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Florence to Bologna: Train & Travel Info + Itinerary Ideas for 1 to 7 Days

Florence to Bologna: Train & Travel Info + Itinerary Ideas for 1 to 7 Days

Thinking of visiting two of Italy’s most beautiful cities Florence and Bologna – in one trip and wondering how to get from Florence to Bologna (or Bologna to Florence), what to see in each town, or how to best plan your time?

In this guide, we share practical information for visiting Florence and Bologna: how to travel between the two cities and where to stay so that it’s convenient for both – sightseeing and transport connections. In addition, we also include itinerary suggestions for planning a trip to Florence and Bologna.

Whether you are visiting Bologna from Florence for a day or have a few days in each city, this guide should help you plan a perfect trip.

Good to know: All the suggestions in this article are based on our recent trip to Florence and Bologna. We hope that our personal, experience-based tips will help you plan an unforgettable trip to this beautiful part of Italy. Take a look!

Florence to Bologna map with driving time and distance
Florence to Bologna drive on the map (courtesy of Google Maps)
 

How far is Bologna from Florence & how to travel?

Bologna is located in the Emilia Romagna region and Florence is in Tuscany. The distance between the two towns is about 115 km (70 miles).

The drive from Florence to Bologna by car takes about 1.5 hours, depending on the traffic. The best road to take is the E35 – A1. Keep in mind that the highways here have tolls.

If you are also planning to visit the beautiful countryside and tour smaller towns and villages, you could indeed rent a car and drive to both cities. In that case, you may also check our guide to the best towns in Tuscany and some suggestions for places to visit in Emilia Romagna as well as San Marino.

However, if you just want to see the highlights of Florence and Bologna, you definitely do not need a car. In that case, it’s best to travel between the two cities by train. The train is not only faster, but is also cheaper than renting a car, paying for parking, tolls, and fuel. See below for more info.

Red high speed train from Florence to Bologna
The high-speed train from Florence to Bologna
 

Best way to get from Florence to Bologna

One of the most commonly asked questions is how to travel from Florence to Bologna. The answer is really simple:

By far the best way to travel from Florence to Bologna (or from Bologna to Florence) is by train. The best option is the high-speed train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station to Bologna Centrale. The journey takes just 37 minutes and regular one-way tickets cost about 12-25 EUR per person, depending on how long in advance and which train you book.

There are direct trains between Florence and Bologna every 15-20 minutes. You can check the train schedule and buy your tickets on the official Trenitalia website. If your travel plans are set in advance, it’s best to book the train tickets for a specific journey online a week or two before the trip. But if you are flexible, you can also simply get the train tickets at the station on the day itself.

While there are many other ways to travel between Florence and Bologna, the high-speed train is really the quickest and most convenient option for traveling between the two city centers. This is also what we did on our recent trip. I wouldn’t even consider any other option unless you are traveling from Bologna airport to Florence city center, in which case, you could consider a shuttle bus.

Treinitalia self-service ticket machines in Florence railway station
You can easily get train tickets at the station as well.
 

Train info & tips

Here are some tips and info to know for traveling between Florence and Bologna by train:

  • Book your trip on the official Trenitalia website. That way, you know you see all the best options and are paying the best price. If you don’t yet know exactly which train you want to take, you can simply get train tickets at the station.
  • Be sure to choose the high-speed, direct train between Florence and Bologna that takes 37-38 minutes and not a super local train that stops in every village and takes over 2.5 hours!
  • You have to type ‘Firenze’ and not ‘Florence’ when choosing the departure/ arrival stations on the Trenitalia website.
  • Don’t look for ‘Bologna’ on the departure board at the railway station in Florence. The high-speed trains are intercity trains and Bologna (or Florence) is usually not the final destination. Instead, look for the time and train number that is indicated on your ticket in order to find out which platform you have to go to. For example, the train we took from Florence to Bologna was actually traveling from Naples in southern Italy to Bolzano in the north. Florence and Bologna were just two of the many stops along its route. So the train we had to look for was actually going to Bolzano.
Florence to Bologna train schedule
This is a screenshot of the train schedule between Florence and Bologna. As you can see, there are lots of trains throughout the day. Be sure to book the high-speed train that takes just 37-38 minutes.
 

