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The Top 5 Must-Visit Emilia-Romagna Destinations Beyond Bologna

By June 17, 2024No Comments

The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy is extremely diverse, stretching from the mountains of the Apennine Ridge bordering with Liguria in the west all the way across to the eastern coast on the Adriatic sea.

green hills and farmland of emilia romagna
There is so much more to the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna than the city of Bologna

Despite this, when most visitors think of coming to Emilia-Romagna, they associate this region with the city of Bologna and often don’t explore any further. As much as we love Bologna (check out our city guide here!), there are so many more must visit Emilia Romagna destinations we want to share with you, including:

1. Parma

The city of Parma is best known outside of Italy for the famous Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, but there is a lot more to the city than its excellent food (although this is pretty fantastic!).

must visit emilia romagna destinations parma for parmesan cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano is just one part of the amazing Parma food production

The historic city center is small but compact, filled with beautiful buildings and narrow streets. Take your time to explore during the day and then head for one of the many excellent restaurants as the sun sets to enjoy an unhurried meal featuring the best produce from the surrounding countryside.

You can see Parma on a day trip from Bologna, Milan or even Florence, but we think staying overnight is the best way to enjoy the city.

How to get to Parma

Located in the western side of the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is well connected to both southern and northern Italy by road and the extensive Italian railway network.

Taking the train is absolutely the best way to get to Parma. The station is on a line that connects Milan, Naples, and Rome in addition to the other cities in Emilia-Romagna, so there are lots of trains for you to choose from that run all day, every day.

Once you arrive at the station, it is a short bus ride or walk to the city centre.

Unmissable Parma experiences

  • Visit the incredible Parma cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta to see the wonderful frescoes and sculptures inside. The oldest parts of the cathedral date back to the 1100’s!
  • Explore the monumental complex of Palazzo della Pilotta, which includes Parma’s National Archeological Museum, the Palatine Library and Farnese Theater, as well as the National Gallery, where you can see the mesmerizing La Scapigliata painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
palazzo pilotta parma
The complex at Palazzo della Pilotta is full of interesting things to see
  • Cross the river and wander through Parco Ducale, a large green space originally founded in the 1500’s by the duke of Parma. Make sure to see the duke’s palace (which you can only look at from the outside, sadly) before relaxing in the park; this is a particularly good place to come to in the summer.
  • Get out of the city and visit some of the nearby producers making the incredible Parma ham, Parmigiano cheese, and much more, tasting and learning as you go!

One of our favorite Italian destinations awaits!

Explore the culinary delights of Emilia-Romagna with our exclusive tours in Bologna and Parma. Discover the rich flavors of Parmigiano, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar in Parma, or join a cooking class at Casa Mia.

In Bologna, immerse yourself in the vibrant market scene, enjoy an aperitivo, or dine with a local. Tailored and custom experiences ensure a unique adventure, blending history, culture, and gastronomy.

Whether savoring local specialties or exploring vineyards, these tours promise an unforgettable taste of Italy.

Join us and let the beauty of Emilia-Romagna awaken your soul.

2. Modena

Despite being only an hour north of Bologna, Modena has its own distinctive feel.

The historical centre is filled with ornate buildings in a variety of architectural styles, from Medieval to Gothic and Baroque, but despite its long history, Modena is more famous today for its association with the Italian car industry. Enzo Ferrari founded the Ferrari company right here in 1947, and the company headquarters are still in the Modena area, as are those of Maserati, Pagani and Lamborghini.

ferrari steering wheel
The Ferrari company has always been closely linked with Modena

Modena’s most famous export aside from cars is their balsamic vinegar, with the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena being one of the most incredible flavors, you must try the real thing when here! Combining it with a little aged Parmigiano Reggiano from Parma is absolute heaven!

How to reach Modena

Modena is on the same train line as Parma, so is equally accessible in Emilia-Romagna. It is much closer to Bologna, so if you are staying there, you could jump on a train at the last minute and visit Modena for the day very easily.

Once you’re in Modena, it’s very easy to navigate the city on foot or even by bike if you prefer, and there are regular bus services to destinations outside the city center.

Unmissable Modena experiences

  • Learn about Enzo Ferrari and his cars in the Enzo Ferrari Museum, which includes an impressive collection of Formula 1 and rare cars.
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Modena Cathedral and Ghirlandina bell tower. If you climb the bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the city and beyond!
Modena cathedral and tower - must visit emilia romagna destinations
The stunning cathedral and bell tower definitely make Modena one of the must visit Emilia Romagna destinations!
  • Browse the stalls of the historic Albinelli covered market, which has been serving the people of Modena for almost 100 years. All types of produce from the Emilia Romagna region is for sale here, as well as lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and fish along with cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a lovely meal.

3. Ravenna

The city of Ravenna, in the east of the Emilia-Romagna region, has been a crucial city on the Italian peninsula for centuries. Part of the ancient Roman empire since 89 BC, Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman empire in the 5th century and continued to be important to the Byzantine empire ruled from Istanbul.

This continued importance is reflected in the majesty of the buildings that make up Ravenna’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which have some of the most incredible and vibrant mosaics we’ve ever seen!

The majority of visitors to Ravenna stop by to see these mosaics and then leave again, but they’re missing out on one of the most interesting destinations in Emilia-Romagna. The small city is a relaxed, charming place to explore and has some wonderful restaurants where you can taste specialities from the Adriatic coast.

