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Thoughts on Bologna and ?


10+ Posts
Thanks Ian. Ferrara wasn’t even on my radar as a possible place to stay, but after reading your description I will definitely put it on my list of places to look into. I appreciate your taking the time to give me such detailed information.


New Member
We are spending 4 days in Bologna in September 2019.
Why did we pick Bologna?
1. Better flights from LHR to BLQ on British Airways. The flights to VCE were very inconvenient. OK, that is not really a good reason.
2. But, then we started to mention it friends and acquaintances and they all said: "I love Bologna".

One aspect of Bologna are the many possible day trips by train:
Firenze, Ferrara, Venezia, Modena, Padua, Verona, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Rimini, Ravenna.

We are now pumped about Bologna.


10+ Posts
I spent three weeks in Bologna 14 years ago with several day-trips since. If the knee cooperates, I plan to return next spring for another three weeks (right now that's looking iffy). It's a wonderful city. I also spent three weeks in Ravenna last May and have stayed for weeks in both Lucca and Siena (as well as Florence). I lost my heart to Siena years ago, but the hills are too much for me now.

Bologna is a big city though the central historic area (where you should stay) has a small-city feel. It's not the greatest city for art museums, but there are enough other kinds of sites to keep you busy for a long time. The food is sophisticated, expensive and wonderful. Visits to see the production of parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto are all worth while but will probably involve some sort of tour. Bologna is a great base for exploring the towns of ER by train (Modena, Ferrara, Parma, Faenza,...), although a car would be nice to get into the countryside (the areas south between Modena and Bologna and around/south of Dozza are particularly nice). You might consider a couple of weeks in Bologna without a car plus a week in the countryside with a car.

Ravenna, Lucca and Siena are also wonderful. They are smaller and more laid back than Bologna. IMHO Ravenna is an overlooked gem (trip report) though it's not much of a base for side tripping. Lucca (trip report) offers wonderful walking and possibilities for side trips by bus and train. Siena has "must see" art and a medieval vibe with narrow twisty hilly streets. So many places, so little time!


10+ Posts
Marlene, thank you for all the information. I enjoyed reading your trip reports. Could you recommend any specific area within the central historic area of Bologna to stay? Or is it small enough that it doesn’t make much difference? We would be renting an apartment.
We stayed at the same hotel you stayed at in Ravenna during our brief two day visit years ago. I am planning to stay there again if we return for another short visit on this upcoming trip. Would you have felt three weeks was too long a visit if you weren’t attending language school?
What would you think of Parma as a place to base for a month?
We would enjoy a return trip to Lucca and the surrounding area, but I think that we will plan a separate trip for that. You’re right, sigh. So much to see, never enough time.
I hope your knee cooperates and you have a terrific trip.


10+ Posts
Three weeks might be a stretch for Ravenna; it would be very slow travel indeed. OTOH, you could do day trips to Bologna and Ferrara by train and explore by car the coast or the area south of Faenza and Forli (I understand Brisighella is nice but I've not been there).

As for Bologna, I would avoid the area around the main train station and the smaller train station to the east (primarily due to noise). The main street from the train station to the piazza maggiore (Independence?) is (or was) very noisy so I would not want to be directly on that street. Fourteen years ago I was told to avoid the area around the theater (sketchy at night), but I don't know whether that assessment is still valid. Bologna has (or had) an excellent bus system, but I still think it's best to be within walking distance (which would vary for different people) of the main things you want to see. I would not venture outside the ring road. However, I did stay several blocks outside to the south of the city 14 years ago and that was a very nice area with a big park close by. I usually took the bus into the center each day and did not return to the apartment until late afternoon. But the knees were better then :) .

I've never been to Parma, but I imagine it would be a good place to stay for a while. It has been "on my list", for many years. However, it's a little difficult to get there by bus (I can't do trains with luggage). It has good train service to Bologna (about an hour, I think) and I've always wanted to explore the area south of Parma. OTOH, I don't think there are many sites in Parma itself. I would also consider it for a day trip from Bologna.

Yes, Lucca deserves it's own trip, although it seems to get a lot of one-day visitors. I spent a week at this place (colle verde) many years ago with my sister and daughter - rustic digs but fabulous area; you would definitely need a car. You could also stay in Lucca (I recommend within the walls) and take side trips by train/bus (or if you are very brave by bicycle).


10+ Posts
Marlene, thanks so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Your opinions and information is very helpful.


10+ Posts
We've never been to Bologna but are planning 2 nights there on our next trip (February) just to stick a toe in the water. We have an apartment arranged and have been provided with a list of restaurants - does anyone have any recommendations? Are most places open for lunch as well as dinner? We tend to eat a heavier lunch than dinner. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


100+ Posts
We have an apartment arranged and have been provided with a list of restaurants - does anyone have any recommendations? Are most places open for lunch as well as dinner? We tend to eat a heavier lunch than dinner.
We ate out twice in our five-day stay in October, and enjoyed both places. Please treat these recommendations as completely subjective, and based on the impressions of two country mice who like simple dishes that bring out the natural goodness of properly grown and prepared foodstuffs.
1) Bio's Kitchen :
We had dinner here, and were very impressed by the concept and the dishes. The interior is quite striking and special. The staff speaks English, and there was a proper English menu as well. Quite a list of options to choose from, whatever your tastes are, and all we chose was very good.
2) Drogheria della Rosa :
Serves typical regional dishes. Weather was good, so we ate outside. Staff speaks English. Menu a bit limited, perhaps, but OTOH this keeps the quality of what is served high, and indeed all was very tasty. I thought the prices a bit expensive, but my wife said the food deserved them...;)

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Two places I would have recommended have closed, so that just leaves Sette Tavoli on via Cartoleria, which has an unusual theme in that they change the menu on a regular basis to showcase different regions of Italy. A good wine list too, fairly priced and we've enjoyed each visit.


100+ Posts
I was very impressed by Parma. It is elegant and lively. It has a great art scene, the center is easy to get around, there are good rail and bus connections to other cities/towns, and there are some real surprises around the area. The castles that are around the countryside are nothing less than breathtaking, the famous food producers (parmigiano, prosciutto di Parma, etc) are close by, and the restaurant options are plentiful. Great aperitivo places, too!


10+ Posts
"...there are good rail and bus connections to other cities/towns"
Were you able to get outside Parma without a car? What towns that are connected by bus would you recommend?


100+ Posts
@Marlene We had a car but there are buses to the smaller outlying towns and the rail line runs up and down that wide valley (can get to Milano, Piacenza, Cremona, Fidenza, Modena, Bologna etc. by train). Fontanellato is lovely, with one of the UNESCO castles, and if you're an Eric Newby fan like we are, that's where he was held and where he met his wife Wanda (Love and War in the Apennines). There's a bus to the castle hamlet of Torrechiara (beautiful) and the mountain foothills town of Langhirano, sort of the epicenter of prosciutto, with a prosciutto museum. You can also get to Salsomaggiore Terme if you'd like to soak in some hot springs. There is even a bus to the incredible art museum of Magnani Rocca, south of Parma near Traversetolo, a real gem that is practically unknown. There were only 6 or 7 other people there during our visit, and the grounds are lovely and they have a nice restaurant.

Everyone gets around by bike in Parma (well, all of the cities along that Via Emilia corridor really) and there's a bike share program you can use once you download the app. http://www.infomobility.pr.it/index.php?page=default&id=14

The bus is www.tep.pr.it


100+ Posts
If you want a nice tour of the food producers or the castles, a cooking class, or a fun Ferrari driving experience (we did this!) I can highly recommend Food Valley Travel. They're very attentive and professional and offer well-planned tours.


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