The Perfect 5 to 7 Days in Emilia-Romagna Itinerary

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by Olivia Ellis

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Located in Northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna is known as one of the most gastronomically rich regions of Italy, full of picturesque and elegant medieval cities, fresh seaside towns, and the oldest university in the world. On this 5 to 7-day Emilia-Romagna itinerary, you’ll discover the capital of the region, the red city of Bologna, eat your way through the home of many acclaimed Italian delicacies in Parma and Modena, and explore cities off the beaten path in the region.

How Many Days in Emilia-Romagna?

While it is possible to explore a small amount of the region in 2-3 days, spending a day in Bologna, and a few days in surrounding towns/cities, it’s quite a rushed period to explore the region.

With at least 5 days in Emilia-Romagna, you’ll have the chance to see the most important sights in Bologna over a few days and venture out of the capital to explore a few neighboring cities and towns.

Ideally, 7 days in the region is best to do the abundant Italian region justice. Over 7 days, you’ll be able to see the important and must-visit spots in the region and get a comprehensive experience and trip in the region without rushing.

Basilica San Vitale of Ravenna
Basilica San Vitale of Ravenna

Getting To & Around Emilia-Romagna

As this itinerary begins in the capital city of Bologna, the ideal ways to reach Bologna are either by train, plane, or bus.

If you’re arriving by train, Bologna Centrale train station is located in the center of the city and is well connected to most major Italian cities in just a few hours by high-speed rail.

Because of its location in North-Central Italy, Emilia-Romagna makes for an excellent mid-way point if you’re travelling on a Venice-Milan-Florence route. You can view train schedules here.

For those flying to get to Emilia-Romagna, Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi Airport is located just 7.5 km from the city center. The airport serves flights to/from other destinations in Italy, and Europe, as well as a handful of seasonal routes to/from North America.

For a cost-effective way of getting to the region, you’ll also find comfortable and affordable bus routes connecting Bologna to the rest of the country. You can view bus schedules here.

When planning how you’ll make your way through the Emilia-Romagna region, I suggest traveling by car, train, or bus.

If you like to have flexibility during your travels, hiring a car for your stay in Emilia-Romagna is a great option and an Emilia-Romagna road trip is an exciting way to see the vibrant region.

All the destinations in this itinerary are car-friendly with easy routes. You can browse car rental options here.

Italy has a superb train system, so any route is doable by train with different train options for differing budgets.

If you’re looking for the most cost-effective way to get around during your trip, it’s also possible to find bus transport between destinations.

Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower in Modena, Italy
Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower in Modena, Italy

5 to 7 Day Emilia Romagna Itinerary

Whether you’re visiting the region to indulge in eat gelato and culatello, indulge in Parmigiano Reggiano in Parma and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena or you’re looking to explore less-visited spots in the region, this itinerary has something for everyone.

With this route, you’ll have the option to either spend 5 days or one week in Emilia-Romagna, going further into the region.

Day 1 – Bologna

The ideal spot to start a trip to Emilia-Romagna is in the region’s capital city of Bologna. Dating back to Etruscan times, the city of Bologna is easily one of the most classically stunning cities in Italy. You can go on a historical walking tour to learn more about the city.

On your first day, I suggest making your way through the key points of the city and must-see sights. Bologna’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even within just a few minutes of exploring, you’ll understand why.

From the Spanish-style red terracotta rooftops and historic architecture to the symbolic, long porticoes running throughout the city, Bologna’s historic center is an Italian treasure.

Visit the Two-Towers of Bologna (Le Due Torri), one of the most iconic landmarks of the city, and maybe even climb to the top of the Asinelli tower to experience outstanding panoramic views of the Bolognese and Emilia-Romagna countryside.

Make sure to stop by the Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square, to experience what life is like for local Bolognese people.

Dating back to the middle ages, Piazza Maggiore is the heart of the city, lined with important city buildings, restaurants, and cafes, as well as the famous Fountain of Neptune keeping watch over the heart of the city. Also make sure to take in the nearby Basilica de San Petronio, the major church overlooking Piazza Maggiore.

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna
Piazza Maggiore in Bologna

Where to Stay in Bologna

B&B Chez Moi Lame 57 – Mid-range travelers will love this cosy bed and breakfast located within easy reach of all of Bologna’s top attractions. There are many clean and comfortable rooms on offer and they offer a breakfast voucher for a local cafe each morning.

Hotel Metropolitan – If you’re after a luxury stay while in Emilia-Romagna, then this plush hotel in central Bologna is a great choice. Perfectly poised for exploring the city, there are a range of wonderful rooms to choose from and a myriad of amenities for guests to enjoy.

