Whether it’s your first time in Italy or you want to explore more of this incredible country, taking a Florence to Bologna day trip is a must, especially if you are a foodie!
Known as the capital of Italian cuisine, Bologna is the ultimate destination for any food lover and history lover alike. Home of tagliatelle al ragu (pasta bolognese), melt-in-your-mouth tortellini, and the best gelato you’ll ever taste, you are guaranteed to eat well on your day trip.
After having spent over one month in Bologna, we know a thing or to about the city, and we also know some of the best places to eat.
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about planning the perfect day trip from Florence to Bologna, including how to get there, the best things to see, and what to eat.
Read on, and discover one of the best day trips from Florence!
Is Bologna worth a day trip from Florence?
Bologna is definitely worth a day trip from Florence. Bologna is a beautiful city, set amongst rolling hills with incredible architecture. If you’re a fan of Italian food (and who isn’t!?) and historical sites, you’ll 100% love Bologna.
Plus, it’s one of the less-touristy cities in Italy, so it’s a nice break from the crowds of Florence.
How long is the train from Florence to Bologna?
One of the best ways to get to Bologna from Florence is by train.
Trains depart from Firenze Santa Maria Novella station in Florence and arrive at Bologna Centrale station. The distance from Florence to Bologna is about 80 km, and the fastest train journey takes about 40 minutes.
You won’t need to worry about missing a train, there are frequent connections. The Florence to Bologna train departs at least 59 times a day!
With the number of connections in mind, Florence is one of the best day trips from Bologna if you’re basing yourself there instead.
To make the most of your day trip, we suggest booking one of the early high speed trains and arriving in Bologna around 9-9:30 AM.
Prices start from €10 (one-way) if tickets are booked in advance. If you book on the day of travel then you’ll pay substantially more and will cost around 30-40 euros each way.
We’ve made the mistake of booking our train tickets on the day of from Bologna to Florence (an hour before the train), and it cost us €35 each way for a 40-minute train ride.
The further ahead of time you book, the cheaper the prices are. The best prices can be found at least three weeks ahead of travel time, although even if you only book a week in advance, you’ll see big savings.
To book tickets, and check times and prices, then visit Trenitalia which is the main train operator in Italy.
Tips on traveling by train in Italy
Traveling by train in Italy is the perfect way to get around and explore the country. Here are a few tips to make your trip as smooth and enjoyable as possible:
- Buy your tickets in advance for the best prices. We recommend booking at least 3 weeks in advance if possible, especially for longer journeys.
- Download the Trenitalia app to get up-to-date information on train timetables and delays. You can book your tickets on the app, and it’s so much easier than buying them online or at the station! Plus it’s very convenient to have everything on your phone.
- The cities on the Trenitalia website/app are the Italian names of the cities. For example, Florence is Firenze and Venice is Venezia. Keep this in mind if you’re having trouble finding a city.
- Check out the various discount schemes available – if you’re traveling with a group or as a student, you may be eligible for reduced fares.
- Familiarize yourself with the timetable to help avoid delays and plan connection times.
How to get from Bologna Centrale station to Bologna city center
The Bologna train station is located just outside the city center. Although you could catch a local bus, it’s actually easier to walk. The walk is less than 20 minutes to Piazza Maggiore, which is the center of the city.
How do you get around Bologna?
The best way to get around during your Florence to Bologna day trip is by foot. Bologna is a very walkable city so a car is not necessary.
Like in most Italian cities, you’ll have problems trying to find parking in the center, and if you do find parking, it will be expensive.
You can take the bus to get around; however, for your day trip, you can easily reach all of the main attractions by foot. All of the main sites are within 20-minutes walking distance and most are within 10-minutes of each other.
What is Bologna known for?
You might be wondering what Bologna is famous for. Bologna is best known as a culinary haven, it’s a city filled with delicious cuisine and gastronomic tradition. Even if you didn’t visit any attractions, you could easily spend a day simply eating your way around the city.
Food aside, Bologna is also known as the city of porticoes, which are long covered walkways. The porticoes were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2021, and the city is also home to the longest portico in the world!
In addition to the incredible food scene and architecture, Bologna is also home to the oldest university in the Western world, the University of Bologna.
Florence to Bologna Day Trip: Best Things to Do
In this section, we’ll look at the best things to do in Bologna on your day trip from Florence. There’s a lot to see in this city, too much in a single day to fully do everything justice. You should have time to see everything on this list, just know that it will be a packed day trip!
Climb the Asinelli tower
Fun fact: Bologna use to have over 100 towers between the 12th and 13th centuries. The Asinelli Tower is one of the two remaining towers in Bologna (the other being the Garisenda tower).
This is the city’s tallest tower standing at 97 meters high. It was built between 1109 and 1119, and today has a slight lean.