Where to Stay

If you are visiting Florence and Bologna and plan to spend a few days in each town, it’s best to stay at hotels that are conveniently located close to the railway station AND the main sights. However, this is easier done in Florence than in Bologna.

We also found that the overall price-location-quality ratio for accommodations was much better in Florence than in Bologna. Mainly since there are many more options in Florence and you get better value for your money.

So if you are only visiting Bologna for a day, stay in Florence and make a day trip. It’s so much simpler. However, Bologna is well worth more than (half) a day – so if you can, split your visit between the two cities. Be sure to book your hotel well in advance, especially for Bologna!

Below, you can see our recommendations on where to stay in each city.

Best area to stay in Florence

In Florence, one of the best areas to stay in is south of Santa Maria Novella railway station. This is where the trains from other major Italian cities arrive. You can also easily get to this area from Florence airport by a direct tram that takes just 15 minutes.

The main station is located right in the city center, just 10 minutes walk from the Duomo of Florence. So this location is not just perfect for transport connections, but also for sightseeing, shopping, and restaurants.

We stayed at Hotel Croce di Malta, just 3 minutes walk from the station. We chose this particular hotel for its location, but also for the spacious room, the rooftop bar, and the swimming pool. I loved it and would stay here again, but there are many other options in this area for various budgets.

If you are looking for luxury, check out The Westin Excelsior for the ultimate experience and the best views in Florence! If you are looking for something quirky and absolutely unique, take a look at 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino. On a lower budget, check out the highly-rated Hotel Nizza.

Florence hotel Croce di Malta rooftop terrace
The rooftop terrace of our hotel in Florence
 

Where to stay in Bologna

In Bologna, the main railway station is located somewhat further away from the city center (about 20 – 25 minutes walk to the main square Piazza Maggiore). So you could either stay close to the station, closer to the city center, or somewhat in between the two.

If a 20-30 minutes walk through busy streets with luggage (+ potentially in the summer heat) doesn’t sound appealing to you, be sure to book a hotel closer to the station or just take a taxi.

We stayed at Hotel Accademia closer to the center, about 20 minutes walk from the station. It’s located in a nice lively university area, close to several great restaurants, and just 5-10 minutes walk from the main sights in the center. I didn’t particularly love the hotel itself, but the area is very pleasant and the location is good for sightseeing.

All in all, next time, I would consider one of the following options in Bologna:

You could simply stay close to the station to make it easy for yourself upon arrival/departure (in that case, check out Starhotels Excelsior). This means a bit more walking to the main sights, but without your luggage, it’s really no big deal.

Alternatively, prepare to take a taxi anyway and stay in the heart of the city center. In that case, check out Art Hotel Commercianti (which was our preference, but wasn’t available for the dates when we traveled). Another nice option if you’d like to be in a somewhat quieter area of the city center and enjoy amazing views is Hotel Touring – one of the few Bologna hotels with a rooftop terrace.

Bologna Touring Hotel rooftop terrace bar
Rooftop bar views at Hotel Touring in Bologna
 

Now that we covered all the practicalities, let’s take a look at how you could plan your Florence – Bologna itinerary. Please note that the hours in the itineraries below are indicated just for your reference, to give you a better idea of what can be done.

Here are some itinerary suggestions for planning a trip to Florence and Bologna, from a 1-day trip to 7 days:

Florence to Bologna day trip

As already mentioned, if you only have a day for Bologna, it’s best to visit Bologna from Florence by train. In that case, I recommend taking a train at around 9 am – that way, you get to the city just as everything starts to open. You can stay quite late in the evening and have dinner in Bologna, just keep an eye on the train schedule.

