Bologna, the capital city of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna province, is a city that I think often gets overlooked by foreign visitors. As most first-time visitors to Italy tend to visit places like Venice, Rome, and Milan, cities like Bologna tend to fly under the radar. Personally, I think Bologna is one of the best cities to visit in Italy, as I wrote all about in my Bologna Travel Guide.
While you could spend a full week exploring Bologna and trying some of its iconic foods, there are some really incredible places to visit within just a couple of hours by train. These day trips from Bologna will give you a little taste of the best parts of Italy’s rich Emiglia-Romagna region and beyond.
1. Taste Authentic Balsamic Vinegar in Modena
Located just 30 minutes by train from Bologna, Modena one of the best hidden gems in all of Italy. Most popularly known as the home of authentic balsamic vinegar, Modena is a quick and easy day trip from Bologna that you definitely don’t want to miss. While run-of-the-mill balsamic vinegar is popular all around the world, many people don’t realize how tasty traditional balsamic vinegar really is. All top-shelf balsamic vinegar legally needs to be produced in and around Modena, and visiting a balsamic vinegar distillery is one of the best things to do in the entire region. If you do visit, make sure they offer you a spoonful of vanilla ice cream topped with a few drops of balsamic vinegar…it will change your life.
2. Admire Some of Italy’s Most Famous Artworks in Florence
Florence is a city that doesn’t need an introduction. As one of the most popular cities to visit in all of Italy, Florence is simply loaded with entertaining things to do. The views from Brunelleschi’s Dome are breathtaking, and you could spend an entire week exploring Florence’s iconic streets. I dive into much greater detail in my Florence travel guide, but simply put, Florence is absolutely marvelous. Even better, it is the best city to visit in Italy if you don’t speak Italian! Located just under two hours from Bologna by train, Florence is an easy and enjoyable day trip that is worth considering if you are looking for a taste of Tuscany and fine art.
3. Spend a Day on Italy’s Largest Lake in Peschiera del Garda
While Lake Como draws in significantly more visitors, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and easily one of the best day trips from Bologna. Located just an hour and a half north of Bologna by train, Lake Garda is a gorgeous getaway that is way less popular than it should be among international tourists. One of the most accessible and charming towns on the lake’s shore is Peschiera del Garda. Situated on several canals and as picturesque as it gets, this tranquil city is filled with fantastic restaurants, local shopping, and relaxing vibes. If you don’t care to charter a boat for the day, consider grabbing an aperitivo with a view of the lake.
4. Visit Urbino for a Taste of Italy’s Mountainous Countryside
Tucked away in the rolling mountains of Italy’s Marche region, Urbino is a serene city that far too few tourists take the time to visit. While it is fairly inaccessible by public transportation, visiting Urbino is well worth the time and effort it takes to get there. During the Renaissance, Urbino was one of the most important cities in all of Italy, and its famous Ducal Palace is reminiscent of that glory. Today, Urbino is a much smaller city with a very local feel. While it is not much of a destination on its own, it makes for a fantastic day trip from Bologna, and can be reached in just a couple of hours via a combination of train and bus. I lived in Urbino for several months, which is part of what made writing my Urbino travel guide so special.
5. Drive a Ferrari in Maranello
Maranello is located just beyond Modena, and is the home of the Italian luxury car brand, Ferrari. In Maranello, you can find the Ferrari museum, factories, and several local companies who allow you to test drive actual Ferraris. Test driving one of the fastest cars in the world is an experience unlike any other, and doing so right after learning about the Ferrari family’s rise to fame is even cooler. The museum is filled with real Ferrari cars and is very worth checking out. Maranello and Modena are often visited on the same day, as they are just 30 minutes apart from one another.
That’s all I have for you about the best day trips from Bologna! I hope you visit as many of these amazing places as you can on your next trip to Italy’s culinary capital. If you have any questions, drop a comment in the comment section below or shoot us an email!