The main town itself is everything you would expect: mirror-like canals reflecting colourful buildings, streets lined with excellent restaurants and bars, and the joy of not being too crowded by tourists. It’s well worth hiring a bike to explore the local area and the Po Delta after you’ve enjoyed a couple of chilled days and sampled the local fish speciality, eel and clams.
Make it a day trip from Bologna: With a car, you’d want to allow around two hours each way as a day trip from Bologna. By public transport, it wouldn’t really work.
Tuscany’s capital city is crowned by the heart-stopping sight of the world-famous Duomo. On a day trip from Bologna, you could squeeze in a quick visit to this grand cathedral, spot some of the most beautiful bridges in the city, and take a quick peek inside the magnificent Uffizi Gallery (you’ll want to buy skip-the-line tickets).
Amongst the Casentinesi Forest National Park, you’ll find some cute villages worth calling at, so you can easily combine a stay in Bagno di Romagna (below) with some other spots on a road trip to lesser-known Emilia Romagna. This part of the region borders Tuscany, so another option is to continue on to the likes of Florence.
Read more: Exploring the history of Ferrara by bicycle
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An excellent location to sample the differences in regional cheese and ingredients – with mushrooms being a real focus during the season – is the lovely Hostaria Volante. This small restaurant in the town has a very creative owner who, as well as designing the menu, has handmade many items, from water glasses to lampshades.
Modena is famous for two things: Fast cars and Balsamic Vinegar. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take a day trip here. It’s also pretty and one of the best places to visit in Emilia Romagna. While the Ferraris and Lamborghini which you can book to test drive provide a contrast to the more classical opera scene, there are plenty of impressive sights to enjoy.
Best day trips from Bologna
I stayed at the Euroterme Wellness Resort, which was vast and offered everything from a spa circuit and indoor and outdoor thermal pools to (not needed by me) blood sampling and recovery options.
I’m gonna be honest, my friend Janet and I spent (too) much of our time in Ferrara drinking wine, Aperol and anything else we could use to ‘rehydrate’. While this large city has plenty going on it also seemed like the perfect place to have a lazy day of sightseeing and bar-hopping.
Top things to do in Brisighella, Emilia Romagna
- Visit the hill-topping clocktower for some magnificent views
- Climb the Torre Manfrediana (get access with a guide)
- Get lost in the old town, and don’t miss the Via degli Asini, an ancient wooden-beamed portico
- Tour the underground quarries or enjoy a seasonal concert
- Head into the nearby hills for rural food and trails
But the real magic lies in the lagoons and saltworks of the park just outside Comacchio town. Whether you opt to cycle, take a boat, or both, the views are made more special by the flamingos that can be found on the lake. Although a migration spot, there are now permanent flocks of flamingos who have set up their home here.
But given Emilia Romagna surrounds it, it’s a must-do while you’re here, although a day trip from Bologna would be rather intense.
Make it a day trip from Bologna: This is a super easy day trip, as the train takes less than 30 minutes.
Here are some of my top things to do in Emilia Romagna, many of which are possible as day trips from Bologna by train.
It’s a truly fascinating place being one of the oldest republics in the world. Italy surrounds it but is not part of the EU (although it has no borders). They use the Euro and have individual San Marino coins. They have two presidents at any time who serve six months each. They have their own calendar. You get the point, it’s a pretty unique place, and as such, you should certainly make the time when planning your Emilia Romagna day trips to fit it in.
Top things to do in Ravenna, Emilia Romagna
- The mosaics in Basilica di San Vitale are one of the best things to do in Emilia Romagna
- Be sure to head inside Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe; the grand architecture is home to Byzantine art
- Katun is a large theme park just outside the city, a fun way to entertain kids who may need a break from the architecture overload
- The 6th-century Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is a real sight to behold
- Squeeze in another UNESCO-listed site, the 5th-century Battistero degli Ariani, if time allows
You don’t just travel to Italy; you get consumed by Italy; the words stumbled out of my mouth as I tried to explain why it was one of my favourite countries and in that particular moment, to express my admiration for all the incredible places to visit in Emilia Romagna.