How to get to Ravenna

Located on the east coast of Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna is slightly harder to reach than other places in Emilia-Romagna. Train remains the best and most reliable way to travel, but you will most likely need to change in Bologna if you’re coming from further afield.

The train from Bologna to Ravenna takes around an hour, but once you are in Ravenna, everything is within a short walk so it’s a very easy city to visit.

Unmissable Ravenna experiences

  • The eight buildings that house the mosaics dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries are all breathtaking, but for us, the unmissable ones are those in the Basilica di San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and St. Andrew Chapel. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites should absolutely be at the top of your to-do list!
mosaics on the ceiling of the mausoleum of gallia placidia in ravenna
The mosaics of Ravenna’s UNESCO sites are simply breathtaking
  • People-watch with an aperitivo before dinner in the main square of Piazza del Popolo. Yes, you’ll pay a little more than you would on a side street, but think of the extra as a charge for the entertainment.
  • Pay your respects at Dante’s tomb, just a stone’s throw from Piazza del Popolo. Dante died here in 1321 and the Pope at the time ordered his body taken back to Florence, where he was born, but the local people defied the Pope and hid it, so he has remained in Ravenna ever since.
  • Try one of the local specialities, the piadina. A flatbread that is filled with a wide choice of ingredients before being toasted, piadina is truly delicious, any time of day!
Piadine come with a wide variety of fillings but are always absolutely delicious!

4. Rimini

The coastal city of Rimini today is known for its beautiful beaches and fun nightlife as part of the Romagna Riviera, but it has always been an important place in Emilia-Romagna. The ancient Romans founded the colony of Ariminun in 268 BCE, with this perfectly located city being a crossroads between northern and central Italy by sea and road.

must visit emilia romagna destinations rimini marina and lighthouse
The coastal city of Rimini has a different feel to other parts of Emilia Romagna

Many emperors left their mark on the city, with lots of ancient ruins still visible today, and even after the Roman empire collapsed, Rimini (as it became known) remained a politically important location through the Middle Ages, resulting in a city that is filled with interesting buildings as well as excellent beaches.

How to reach Rimini

South of Ravenna (and close to the independent Republic of San Marino), Rimini is at the south-eastern edge of Emilia-Romagna. Its long-standing position as a transport hub means that there are excellent links by road and of course, the railway. You can take the coastal train line, which goes all the way down to Bari in Puglia or change at Bologna.

Once in Rimini, it is very easy to get around the city, but if you want to explore the nearby natural park or rolling hills of countryside, you will need a rental car.

Unmissable Rimini experiences

  • While there are many ancient Roman ruins in Rimini, our favorites to see are the Arch of Augustus, built in the time of Rome’s first emperor and almost 2000 years old, and the Ponte di Tiberio, or Bridge of Tiberius. This bridge spans the river Marecchia and, incredibly, is still perfectly safe to use today! For pedestrian use only, take a walk over the bridge and admire its impressive architecture.
bridge of tiberius in rimini
The incredible skills of the ancient Romans mean we can still use this bridge today
  • Visit the Federico Fellini Museum, dedicated to the Italian filmmaker who was born in Emilia-Romagna. Creator of famous films like La Dolce Vita, the fascinating museum tells the story of Fellini’s life and work, plus it’s housed in a 15th-century castle!
  • If you’re visiting Emilia-Romagna during the warmer months, take a day out and relax on one of Rimini’s beaches. Long stretches of flat, sandy beaches make it easy to find a place to set up for the day.

5. Reggio Emilia

Right at the heart of Emilia-Romagna, Reggio Emilia is often an afterthought when people talk about visiting this part of Italy, despite being close to both Parma and Modena. This means it is never crowded and has to be one of our favorite places to get away from the busy areas during peak season!

Best known for being the place where the Italian Tricolore flag was created, this is a place to explore at a relaxed pace. Wander through the old town before taking a seat at one of the many bars and enjoying a coffee or glass of wine. It also makes a great alternative to Bologna if you want a base from which to explore the whole Emilia-Romagna region.

italian flags flying from windows in reggio emilia
Reggio Emilia is the home of the Italian flag so you will see them everywhere

How to get to Reggio Emilia

On the train line that links Milan with Puglia in the far south, Reggio Emilia is easy to reach by train. You can also connect in Bologna and then take a local train.

There are also good road connections if you are planning to have a rental car, with the journey taking around an hour from Bologna. This part of Emilia-Romagna has many medieval fortresses and beautiful villages where you can try traditional cuisine and local wines, so you can see a different side of the region outside of the cities.

Unmissable Reggio Emilia experiences

  • Visit the town hall, which is home to the Sala del Tricolore (Flag hall) where you can see the original Italian flag. There is also a small museum which explains the story of the flag’s invention in 1797 and how it eventually came to represent the whole country.
  • Admire the contemporary art collection at Collezione Maramotti, with both a permanent collection and regular changes in temporary exhibits.
  • Hire bikes and ride along the many cycle paths all around the city and its green spaces. These paths are easy for bikers of all abilities, with flat land and good-quality paths to navigate!
reggio emilia bike path
The flat land and specific bike lanes make it super easy to get out and explore

As you can see, there is a lot to see and do in the Emilia-Romagna region beyond Bologna, and we’d love to help you explore one of our favorite Italian regions! Check out our current tours here or get in touch directly so we can create a tailored experience for you.

must visit emilia romagna destinations pin

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