Discover the most important attractions, top places, activities and tastings to explore the most beautiful destinations to reach in less than an hour and half.
Bologna is an amazing and fascinating city of art. It does not leave you indifferent and you want to return. It is small and cosy and can be visited on foot even in a couple of days, depending on how much time you have to spend on every attraction.
Known as the “Erudite” for its university (11th century), considered the oldest in the world, Bologna is also known as the “Fat” for its tasty cuisine, and as the “Red” for its characteristic terracotta roofs.
Bologna concentrates all its charm in its historic centre. In this quadrant are Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Maggiore with the Basilica of San Petronio. Not far away are the Palazzo of Archiginnasio and the the Anatomical Theatre; the Clock Tower, the two Towers (Torre Garisenda and Torre degli Asinelli); Piazza di Santo Stefano with its seven churches; and the Quadrilatero, the old quarter that already housed the historic local craft workshops in the Middle Ages. Then, in Via D’Azeglio, you can see the house of the famous singer Lucio Dalla.
The capital of Emilia Romagna is certainly the first must-see destination for anyone visiting the region, but it is only the beginning of a beautiful journey to discover other things to see near Bologna. Even a weekend can be enough to explore the most beautiful places to discover art, history, culture and spectacular food and wine tastings, from fresh pasta to cured meats and cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano and the fine wines of the Bolognese hills.
Just a few kilometres from Bologna are the hills of the Emilian Apennines, with enchanting landscapes and very characteristic medieval villages, towers and ancient fortresses, as well as nature parks with hiking and cycling trails. And finally, for those looking for a bit of relaxation, the relaxing spas.
If your next adventure is in Emilia Romagna, follow our guide with the best places to visit, for day trips near Bologna or trips lasting several days, with a drive time of about one and a half hours. You will discover extraordinary places to experience an unforgettable holiday in and around Bologna.
What to visit near Bologna?
There are many places to discover in and around Bologna, small villages with ancient fortresses, palaces and natural parks surrounding the city of Bologna. The term “Città felsinea” derives from the Latin “felsineus” meaning “rocky”, a name that was used by Roman writers to describe Bologna, located in a mountainous and rocky area, characterised by the presence of towers and red brick buildings.
San Lorenzo in Collina – 19 km from Bologna
This small village is located on a hill, in an area suited for wine growing thanks to its exposure to the sun and its clay and limestone soil. It is the ideal destination for wine and olive oil enthusiasts who can visit the local wine cellars and olive groves to taste local specialities. In particular, the wine produced in this area is mainly Pignoletto, a sparkling white wine with Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status.
The area is also characterised by the presence of olive groves that boost the production of olive oil, highly prized and recognised by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification. The area is also popular for its hiking and biking trails.
What to see:
- Castle of San Lorenzo in Collina with its towers and ancient walls. From here, you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the valley and surrounding hills
- Church of San Lorenzo Martire
- Sanctuary of the Madonna della Bocca, a small sanctuary perched on a hill near San Lorenzo in Collina, dedicated to the Virgin Mary
- Museo della Civiltà Contadina e dell’Artigianato (Museum of Rural Life and Craftsmanship), in the historical centre of San Lorenzo in Collina, houses tools and objects used by craftsmen and farmers in past centuries.
San Giovanni in Persiceto – 24 km from Bologna
Among the places to visit near Bologna, we recommend this small town, also known as the “borgo rotondo” (round village) for its concentrically laid out historic centre dating back to medieval times. The main street, Corso Italia, leads to Piazza del Popolo, where the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Palazzo Comunale are located. Along the way is the Church of Sant’Apollinare. Next to it stands the 48-metre Civic Tower, which was built as a bulwark of defence and sighting, then became a bell tower. But the real attraction is Bethlehem Square, famous for its murals created in the 1980s by the painter and stage designer, Gino Pellegrini, to redevelop the small square.
- Civic Archaeological Museum
- Museum of Wine and Rural Civilisation
- Abbazia di Monteveglio Regional Park, a nature reserve with hiking and cycling trails.
At the end of June, the annual San Giovanni in Persiceto Fair takes place, bringing street food, rides, shows and markets to the streets.
