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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Day trip from Florence to Bologna
- 2-day Florence – Bologna itinerary
- 3 days in Florence and Bologna
- 4 days Florence – Bologna itinerary
- 5-7 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.
- 10.30 am. Bologna city walking tour (this is a good way to see the main highlights).
- 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:
- Torre degli Asinelli is one of the iconic Two Towers of Bologna and is the tallest tower in the city (prepare to do +-500 steep wooden steps). You can get tickets here or opt for a ticket that includes some local food tasting.
- A much easier alternative is to visit Torre Dell’Orologio (tickets), which offers great views as well and also includes a visit to Municipal Art Collections (really impressive). Also here, you can opt for a ticket that includes local food tasting.
- 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.
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).
- 2 pm. Piazza della Signoria, Fontana del Porcellino, Ponte Vecchio… You could also visit Palazzo Vecchio (book timed tickets in advance).
- 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.
- 6 pm. Have a drink at one of Florence’s best rooftop bars. There’s a nice bar at Uffizi itself too.
- 7.30 pm. Dinner.
- Accommodation close to the railway station in Florence (e.g. Hotel Croce di Malta, Hotel Paris, or others in this area).
LEARN MORE: One Day in Florence (detailed itinerary)
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!
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).
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.
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.
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
DAY 3 – Bologna
- +-9 am. Take a train from Florence to Bologna.
- Check-in at your hotel, leave the bags, etc.
- 10.30 am. Bologna city walking tour – this is a good way to cover the main highlights and get acquainted with the city.
- 12.30. Lunch in the Mercato di Mezzo area.
- 2 pm. Basilica di San Petronio.
- 3 pm. Climb Torre degli Asinelli, the tallest tower in the city (prepare to do +-500 steep steps). You can get tickets here or opt for a ticket that includes some local food tasting.
- 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.
DAY 4 – Bologna
- 10 am. Teatro Anatomico (get timed tickets in advance).
- 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.
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:
- One of the most popular options is this highly-rated tour that brings you to some of the nicest towns in Tuscany, including San Gimignano, Siena, and Pisa.
- Another popular day trip is to Cinque Terre. You could visit Cinque Terre in a day on your own (see this 1-day Cinque Terre itinerary for details) or join this highly-rated day tour from Florence.
And here are some really nice day trips from Bologna:
- Gastronomic day tour of the Parma Food Valley. It’s quite a bit off the main tourist tracks and is a wonderful option for foodies.
- Ferrari museum and factory tour. This is another popular attraction in the Emilia Romagna region. Not just for car-lovers.
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.
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