This is what your Florence to Bologna day trip could look like:

  • 8.55 – 9.33 am. Train from Firenze S.M. Novella station to Bologna Centrale.
  • 12.30. Lunch in the Mercato di Mezzo area.
  • 2 pm. Visit Basilica di San Petronio.
  • 2.30 pm. Climb one or two towers for the best views of Bologna:
  • 4-6 pm. Take a tourist train and visit Madonna San Luca Basilica a bit outside of the city center.
  • 7 pm. Take a train back to Florence and have a relaxing dinner there.
Bologna skyline with Two Towers - Garisenda and Asinelli
Bologna skyline with the famous Two Towers – Garisenda and Asinelli
 

2 Days Florence and Bologna Itinerary

With two days for Florence and Bologna, you could spend one day in each city. You can either stay in Florence and visit Bologna for a day or spend a night in each town (this is a good option if you are traveling to Venice or other towns in northern Italy afterward).

DAY 1 – Florence

Here’s what your day in Florence could look like:

  • 9 am. See Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery (book timed tickets well in advance!).
  • 10 am. Duomo complex: Duomo Cathedral, climb Brunelleschi’s Dome or Giotto’s Tower, Baptistery, etc. There are many options and tour combinations – choose the one that interests you the most and book in advance. Tours with skip-the-line entrance guarantee the best use of your time. But if you just want to see the interior of the Cathedral itself, you don’t need a ticket (but be prepared to queue to get inside).
  • 12.30. Lunch at Mercato Centrale (aka San Lorenzo Market).
  • 4 pm. Uffizi Gallery. Also here, we recommend going with a guided tour since the museum is huge and overwhelming. We did this small-group tour and it was by far the best tour of the entire trip. It’s also good to plan a visit to Uffizi later in the day, when most tourists and groups have passed already.
  • 7.30 pm. Dinner.

LEARN MORE: One Day in Florence (detailed itinerary)

Ponte Vecchio in Florence Italy
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
 

DAY 2 – Bologna

On the second day, you could take a day trip to Bologna, exactly as described in the Bologna day trip from Florence itinerary above.

Stay in Florence or – if it fits your overall trip itinerary better – spend a night in Bologna. Bologna is a very lively student town and has a great atmosphere, especially in the evenings.

There are many great restaurants too where you can try the traditional Lasagna Bolognese or Tagliatelle al ragù alla Bolognese. And no, you won’t find spaghetti bolognese in Bologna!

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese in Bologna Italy
Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese – one of the traditional dishes you have to try in Bologna.
 

3 Days Florence – Bologna Itinerary

With three days for Florence and Bologna, you could spend two days in Florence and one in Bologna, or a day and a half in each city. Since there is a lot more to see in Florence, I think I’d opt for the 2+1 option.

There are many ways to plan your trip. Here’s just one suggestion of what your itinerary could look like:

DAY 1 – Florence

  • Morning. Accademia Gallery (David) + Uffizi Gallery. There are various 2-in-1 tour options or you can get tickets for each of the places separately (see here for David and here for Uffizi). However, taking a tour is one of the best ways to see both of these super-popular attractions in a short time.
  • 1 pm. Cross Ponte Vecchio and have lunch in the area around Basilica Santo Spirito.
  • Walk to Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset views. Alternatively, check out this e-bike tour that also visits this viewpoint. We did this tour at 6 pm and it was great, but don’t do it if you don’t feel comfortable on a bike in a busy city.
  • Dinner. Stay close to the railway station in Florence (2 nights).
The Duke and Duchess of Urbino painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
The Duke and Duchess of Urbino painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
 

DAY 2 – Florence

  • Morning. Duomo complex: Cathedral, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Tower, Baptistery, etc. There are many options and tour combinations – pick the one that interests you the most and book in advance. Tours with skip-the-line entrance guarantee the best use of your time. If you just want to see the interior of the Cathedral, you don’t need a ticket (but be prepared to queue).
  • Noon. Lunch at Mercato Centrale (aka San Lorenzo Market).
  • Either before or after lunch – Cappelle Medicee. It’s usually open in the morning on weekends and in the afternoon on weekdays – check the availability and get a ticket in advance.
  • 2.30 pm. Fontana del Porcellino. Piazza della Signoria. Visit Palazzo Vecchio and – optional – climb Arnolfo’s Tower (book timed tickets in advance!).
  • 4.30 pm. Basilica di Santa Croce (can get tickets on the spot) and/ or Leonardo Interactive Museum (tickets).
  • 6 pm. Have a drink at one of the rooftop bars.
  • 7.30 pm. Dinner.
Piazza della Signoria in Florence
Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria in Florence
 

DAY 3 – Bologna

On the third day, take a train to Bologna. See our Bologna day trip from Florence itinerary above for more information on how to spend your day.