Dopa Hostel – Budget and solo travelers will love this hostel in the heart of Bologna. Offering both private rooms and traditional dorm beds, they also have good common areas and have a great breakfast available daily.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bologna hotels!

Day 2 – Bologna

On day 2 in Bologna, make your way south of the city center to witness the Sanctuary of San Luca, a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to Saint Luke located on a towering hill looking over the Bologna countryside.

The Sanctuary is an ideal spot to get away from the busy city, witness appealing art and frescoes, and the gorgeous red and orange porticoes running to the center of the city.

While some may say that the symbol of Bologna is found in the city’s porticoes and red buildings, others proudly say that the symbol of Bologna is its food, specifically tortellini, and ragu Bolognese.

After discovering the Sanctuary of San Luca, head back to the city center to enjoy a rich and succulent Bolognese lunch. I recommend heading to Trattoria da Me, located on the northwest side of the city center to enjoy local specialities.

Another great way for foodies to explore the gastronomic side of Bologna is to take part in a cooking class, where you’ll learn how to prepare Italian food and local Bolognese dishes. You can also go on a food tour if you simply want to taste some of the amazing regional food.

Afterwards, spend time exploring the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna. While you can wander around many of the public university buildings independently, I suggest scheduling a tour with the University.

Led by students, you’ll learn about the university’s importance, history, architecture, and interesting things you may miss otherwise. The campus is easily one of the most characteristic I’ve ever seen, making you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.

University of Bologna
University of Bologna

Day 3 – Parma

Day 3 of this itinerary will bring you around an hour and 10 minutes away by train from Bologna to the Ancient Roman city of Parma.

It’s also important to note that the rest of the days on the itinerary are individual stops for each day, so you have the option to either stay at each location or remain at the same accommodation in Bologna for the entire itinerary. I recommend staying in at least one of the smaller cities during your visit to Emilia Romagna to get a different experience in comparison to a larger city.

Parma mainly holds its fame for being the home to Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma, but the city is also deep in stunning architecture as well as important history.

If you want to visit some of the nearby factories you can drive there or take a 2-hour tour that visits a Parmigiano factory or this 3.5-hour tour that visits a Parmigiano dairy and a Parma ham factory.

The perfect way to get around the city like a local is by bicycle. You’ll find plenty of bike rental and e-bicycle spots throughout the city, waiting to whisk you around the colourful streets of Parma, past remarkable Romanesque architecture, and delicate frescoes.

During your time in Parma, make sure to stop by the 11th-century Parma Cathedral and Baptistery, wander around the lush and green Ducal Park, and maybe even take part in a food tour to experience and learn about the city’s strong food importance and culture.

interior of Parma Cathedral
Interior of Parma Cathedral

Day 4 – Modena

It’s no surprise that there’s a main food theme to this itinerary, and your next stop on day 4 in Modena is no exception. Modena is an idyllic city located just half an hour away from either Bologna or Parma by train.

As the home to balsamic vinegar and one of the top-rated restaurants in the world, Modena is a destination that surely deserves a spot on an Emilia-Romagna itinerary.

Modena is an incredibly vibrant city with a large array of restaurants, cafes, markets, and bars to keep you satiated and entertained during your visit. If you’re particularly keen on experiencing the local side of Modena, I suggest heading to Mercato Albinelli to have a wander around and check out all the food on offer (especially the amazing pasta!) and maybe even pick up a tasty souvenir to bring home from your trip.

Must-visit spots in Modena are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Modena Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower located in the center of the city and easily two of the most recognisable symbols of the city of Modena. You’ll find stunning views of the city from the top of the 12th-century Ghirlandina Tower looking over the city.

Alternatively, if you’re a car aficionado, Modena is home to Ferrari cars and its founder, Enzo Ferrari. The Enzo Ferrari Museum celebrates the life and work of Enzo Ferrari and the museum well-presents the history of Ferrari as well as a collection of many vintage cars under the Ferrari name.

Beautiful Modena
Beautiful Modena

Where to Stay in Modena

Il Fonticolo Room & Breakfast – This quaint bed and breakfast is an excellent choice for mid-range visitors looking to spend the night in Modena. They have many rooms on offer, a good location for exploring the city and breakfast is available daily.

Room & Breakfast Canalino 21 – This budget bed and breakfast is a great choice for travelers looking to save a bit of cash. There are several rooms to choose from, a good location for seeing all Modena has to offer, and daily breakfast available.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Modena hotels!

Day 5 – Reggio Emilia

If you’re spending 5 days in Emilia-Romagna, this will be your final day of the itinerary spent in the less-visited city of the region, Reggio Emilia.

Reggio Emilia is located either a quick 15-minute train from Modena, or a 45-minute train ride from Bologna and is the home to many elegant palaces, art museums, and a thriving arts and culture scene.

