Where to Stay in Emilia Romagna: The Best Base to Explore the Region

Let’s get down to some practicals for your travels to Italy’s Food Valley! A question we get a lot is Where to Stay in Emilia Romagna, so Elena breaks it down – Bologna, Modena, Parm!? Find out what makes the most sense for you! Cin cin! Val


The beautiful Emilia Romagna region in Northern Italy is famous for its rich culinary culture, stunning countryside, and historic cities. Visitors flock to this region for an endless array of exciting activities and experiences. One of the most important things to consider when traveling to Emilia Romagna is where to stay. 

Explores the cities in Emilia Romagna that make the region’s best base

These locations help you get the most out of your trip by keeping geographical and practical considerations in mind. The cities in Emilia Romagna that we focus on are Bologna, Parma, and Modena. 

bologna to modena
Collegio San Carlo is one of Modena’s most important cultural institutions. Established in 1626 for the education of young aristocrats.

Emilia Romagna Map

When planning your trip, it’s helpful to have a map of the region to help you navigate. It gives you an idea of the distances between different destinations, as well as highlights some of the region’s main attractions and landmarks. 

Bologna 

Bologna is not only is it the capital city of the Emilia Romagna region, but it’s also well-connected to other popular destinations by train and bus. Plus, the city itself is a vibrant and culturally rich destination, filled with beautiful architecture, delicious food, and lively markets.

Picking where to stay in Bologna can be a bit tricky. Even though Bologna is a small Northern Italy city, it has lots of great charming areas from which to choose. 

My favorite Bologna neighborhoods to stay in:

  • Piazza Maggiore area: the historic city center! Discover the lively Piazza Maggiore, the Basilica, and market streets converge, alongside the iconic Asinelli Towers, Neptune Fountain, and the UNESCO-protected porticoes that contribute to Bologna’s distinct charm. But keep in mind that it can be pricey and it is a Limited Traffic Zone.
  • Bolognina: a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood, known for its lively atmosphere and diverse cultural scene. Food lovers will find global flavors in this culinary haven. Find affordable family-friendly accommodations.
  • Ghetto Ebraico: the Jewish Ghetto is a historic neighborhood right in the city center, with incredible medieval architecture located in a very strategic position.
best base in emilia romagna
Get the lay of the land with a Bologna walking food tour where you sample Emilia Romagna food highlights and learn about regional history in its capital.

Bologna Map

 

From Bologna you easily reach Parma and Modena by Train:

  • The train journey from Bologna to Parma typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Trains operate frequently with both regional and high-speed trains on the route.
  • Check the Trenitalia website or download the app for schedules and ticket prices.

Bologna to Modena:

  • The train journey from Bologna to Modena is relatively short, usually around 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Similar to the Bologna to Parma route, find various train options.

Parma 

Another good option for the best base in Emilia Romagna is Parma. The city embodies the type of Italian city that I like exploring — compact enough to navigate the key attractions on foot, yet spacious with a mix of choices. It boasts intriguing attractions without overwhelming you with an extensive sightseeing agenda. Plenty of shops and boutiques that offer a blend of great food and wine! Additionally, take in the charm of the town’s picturesque parks for a delightful natural experience.

Where is Parma?

Located in the northern part of the region and is well-connected to other popular destinations like Bologna and Milan. 

where is Parma
The 900-year-old Cathedral of Parma is a monument of art, history, and one of the city’s most precious treasures. The Cathedral’s construction began in 1074 under Bishop-Count Guibodo to replace the previous Christian basilica destroyed in a terrible fire. 

Discover the city’s essence through three must-see attractions: 

  • The captivating Cathedral of Parma with its incredible fresco ceilings. 
  • Immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of Teatro Regio di Parma
  • Get lost in the world’s largest maze: Labirinto della Masone, located just 10 miles / 16 km outside of Parma. In addition to the 7-hectare bamboo labyrinth, it hosts Franco Maria Ricci’s extraordinary personal art collection (featuring from Napoleonic busts to wooden model of Milan’s Duomo). Private transfers available to reach the park.

Parma Food Tour from Bologna 

If you’re staying in Bologna, take a food tour in Parma, an excellent way to experience the local cuisine and learn about the region’s food culture. Some of Emilia Romagna’s best food tours focus on the famous Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.These tours bring you on a journey through the local countryside to visit producers and taste the regional specialties. 

Modena to Parma (and vice versa)

Modena and Parma are two of the most important cities in Emilia Romagna. Located relatively close to each other, it’s easy to visit both during your trip. The distance between the two cities is around 40 miles / 65 km, easily traveled by train. 

Modena 

In Modena, explore the charming cobblestone streets, admire the beautiful Ghirlandina Tower (the town’s symbol), and sample the famous Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (traditional balsamic vinegar). 

Ghirlandina Tower
Known as the symbol of Modena, the Ghirlandina Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a dominating height of 86 meters / 282 feet, the centuries-old Civic Tower sounds its bells to mark the hours for the city.

Located in one of the town’s most picturesque piazzas, opposite the Palazzo Ducale, find the Showroom of the historical Acetaia Malpighi where you enjoy a complimentary tour and tasting.

Modena is considered the gourmet Mecca of Emilia Romagna. In fact, Massimo Bottura, a world-renowned chef and the creative mind behind Osteria Francescana, Modena’s famed three-Michelin-starred ristorante, played a pivotal role in elevating the city’s culinary status to the global stage. His innovative and artistic approach to traditional Italian cuisine has garnered international acclaim, making Osteria Francescana a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts seeking a unique gastronomic experience. To make a reservation, plan to book, from 6 months to 1 year in advance.

Once again, food tours that depart from Modena are available, offering a delicious opportunity to explore renowned area food productions including visits to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dairies, traditional balsamic vinegar producers, and local wineries.

Book your trip to Emilia Romagna – and beyond!

And, that’s our breakdown on for the best base in Emilia Romagna! Ready to start planning your trip!? 


Where to Stay in Emilia Romagna, Guest Author: Elena Pasero

Italy travel planner

 

About Elena, Travel Designer & Licensed Guide

With a Bachelor’s in Food Culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra and a multicultural hospitality career spanning Italy and the USA, Elena is our Girl’s Gotta Drink foodie expert. And, she knows her way around a wine cellar, too! 

A self-proclaimed disaster in the kitchen, Elena’s pursuit of tasty treats makes her the travel planner and tour guide you want! Elena’s always on the prowl for the best eats that showcase her native Piedmont region as well as her adventures across Italy and the globe.

Read more from Elena: 

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