San Pietro di Ozzano – 24 km from Bologna
Among the most beautiful places near Bologna, San Pietro di Ozzano is very charming even in its small dimensions. It is a medieval village nestled in the surrounding countryside with very few inhabitants, on the edge of the Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi and the Abbadessa gullies. In the Middle Ages it was part of the castles built to protect the Via Emilia. Nowadays it is a restored tower part of the ancient walls.
What to visit:
- Pieve di San Pietro, the parish church in the main square of the village characterised by a Romanesque portal, ancient frescoes and a Romanesque-Gothic bell tower
- Ozzano Castle, built as a military outpost for defence purposes
- Bargello fountain, in the town’s main square.
Monteveglio – 26 km from Bologna
Also this small ancient mediaeval village is worth a visit. It is located on a hill near Bologna, from where you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view over the surrounding plains. Monteveglio is one of the five municipalities of Valsamoggia. The ancient village, Monteveglio Alto, rises 260 metres above sea level.
The village is entered through an arched gate still preserving what remains of the walkways of the ancient castle. Once inside, the main attractions to visit include the Abbey of Monteveglio, built by Matilda of Canossa in the 11th century, one of the most important monuments in the area. Nowadays, it is run by Franciscan friars and is home to the Community of the Brothers of Francis. The Abbey can be visited free of charge every day.
What else to see:
- Tower Museum
- Monteveglio Abbey Regional Park in the hills around the abbey, a nature reserve with hiking and biking trails
- St. Benedict’s House that hosted pilgrims and the Oratory of San Rocco
- the two historical towers: 14th century tower (on the right beyond the gate) and bell tower (on the left).
Contrafforte Pliocenico Nature Reserve – 27.4 km
On the outskirts of Bologna you can explore the Contrafforte Pliocenico Nature Reserve, near San Lorenzo in Collina, which stretches between Bologna and Ferrara. A popular destination for hiking, cycling or horseback riding lovers, and for those interested in the geological sites in the area.
Selva Malvezzi – 28.5 km
Selva Malvezzi is a small 15th century village nestled in the Bolognese countryside, a feudal complex that still retains its ancient charm. It belonged to the noble Malvezzi family that owned Palazzo Malvezzi in Bologna, seat of the Provincial Administration since the 19th century.
It is worth a visit also the ancient Castle, a medieval fortress from the 13th century, and the Church of San Lorenzo Martire in Baroque style. All around Selva Malvezzi lies the countryside rich in vineyards and olive groves, where it is possible to go hiking or cycling.
Pieve di Cento – 31 km from Bologna
Also known as “Bologna in miniature”, this medieval village is located within the UNESCO Quadrilateral. What characterises “little Bologna” are its kilometre-long porticoes leading up to the historical centre bounded by the four gates: Porta Asia, Porta Ferrara, Porta Cento and Porta Bologna. Near the latter gate is the Rocca di Pieve di Cento, a fortified complex that houses the Museo delle Storie di Pieve.
In the historical centre are some of the most important churches:
- Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
- Chapel of Santa Chiara
- Church of the Holy Trinity
- Church of San Rocco and San Sebastiano.
For art lovers, visit:
- Pieve di Cento Art Gallery with works from the 14th to the 20th century
- Museo Magi ‘900, a private museum founded by collector Giulio Bargellini with works of art by 20th and 21st century painters, sculptors and photographers, including De Chirico, Guttuso, Ligabue and Modigliani
- Hemp Museum, with the history of hemp cultivation and processing between Bologna and Ferrara
- Museum of Music, in the Municipal Theatre dedicated to Alice Zeppilli with an exhibition of period instruments
- Museo delle Storie di Pieve, with the history of the municipality of Pieve
- Giardino del Gigante (Giant’s Garden) in a public park, a magical corner with large animal-shaped sculptures (also suitable for children)
- walking and cycling routes in the surrounding area, such as the one leading from Pieve di Cento to the Panfilia Woods.
During the summer, many musical and cultural events take place. It is worth a visit also the Pieve di Cento Carnival, with its parades of floats, marching bands and flag-wavers.
