its stellar sights to be seen in only half a day. This leaves you with enough time to also try the local speciality dish of piadina flatbread, or check out the lively evening passeggiata. This traditional ritual involves Italians parading the city streets, dressed in their finest clothing. 

Photo by Walter Mazza on Unsplash

3 of the Best Ravenna Tours

Make the most of every moment in Ravenna by reserving your spot on a tour of the city. 

Regal Palaces and Castles in Ferrara – 50 Minutes Away

As the crown jewel of the House of Este dynasty for nearly four centuries, Ferrara still glitters with many emblems of its Renaissance heyday. The modern world is still evident, though, in the cycling paths circling the medieval walls. Frequent regional trains dash between Ferrara and Bologna, and the journey takes just 50 minutes.

Ferrara’s majestic castle is filled with ornate rooms, and is surrounded by extensive gardens. This now serves as the City Hall and civic museum. The Este family’s 14th century residence across the street, meanwhile, dazzles visitors with its lavish stucco detailing and elaborate frescoes. 

There’s other things to see beyond the palaces, too. Ferrara’s splendid Cathedral façade is also impressive, as it cloistered Diamanti Square, which is nestled between a pair of marble palaces. 

Foodies will also be in heaven in Ferrara, and I can highly recommend including a cooking class in your itinerary! Alternatively, sit down to enjoy a home cooked feast, made and served in a local home, for a truly authentic flavor of Ferrara. 

3 of the Best Ferrara Tours

These guided tours and experiences can ensure your Ferrara trip is as instructive and fun-filled as possible. 

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Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

Romance and History in Verona – 90 Minutes Away

Romantic associations always spring to mind at the mention of Verona, thanks to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet being set in the city. But this captivating destination also offers remarkably well-preserved Roman ruins and medieval landmarks. I can also assure you that all are easy to explore on foot. 

Thanks to a direct high-speed Frecciarossa connection, it’s possible to reach Verona in as little as an hour, though some trains take around 90 minutes. It’s an easy day trip from Bologna, so you can see some of the top sights and cross the charming bridges spanning the Adige River, before taking an evening train back. 

Pre booking your high-speed train tickets is essential – they often sell out weeks ahead during the peak summer season. 

Beyond the much-photographed Juliet balcony, which can be found in a courtyard below via Cappello 23, iconic sites like the vast 1st century Verona Arena and Gothic-style cathedral give way to atmospheric neighborhoods perfect for sipping an Aperol Spritz alongside locals. 

3 of the Best Verona Tours

If you want to max out a day in Verona, then booking onto an organized tour is a great way to do that. 

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Photo by Z S on Unsplash

Also check out Bologna in The Winter

6 More Day Trip Destinations from Bologna

Car-Crazy Modena – 25 Minutes Away

This elegant town is considered the capital of Italian sports cars, being home to Ferrari and Maserati. You can visit the museums dedicated to these brands, or tour the balsamic vinegar factories that Modena is also famous for.

3 of the Best Modena Tours

Foodie Parma – 1 Hour Away

Parma is perfect for foodies! Parma is the land of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, and numerous pasta and salami producers. Take a factory tour, or simply enjoy sampling these local specialities. The historic city center also boasts Roman ruins and medieval architecture.

3 of the Best Parma Tours

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Photo by Samuele Bertoli on Unsplash

Palaces in Mantua – 2 Hours Away

This atmospheric Renaissance gem is located by three lakes, which were formed by the Mincio River. The intimate historical center is perfect for wandering between architectural marvels, such as the Palazzo Ducale and Rotonda di San Lorenzo church.

3 of the Best Mantua Tours

Pisa and the Leaning Tower – 2.5 Hours Away

It’s possible to see Pisa’s famous leaning bell tower during a longer day trip from Bologna via high-speed rail. However, an overnight stay would allow you more time to also visit highlights like the Duomo, Battistero Baptistery, and Camposanto complex. As well as tucking into authentic Tuscan food!

3 of the Best Pisa Tours

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Photo by Joshua Kettle on Unsplash

Marble and Medieval Siena – 3 Hours Away

The journey may take a little too long for a comfortable day trip, but the medieval city of Siena does warrant a day trip or overnight visit from Bologna. Marvel at the black and white marble cathedral, the winding alleyways, the boutiques, and the central Piazza del Campo, famous for the annual Palio horse races.

3 of the Best Siena Tours and Tickets

Hiking the Apennine Mountains – 1 to 2 Hours Away

The Apennine mountain range runs down Italy like a backbone, and offers excellent hiking opportunities within reach of Bologna. You can get to popular trailheads by bus or car in an hour or two. Examples include Madonna dell’Acero and Corno Alle Scale, which offer  landscapes with rugged peaks and peaceful valleys dotted with rural farmsteads.

There you have it my complete guide to Day Trips from Bologna. Happy Planning.

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