If you are staying in Bologna for just one night and are traveling by train, stay close to the railway station (e.g. Starhotels Excelsior or NH Bologna De La Gare).

Colorful buildings in Bologna Italy
Colorful buildings in Bologna
 

4 Days itinerary for Bologna & Florence

With four days for the two cities, you could spend 2 days in Florence and 2 in Bologna. Here’s what your itinerary could look like:

DAYS 1 & 2 Florence

With two full days in Florence, you can cover most of the main landmarks in the city.

See the detailed suggestions on how to spend two days in Florence in the 3-day itinerary above. Stay in Florence for 2 nights.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Florence

Florence skyline with Duomo
Florence skyline
 

DAY 3 – Bologna

  • +-9 am. Take a train from Florence to Bologna.
  • Check-in at your hotel, leave the bags, etc.
  • 12.30. Lunch in the Mercato di Mezzo area.
  • 2 pm. Basilica di San Petronio.
  • 4 pm. Time for a drink/gelato.
  • 5 pm. Ghetto Ebraico and view from Finestrella.
  • Shopping, people-watching, free time.
  • Dinner. Stay in Bologna for 2 nights.
Finestrella view in Bologna
Finestrella in Bologna
 

DAY 4 – Bologna

  • 10.45 am. Torre Dell’Orologio and Municipal Art Collections (tickets).
  • +-3 pm. Take a tourist train and visit Madonna San Luca Basilica a bit outside of the city center. You can either take the same train back or walk to the city center (almost 5 km, but a nice walk under the portici – galleries).
  • Time for a drink/gelato/shopping.
  • Dinner.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Bologna

Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca in Bologna
Madonna di San Luca Sanctuary in Bologna
 

If you have more time… 5 – 7 days

If you have 5-7 days for the Florence – Bologna area, I’d stay in each city a bit longer and do some day tours. You could stay in Florence for 3-5 days and 1-3 days in Bologna.

In addition to the suggestions in our itineraries above, I recommend the following day trips from Florence:

And here are some really nice day trips from Bologna:

 

So, this is our guide for visiting Florence and Bologna. I hope that it gives you a good idea of what to expect and helps you plan a great trip to these wonderful cities.

READ ALSO: Best Places to Visit in Italy & Italy Itinerary for 2 Weeks

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How to plan a trip to Florence and Bologna in Italy
 

More guides to some of the nicest Italian cities:

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Brenda Kukla

Friday 21st of October 2022

This is by far the best site for information about Florence and bologna. I am so glad that you included the Parma trip because that’s one of the things that I want to see. I have been narrowing down my itinerary and you have given me some good ideas of places to include. One question I have though. What is the transportation like within Florence and Bologna? We are senior citizens and are mobile but are slow. Are taxis readily available in each city? Also, coming from the Atlanta area, should we fly into Florence and then back out of Florence?

Jurga

Saturday 22nd of October 2022

Hi Brenda, thanks for your kind feedback. As for the taxis, yes, you'll find plenty of taxis in Italy and they are generally not expensive. Florence is a really walkable city and, for most places, it wouldn't make any sense to take a taxi at all. But it can definitely be useful if you need to cover a bigger distance or want to go to e.g. Piazzale Michelangelo for nice views. Bologna is a bit more spread out, but if your accommodation is in the city center, you can also walk to most places in a very short time. But yes, there are taxis. You can always ask at your hotel too. For the flights, I'd see which airport has the best connections/prices. Florence airport is very convenient since it's so close to the center and you can just take a tram right to the central station from there. Bologna airport is a bit further away. There is a fast train to the city, but it brings you to the station which is quite a walk from the city center. I took a taxi there. On my recent trip, I flew to Florence and then back home from Bologna. There are also bigger airports such as Rome or Milan not too far away. But it really depends on your overall itinerary. Florence is definitely a good choice is you can find direct flights. Hope this helps.

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