Dozza – 35 km from Bologna
Near Bologna you can also visit the small medieval village of Dozza, one of the most beautiful village listed in the “Borghi più belli d’Italia”, also known as Dozza Imolese (it is 6 km from Imola) to distinguish it from Dozza, a district of Bologna. This small village is famous for its more than 200 murals painted on the walls of the houses in the historic centre by Italian and international artists.
A curiosity: every two years, Dozza hosts the Biennale del Muro Dipinto (Biennial Exhibition of Painted Walls), an event born in the 1960s during which contemporary artists paint their works on the walls of houses, transforming them into real canvases.
What to see:
- the historical centre that can be covered on foot in about 15/20 minutes with the two main streets, Via XX Settembre and Via Edmondo De Amicis
- the 13th century Rocca Sforzesca with inside the flats, the frescoed halls, the bedrooms with period furniture, the kitchen with old utensils. The torture room si very characteristic, the dungeons and the razor well, to discover the macabre practices of the darkest years of the Middle Ages
- the Enoteca Regionale dell’Emilia-Romagna inside the Rocca, where you can taste local specialities accompanied by over 800 labels of Lambrusco, Albana and Sangiovese wines
- the panoramic walk along Via Sant’Anastasia to enjoy the landscape from above, as Dozza stands on the hills of the Apennines, among vineyards and cultivated fields. The route is also known as the “Walk of the Artists” due to the presence of information panels dedicated to the authors of the murals
- Sentiero del Vino, a 6.5 km-long itinerary that starts from a path near the Enoteca Regionale passing through vineyards and wine cellars.
Ferrara – 35.8 km
Ferrara is one the most beautiful cities to visit near Bologna. Its historic centre has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ferrara was one of the most important seignories for the development of the Italian Renaissance, among the richest and most flourishing European capitals for culture, art and gastronomy. A destination for artists from all over the world.
If you are in these parts, we recommend a visit to this splendid city.
- the picturesque Via delle Volte, populated by arches and suspended passages
- Castello Estense (visit the dungeons and frescoed rooms)
- Ferrara Cathedral, the white marble Cathedral of San Giorgio Martire
- Cathedral Museum
- Town Hall Square
- Castle of San Michele
- Church of Santa Maria in Vado
- Casa Romei, 15th century palace and museum
- Palazzo dei Diamanti with the National Picture Gallery of Ferrara
- Corso Ercole I d’Este (no shops), considered one of the most beautiful avenues in Europe.
Lake Suviana – 36 km from Bologna
When Bologna is boiling hot, or when you want to escape the city, lake of Suviana in the Bolognese Apennines is a popular destination for tourists. Here you can enjoy excursions and walks, refreshing baths and activities such as fishing or sailing.
Castelvetro di Modena – 37.7 km
A few kilometres from Modena, Castelvetro di Modena is another well-preserved mediaeval village with a civic tower and a fortress, the Clock Towers high and can be glimpsed from afar. The village is protected by walls and is located high up. Piazza Roma is the navel of Castelvetro di Modena with the chessboard drawn on the floor where the great game, the “Living Checkers”, is played in memory of the famous chess challenge of the Marquis Rangoni.
This small village is home to the Enoteca Regionale dell’Emilia Romagna, with over 200 Emilia-Romagna labels and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar PDO. The territory’s treasure is the sparkling red wine, Lambrusco Grasparossa.
Modena – 41.2 km
Modena is also a city rich in history and culture, but it is most famous for its food and wine tradition (such as the famous balsamic vinegar of Modena) and for being the home of important car companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.
Among the main attractions:
- Piazza Grande, the most important square where the 17th century Palazzo Comunale is located
- Modena Cathedral, Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo and San Geminiano, and Ghirlandina, the 86-metre-high bell tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are one of the finest examples in Italy and Europe of Romanesque art
- Enzo Ferrari Museum, driver and founder of the Ferrari car manufacturer
- Galleria Estense in Modena with works of art owned by the Dukes of Este (every first Sunday of the month, free admission)
- Palazzo Ducale, once seat of the Estense Court and now home to the Military Academy
- Luciano Pavarotti Municipal Theatre, built by Francesco Vandelli, architect of the court of Duke Francesco IV of Modena, in the mid-19th century
- the Municipal Vinegar Works, created on the initiative of the Consorteria dell’Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena
- Museo della Figurina, founded by Giuseppe Panini.