Many of the city’s important cultural landmarks date back to the medieval era and are well worth the visit during your time in Reggio Emilia. I suggest making a stop at the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia and the Basilica della Ghiara, which are both UNESCO Sites.

Reggio Emilia is also home to many piazzas of historical importance and the perfect place to stop and take in the city from a local perspective. The chic and green Piazza Fontanesi is a fantastic spot to have an aperitivo including a local Lambrusco wine and Reggio Emilia cold-cut meat and cheese.

Reggio Emilia
Reggio Emilia

Day 6 – Ravenna

Known as Italy’s “mosaic city”, Ravenna is the second to last stop on your 7 days trip. Located near the coast of the Adriatic sea, Ravenna is a charming city in Emilia Romagna full of history that was once the capital of the Roman empire.

The city magnificently holds the home of 8 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as the burial place of the famed Renaissance author, Dante, and an exciting atmosphere from just about any corner of the city.

Ravenna also has a large amount of unique and gorgeous hotels and accommodations, so if possible, I recommend staying the night in Ravenna.

While wandering around the picturesque streets of the city, make sure to make a point to stop at the Basilica de San Vitale.

The basilica is a 6th-century church and is the perfect example of preserved Byzantine art and architecture consisting of a museum-worthy number of frescoes, intricate mosaics, and works of art. Included in the ticket price you can also visit the nearby Mausoleo di Galla Placidia.

In Ravenna, you’ll also find yourself at the home of one of Italy’s most beloved snacks and quick meals, the piadina.

Piadina is essentially an Italian tortilla/pita that is filled with all sorts of delicious fillings, sweet or savoury. I suggest making a stop at La Piadina Del Melarancio to enjoy a warm, homemade version from the source.

Mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
Mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna

Where to Stay in Ravenna

Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi – This 3-star hotel in the center of Ravenna is perfect for mid-range visitors to this historic city. They have a range of lovely rooms to choose from along with a fantastic location for exploring all this lovely Emilian city has to offer.

Palazzo Bezzi Hotel – Those looking for a high-end option in Ravenna will love this elegant yet modern hotel. Not only is there a range of wonderful rooms to choose from, but there are also amenities like an on-site restaurant/bar along with a spa and wellness center for guests to enjoy.

Apartment Hotel Marchesini – If you’d like to have your own flat while traveling in Emilia-Romagna, then these apartments in Ravenna are an excellent option. There are many different flats to choose from and all come fully furnished and equipped with everything you may need.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Ravenna hotels!

Day 7 – Ferrara

The last day of this Emilia Romagna itinerary will be spent in the quaint city of Ferrara. Ferrara is located half an hour’s train ride away from Bologna or an hour and 15-minute train ride from Ravenna.

Ferrara holds strong importance for the history of Italy due to being the location of the House of Este, a family with much influence in the country from the 1400s onwards.

To learn more about the House of Este and its importance in Ferrara, head to the moated Estense Castle located in the center of Ferrara.

Alongside the enchanting narrow streets, the city also boasts a wonderful number of green parks, including Massari Park, the perfect place to enjoy a sunny day.

Another option is to head to the Ferrara Botanical Garden across from Massari Park to explore over 1,300 greenhouses species and 700 outdoor species of various plants maintained by the university.

For a unique experience, take part in a boat cruise down the city’s man-made canal of the River Po, passing through historical monuments and taking in the remarkable architecture at a relaxed pace under the sun.

Estense Castle in Ferrara
Estense Castle in Ferrara

Have More Time?

If you have more than 7 days in Emilia-Romagna and would like to explore further, Emilia-Romagna is a region perfectly located in North-Central Italy. From here you can go further into the smaller towns of Emilia-Romagna (such as Santarcangelo di Romagna) to get an experience outside of the more populated areas.

Those visiting in the warmer months may also be interested in heading to the seaside resort of Rimini. This is a popular beach destination for Italians and visitors alike and it’s worth heading out here if this is something that interests you.

Furthermore, Emilia-Romagna is also surrounded by many other rich and exciting Italian regions such as Tuscany, Liguria, Lombardy, Veneto, and Piemonte.

For a unique trip after spending a week in Emilia-Romagna, one of the world’s oldest republics, the microstate of San Marino is located just a short distance from Emilia-Romagna. The microstate is full of medieval, cobblestoned streets as well as stunning countryside and mountains.

If you’re looking for a unique, 5-7 day trip in one of the most delicious and culturally rich parts of Italy, Emilia-Romagna is ideal. With picturesque surroundings, a delectable food scene, and deep Italian history, Emilia-Romagna will lend you all that it has to offer with likely still more to explore.

Are you planning to visit Emilia Romagna? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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