One of the best things to do is take the 498 steps and climb to the top. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with an unparalleled view of Bologna’s skyline and the hills in the distance.
The views are best around sunset or early in the morning, so we recommend either starting your day trip here or ending it here.
Opening hours: 10 AM – 5:15 PM daily
Ticket prices: €5 per person
A reservation for the Asinelli Tower is mandatory. We highly recommend purchasing your tickets a couple of days in advance to get your preferred time slot. You can book your tickets online at the official website.
Visit the old University of Bologna
The University of Bologna is the oldest university in the Western world. Today, you can visit the anatomical theater and part of the old library, as well as walk some of the Medieval hallways.
The anatomical theater was first built in 1595 in Bologna; however, the one you’ll see today was constructed 1637. At the center of the room is a marble table where students would watch and learn as a body was dissected. What better way to learn about human anatomy, right?
Unfortunately, the library is not open to the public, but you do get a fantastic view of it on your visit to the university. The library has over three million volumes and is one of the oldest continuously operating scholarly libraries on the continent.
You can purchase tickets at the university for a self-guided tour. We highly recommend visiting the university, as it’s a fantastic way to learn more about the unique history of the school, as well as browse through rare books that have been collected over centuries.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Ticket prices: €3 per person
Tickets can be purchased in person at the university.
Eat Gelato at Cremeria Santo Stefano
We’ve tried gelato all over Italy, and Bologna has the best gelato in all of Italy. The texture, the flavors, the consistency – somehow they just do it so perfectly in Bologna.
One of the top places to go is Cremeria Santo Stefano which is one of the best gelato shops in Bologna.
Try the Caffe Bianco and Crema Libanese – these are two of our favorite flavors.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday (closed Mondays) from 11 AM to 10 PM
Address: Via Santo Stefano, 70/c, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy
Walk around Piazza Maggiore
Located right in the heart of the city, it’s the perfect place to take in some of Bologna’s most iconic monuments, including the 14th-century San Petronio Basilica and ancient Palazzo dei Notai.
Make sure to also check out the iconic Neptune’s Fountain, a 16th century fountain featuring a bronze statue of the god Neptune.
The piazza is also home to many cafés, gelaterias, and shops, making it a great place to relax, people watch, and take in the vibe of the city.
Throughout the year, the piazza hosts outdoor concerts and art exhibitions. You can find out what events are on here.
Go inside the Basilica of San Petronio
Construction on this medieval church began in 1390 and was never completed. You’ll notice half of the outside is covered in pink and white marble and the other half in brick.
Inside, you can walk around and admire the beautiful architecture. You can also pay €3 to get a closer look at the chapels, such as the famous Chapel of the Magi.
Opening hours: Daily from 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM / 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Discover the porticoes around the city
The porticoes in Bologna are a listed UNESCO world heritage site. With 62 kilometers of walkways lined with these porticoes, you’ll find plenty to explore.
One of our favorite things to do in Bologna is to wander around the historic center, admiring the Medieval buildings, and getting lost in the charming alleyways.
These are some of the best porticos to visit:
- The porticoes of Piazza Santo Stefano
- The porticoes of Via Zamboni
- The porticoes of Strada Maggiore
- The porticos of Piazza Cavour
- The porticoes of Pavaglione and Piazza Maggiore
Eat some Emilia-Romagna food
Bologna is known for its cuisine, and the Emilia-Romagna region has some of the best food in all of Italy, so it’s definitely worth trying some classic dishes. You could of course walk around yourself, stopping at numerous restaurants, or join a Bologna food tour and literally eat your way around the city with a knowledgeable guide.
If you want to join a food tour, we highly recommend doing this 3-hour tour around this city. We’ve done it twice ourselves!
Some of the must-try foods in Bologna include:
- Tortellini en Brodo: a type of stuffed pasta served in a flavorful broth
- Mortadella Sandwich: warm slices of mortadella, served between two slices of freshly-baked bread
- Tagliatelle al Ragù: long, thin noodles smothered in a rich and hearty meat-based sauce
- Cotoletta Alla Bolognese: a dish consisting of fried veal cutlets with special sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and ham
- Gnocco Fritto: Fried pastry dough pieces traditionally served with cured meats or cheese
- Tigelle Modenesi: Delicious flatbreads made from cornmeal and wheat flour which are served with cured meats, cheeses, and jams
Visit the Basilica of Santo Stefano Complex (The 7 Churches)
The Basilica of Santo Stefano is also known as a complex of seven churches that were constructed during different time periods. While it is unclear when the churches were built, it is possible that it dates back to the 5th century.
The complex is free to visit and is a unique site walk through and experience different types of architecture through the centuries. It only takes about 15-minutes to walk through in total.
Wander around the Quadrilatero
The Quadrilatero is located in the heart of Bologna and is the oldest food market in the city, dating back to the middle ages.