Rocchetta Mattei – 52.6 km from Bologna
What to see near Bologna that is truly unique? You can reach the Rocchetta Mattei castle nestled in the green hills of Bologna, a very special historical building with a neo-Gothic-Moorish architectural style, with towers, battlements, horseshoe arches and oriental decorations. The castle was built in the 19th century by Count Cesare Mattei as a personal residence where he could experiment his medical theories.
Nowdays, the Rocchetta Mattei can be visited and is managed by a cultural association that organises guided tours inside the castle and in its gardens, to admire the original frescoes, oriental decorations and Count Mattei’s medical inventions, including the famous “electrostatic machine” used to cure some illnesses.
Brisighella – 68.7 km
South-east of Bologna lies this small ancient village, Brisighella, worth visiting for its beautiful historic centre with its narrow, winding alleys and stone houses.
Must-sees in Brisighella:
- the suggestive “Via degli Asini”, whose name is Antica Via del Borgo, with its particular architecture
- Rocca di Brisighella, an example of military architecture
- Clock Tower
- Monticino Sanctuary
- Geological Museum Park, “ex Cava Monticino”.
The Via degli Asini (Donkeys’ Street) is a covered elevated street, illuminated by the light coming in through the arched windows. It is so called because it was once one of the roads used by the birocciai (biers) to transport the chalk extracted from the local quarries.
The “birrocciai” were people who used to use “birrocci” to transport goods and materials in the past, i.e. two-wheeled carts pulled by animals, such as horses or oxen, mainly used to transport agricultural products such as grain, wine and oil, materials such as chalk, stone or timber, along the roads and communication routes of the time.
The Brisighella area is famous for the production of high quality olive oil. There are many farms offering tastings.
The surrounding area offers many opportunities for hiking and cycling among the hilly paths and nature parks. Among the most beautiful excursions you can consider the walk along the “Via degli Dei”, a hiking trail that connects Bologna to Florence passing through Brisighella. This path largely follows an ancient historical route that crossed the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, with spectacular views along a route of about 130 km.
Forlì – 74.1 km
Among the beautiful places near Bologna, we can also visit Forlì, a town that witnesses the beauty and artistic importance of different styles and eras, from Romanesque to Renaissance to the rationalist period of the 1920s-30s.
What to see:
- Cathedral of Santa Croce
- Romanesque Basilica of San Mercuriale, an ancient abbey with an imposing bell tower
- Piazza Saffi in the old town centre where you will find the Palazzo Comunale, seat of the Town Hall, with the Civic (or Clock) Tower
- San Domenico Museum
- Palazzo Romagnoli with the Civic Art Gallery
- Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo Albertini
- Palazzo delle Poste, an example of rationalist architecture
- Church of the Suffrage and the Church of San Filippo Neri
- Rocca di Ravaldino, a medieval fortress on the hill of Forlì
- The green area of Franco Agosto Urban Park.
The city is also famous for its gastronomic specialities, in particular its cheeses such as squacquerone, its cured meats and for its Sangiovese wine.
Spas near Bologna
Near Bologna there are also many spas where you can relax and regenerate. In fact, Bologna can count on its subsoil rich in thermal waters that are very beneficial and have been known since ancient Rome.
How many occasions do we have during the day to stop for a moment to catch our breath? A holiday can become an excuse to indulge in some well-deserved pampering. If you want to relax a little after visiting Bologna and its surroundings, here are some of the most interesting spas:
- Terme di San Petronio (Bologna)
- Terme Felsinee (Bologna)
- Acquabios Spa (Minerbio)
- Terme di Castel San Pietro (Castel San Pietro)
- Terme di Porretta (Porretta Terme)
- Terme di Castrocaro (Castrocaro Terme)
- Terme di Brisighella (Brisighella).
Now that you know what to see near Bologna, we wish you a pleasant trip to Emilia Romagna! Remember: with Italia Delight you can book tailor-made food and wine experiences and trips, directly with the best Italian Food Experts. 😉
Foto copertina: hugo-kruip-unsplash
Foto in evidenza: petr-slovacek-unsplash