6 (cheap) day-trips from Bologna by train

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Bologna Rail StationFeel like getting the hell out of Bologna?

It’s a great city, but sometimes you might want a change of air.

But not want to spend the earth.

No worries. That’s what trains are for.

Bologna Central station is an easy walk or bus ride from just about anywhere in the city.

And with a bit of local knowledge, you could be somewhere else in no time at all, for very little cash!

Trains are NOT all the same

The first thing you need to know: Italy has lots of different types of trains.

If you like trains, you’ll enjoy finding out the differences.

But for the purpose of this article, you just need to know that they fall into three broad categories:

  • fast trains – the Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca (redarrow, silverarrow, whitearrow…)
  • normal trains – the Intercity
  • slow trains – the Regionale, and the (don’t laugh) Regionale Veloce (Regional and “Fast” Regional)

Have fun experimenting with different destinations on the Trenitalia website.

Beware the rather confusing search box, which defaults to “Le Frecce” (The Arrows).

This will give you results only for the expensive fast trains, which often don’t go to the smaller, local destinations anyway.

For cheap day trips near Bologna, you’ll need to select the other tab on the search box: “Tutti i treni” (All Trains)

Where to go first?

Don’t ask me. I hate sight-seeing (but enjoy reading the newspaper on trains).

However, here are the more obvious destinations within Emilia-Romagna, the Italian region of which Bologna is the principal city, and the ticket prices.

N.b. Prices quoted are for a single, 2nd class, ticket on Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains, and were valid at the time I wrote this (Nov. 2013)

If you want to come back to Bologna after your day-out, double the quoted price (you can’t buy return tickets in Italy by the way…)

Just click on the links to find out more about each place.

Modena, about 30 mins €3.70
Ferrara, 30-50 mins €4.50
Reggio Emilia, 40-55 mins €5.70
Parma, 55-70 mins €6.90
Ravenna, 59-81 mins €6.90
Rimini, 80 mins €9.30

Leave a little time…

..to get your ticket from the machine at the station.

They’re relatively simple to operate, and take credit cards and so on.

But they let anyone travel these days, and you know what people are like. There’s always someone who doesn’t know where they want to go, holding everyone up….

Tickets, please!

Italy is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people.

But it is capable, how shall we say, of throwing up the odd unpleasant surprise…

One of which is the need to “validate” your ticket, BEFORE you get on the train. Guess it saves the ticket inspector a job.

Look out for a little machine near the entrance to each platform. Push your ticket into the hole to “convalidare” your ticket. Listen for a click, and inspect your ticket closely for a date/time stamp that wasn’t there before.

The ticket inspector will want to see that:

a. you have a ticket

and

b. you’ve validated it

Or you will be presumed to have attempted to defraud the Italian state of €3,90 or whatever, and be subject to a fine.

Being an ignorant foreigner is no excuse: la legge è uguale per tutti!

Enjoy your trip!

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Comments

  1. Hi Daniel

    I know that’s already quite a long list but there are some other possibilities, that are all easily reachable in a day:

    – Verona;
    – Padova;
    – Vicenza; and
    – Mantova.

    Padova has the Capella degli Scrovegni by Giotto and lots of other frescoes.

    I’m also a fan of Parma (the one city in Italy that successfully blocked Mussolini on his march to Roma) and the Galleria Nazionale.

    If you want to see what’s on offer they have a virtual gallery on their internet site:

    http://www.parmabeniartistici.beniculturali.it/galleria-nazionale-di-parma/galleria/

    As far as validating your ticket is concerned, it does mean that you can buy a ticket in advance and have the flexibility to decide when to use it. OK not so useful in these days when ticket machines are everywhere. The system still makes a huge amount of sense on the buses – timed tickets seem much more sensible than the British approach of paying for every journey.

    Oh and of course the capo di treno still has to come round to check and punch your ticket. So no work saved there I’m afraid.

    If you do forget to timbrare your ticket (and I’m sure everyone does at least once) then the best thing to do is to go in search of the capo di treno and throw yourself on his (or very often her) mercy.

    For smartphone users trenitalia do a handy app called prontotreno – and DeutscheBahn’s DB Navigator is also pretty handy (honestly).

    • Hi Andy,

      I think your contribution must qualify for “most helpful comment”, thanks, and keep ’em coming!

      Verona and some of the other places you mention are going to feature in another post about longer trips (out of Emilia-Romagna).

      Your comments on Parma, and on travelling by train, are very appropriate. As you suggest, in Italy it’s often possible to get people to bend the rules (in a nice way) if you are pro-active about it. And it’s certainly worth a try!

      A presto,

      Daniel

  2. We moved from Bologna to Parma and fell in love with it. A beautiful city of pinks and sandy beige with Piazza Garibaldi the center of all activities.

    The area is home to Barilla pasta, Parmalot milk and of course Parmigiana Reggiano and prosciutto so the food is fabulous. Try a little place called Rigoletto not far from the opera house. That opera house is the second best in Italy, after La Scala in Milan. You’ll have a hard time getting a ticket, but do if you can. In October the who city becomes a showcase for the works of native son, Giuseppe Verdi. For the whole month the opera house costumes are displayed in stores all around town and music fills the streets and performance spaces large and small.

    The city has lots of music. In summer there are free jazz performances on many evenings. The Auditorium Toscanini near the Barilla Center is a converted sugar factory and a gorgeous performance space. There are often free concerts of all kinds.

    Parma is also where Correggio painted his most famous works, the domes of San Giovanni and the duomo. The duomo is my favorite church in Italy, literally covered with frescoes. Titled Assumption of the Virgin, the dome’s shocking portrayal inspired the Baroque period a century later.

    The National Museum in the Piolotta is a must. The wooden Farnese Theater is amazing and the art gallery has a wonderful collection including a lovely Leonardo and a section dedicated to Correggio and Parmigianino, the city’s most famous local guy.

    Most visitors will miss the Burattini Puppet Museum which is located just a few steps from the city Tourist Office. Hundreds of hand-carved puppets are on display and there are regular shows. Really fun.

    The city Tourist Office maintains a website in English and the young women who work there are knowledgeable and extremely nice. They also speak several languages. It’s the go-to spot for all things happening so be sure to check it out. Enjoy la bella Parma.

    You can read more about Bologna, Parma, Ferrara, and a myriad of other places plus the observations of a couple who moved to Italy for a year. The book we wrote about our experiences is called Not in a Tuscan Villa…available worldwide at Amazon. And, yes, we took lessons at Madrelingua–one of the BEST experiences we had–and a part of the story.

  3. Bash Hueglin says:

    Quite a long time ago I took a day trip from Bologna to Padua to see the Scrovegni Chapel there. Had a nice walk around the town and a good lunch. Don’t know how many miles, but I was back in Bologna in the late afternoon.

  4. Marcia Bailey says:

    Learned how to navigate Trenitalia the hard way. Thanks for a very informative piece. What about Faenza? Great for pottery shopping.

    • It’s an idea. Mid-way between Bologna and Rimini, and as you say, famous for its pottery kilns.
      On the way, there’s also Imola (Grand Prix) and Castel Bolognese (pretty little place on a hill). And after Faenza, there’s Forli and Cesena.
      Masses to see in Romagna…