This historic and vibrant market is home to an array of stalls offering locally produced ingredients such as fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and cured meats, and artisanal pastries.
You’ll also find stalls selling traditional items like fresh truffles, olives, and homemade pasta.
We recommend stopping by Salumeria Simoni Laboratorio to try a charcuterie board of cheeses and meats from the Emilia-Romagna region. It gets busy during lunch and dinner time, so it’s a good place to stop for either a pre-lunch appetizer at 11am (opening time) or an afternoon snack around 3-4 PM.
If you have more time on your Bologna day trip…
If you have some time spare, then we recommend visiting these three attractions.
Mercato delle Erbe
Another one for foodies is the Mercato delle Erbe. This covered market is home to an array of stalls selling everything from fruits, fresh pasta, cheeses, and even horse meat.
While we’re personally not into horse meat, if you’ve been wanting to try it, this is the place to do so.
You’ll also find a few restaurants inside of the market where you can stop for a glass of wine, some freshly cooked fish, and pizza.
MozzaBella is our favorite pizza-by-the-slice spot in the city and it’s located inside of the Mercato delle Erbe.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 7 AM – midnight (closed Sundays)
Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
For one of the most unique activities in Bologna, you can hike up the longest portico in the world to the Basilica di San Luca. The hike takes around 1 to 1.5 hours from the center of the city to reach the top of the hill.
If you’re looking for a less energetic and faster route, then take the San Luca Express train instead.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is situated on top of the hill of Colle della Guardia and provides the most spectacular views across the city below.
If you are interested in doing this, then check out our post dedicated to the Portico di San Luca walk.
Basilica opening hours: Daily from 7 AM – 6 PM. It’s free to enter.
This 14th-century building is now home to Bologna’s town hall and a museum housing the Municipal Art Collections.
From the Piazza Maggiore, you’ll notice the dominating clock tower, which you can climb up to for incredible views of the main square.
Inside of the museum, you’ll find frescoes dating from the early Renaissance period and lavishly decorated rooms filled with art and antiques.
This is one of our favorite activities to do in the city, not only for the beautifully decorated rooms, but also for the beautiful views over the city from the clock tower.
Opening hours: Hours vary throughout the year, so it’s best to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
Ticket prices: €8 per person
Book your time slot for the clock tower and your tickets for the museum on the official website.
Where to eat in Bologna on your day trip?
One day is not enough to try all of the incredible foods in Bologna. However, here are a few recommendations for cafes, gelato shops, and restaurants that you can choose from.
For restaurants, we highly recommend making reservations at least a couple of day in advance to make sure you can get a table for lunch or dinner. They fill up fast, and you don’t want to miss out on some of the best Italian food while you’re in the city!
Our favorite cafe: Caffe Terzi
This cafe has one of the best cappuccinos in the city. Grab a delicious brioche stuffed with a classic cream or pistachio cream to pair with your drink.
Restaurants in Bologna for lunch or dinner:
- Trattoria Da Me – A good place to try gnocco fritto and meats, plus some other unqiue Emilia-Romagna foods like friggione and tortellini in broth.
- All’Osteria Bottega – One of our favorite restaurants in the city with some of the best traditional cuisine.
- ALTRO? – A fantastic place to try the classic tortellini in broth or tortellini in a creamy parmesan sauce.
- Ristorante Da Cesari – A wonderful restaurant to try a variety of seasonal homemade pasta dishes.
Map for your day trip to Bologna
Here is a map to help guide you on your Florence to Bologna day trip. If you select the icon on the left with the arrow, you will see a list of all of the major sites in this itinerary, as well as any food stops recommended.
On your phone, if you select the box icon on the right, it will open up the map on Google Maps.
Final Thoughts: Florence to Bologna day trip
So, are you excited about your upcoming Florence to Bologna day trip? As you’ve just learned, Bologna a phenomenal city to visit, not only for the food but also for the historical city center and culture!
We 100% recommend putting this easy day trip from Florence to Bologna on your Italy bucket list. You won’t be disappointed!
Let us know if you have any questions or tell us about your experience visiting Bologna in the comments below.
More Information for your Florence to Bologna day trip
Bologna has some of the most delicious gelato in all of Italy. Check out our complete guide to the best gelato shops in Bologna.
Plan to stay in Bologna longer than a day? There are so many incredible day trips from Bologna, including a food tour in Modena and a visit to the Ferrari museum in Maranello. Take a look at our article about the 23 best day trips from Bologna.
Want to try some of the most famous foods from Emilia-Romagna? Check out our article on the best foods in Emilia Romagna.
For a full a list of all of the things to do in Bologna, read our article on the best things to do in Bologna.
If you’re looking for things to do in Florence, we made the perfect 2-day Florence itinerary with all you need to know for your trip.