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Help deciding between Bologna/Modena/Ravenna/Ferrara for a week in June

Hello all,
My seventeen year old son and I are spending the last two weeks of June in Italy. Likely a full week in Emilia Romagna and another full week in Umbria or Le Marche. He is obsessed with Italian sports cars and this is driving our decision to stay in Emilia Romagna. We will be touring Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati all located around Bologna. Not sure yet if we will piece these tours together on our own or take an all day tour run by companies that provide all guiding/transport,visits all three car manufacturers and stop for a lunch.

My central question for this post is, where in Emilia Romagna would be worth basing ourselves for a week? In Bologna or within an hour or so of Bologna for the car tour day/days. We will have a car as our preference is to have a base and take daytrips to explore villages and smaller towns within 1.5 hours of our base. Our main interests are food, photography, cars, architecture and just hanging out. We are not big museum, church visitors. I am an ex French trained chef and a retired photographer. We are thinking we would like to vary our experience by styaing in a village/smallsih town for one week and one week more rural. For the “in town” expereince we are thinking of possilbly Bologna. Have fresh coffee/pastries in the AM down the street, walk to restaurants some nights etc..

Is Bologna a good choice to base ourselves out of for a week? Will finding lodging with parking be possible even if it’s not right on site? I am aware of ZTL zones. Other possible choices; Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara? Are any of these towns better suited fo having sufficient day tripping opportunities for the week? I’m quite certain we will be wanting to tour some parmesan/balsamic producers and maybe take a cooking class. I’m not entirely opposed to breaking up a week but generally prefer the style of settling in somewhere for a week. I could go on but I I’l leave it here for now as I think I’ve provided enough background for some informative responses. Thanks in advance for all input!


Posted by
481 posts

Modena has our favorite restaurant in Italy, Da Danilo. There is a large car park next to the Sant’Agostino church, right next to the ZTL and the downtown area. The Central Park Hotel [outside the ZTL] is a block away, but we prefer the Best Western Hotel Libertà [garage parking for a fee, pass to enter and park in the ZTL]. See

Helpful web site:

Train time to Bologna is 32 minutes. Other close by towns [by train] are Reggio de Emilia, Piacenza, Carpi and Parma.

Carpi has the third largest square in Italy, a nice market Thurs and Sat AM. Parma of course has one of the best reastaurants in the area, La Forchetta. The signature dish is the "Duchessa di Parma" on page 6 of the menu [see online].

We arrange our cars by calling up the broker Autoeurope; get zero- deductible collision, which covers any damage to the body of the vehicle. Very important to get an IDP from your local AAA office, as without one you are not licensed to drive.

Posted by
621 posts

Bologna is a wonderful city- great food options, wonderful ambiance/vibe. I've been multiple times, based there last June for 5 nights to do day trips (by train). But your problem will be the car. Bologna is not a "village/smallish town", there's quite a bit of sprawl so finding someplace to stay walking distance to the center where you'd want to be but with parking will be a challenge. If you can find it, then that's where I'd base. Modena and Ferrara are two of my favorite towns as well but while they are smaller, they are also not 'villages'. The train system in that region is wonderful, are you sure you need a car. I kind of think you could base in Bologna and use trains to do all the things you mention, with maybe one or two taxi rides.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks N kingdom and Isabel,
My post unfortunately was not as clear as it should have been. In Umbria/Le Marche we hope to stay more rural, a "village or smallish" town. Maybe even an agriturismo. In Emilia Romagna we hope to be able to stay in one of the towns I listed as possibilities. I recognize the limits of requiring a car but we are committed to doing so. This way of transport on day trips allows me the opportunity to indulge my practice of landscape photography (something not able to be done by train) and at the same time the opportunity to stop so my son can examine/photograph cars along the way. We've done this several times in France and it has worked quite well for us. The pain of course are the ZTL's which France doesn't have. Or at least not in the same highly restrictive way that Italy does.

We're still five months out but I feel compelled to lock in accommodations soon. So, the Air bnb search will begin and that in and of itself may sway and determine where we end up basing out of.

Thanks again for the comments.


Posted by
2 posts in Modena is one of the oldest balsamic producers that offers an excellent pre fixed meal be sure to book the tour as well when making reservation Found this on an Anthony Bourdain episode As a foodie I highly recommend it

Posted by
614 posts

Ravenna or Ferrara for me.
and between the two of them I like Ferrara best. However the Mosaic in Ravenna Cathedral is a must.

Posted by
242 posts


Easy day trip to Modena (30 minute train ride) and the Ferrari Museum.
Excellent restaurant is

Easy day trip to Ferrara. 30 minute train ride.
Visit (but, not on a Monday)
Eat at

Easy day trip to Firenze if you take the Frecciarossa (39 minute)

Easy day trip to Ravenna (70 minute train ride)

Posted by
544 posts

For cars, food tours, cooking classes, restaurants, farmers market, nice place to live, and ease of driving in and out, I'm voting for Modena. If you were wanting more art or more churches or a bigger city or a place with a university, then I'd change my vote.

If I didn't already email or message you with the two places we greatly enjoyed eating at in Modena, tell me and I'll look them up --- one was the bocce ball club and one was on the second floor of the building overlooking the farmers market.

Posted by
31 posts

@wvdthree. All good fathers should take their son to the Disneyland of Italian motor sport. After reading your post, I have suggested to my sons that this year we should visit at least one of the big three.

You already have many excellent tips and guides on how, when, where, what and who for the factories etc in the Modena/Bologna region.

Umbria is a splendid area to exercise your photographic skills. My daughter-in-law has just come across “Castello di Giomici” valfabbricia, southern Umbria, which may be of interest to you as a location to stay. (Current costing is for around $50AUD per adult per night.) We are planning a few days there in late August. Great driving in the region and not normally full of tourists. Lots of towns that don’t get a lot of publicity but are quintessential true-blue Italian. Todi, Norcia, Gubbio, Urbino to suggest a few. You can see many of these towns on “you tube”, filmed mostly by amateurs. My family has a bias toward Abruzzo and Umbria.

It may be helpful to contact the Ferrari club closest to you and ask them for insights on visiting the displays around Modena. I am sure they would be delighted to assist. Might even be worth joining your son up as a non-owner member. (I presume he doesn’t own one yet). May get you/him to a couple of special areas. Ferrari’s are fantastic cars on the track, but awfully noisy and a harsh ride on town roads.

Many posters are pro train/bus and so am I in the big cities. Driving can be fun too. Takes us a little time to adjust to driving on the other side of the road. No major incidents, yet.

All the males in my family look forward to driving in Italy. It is seen as one of life’s great adventures. In 2010, my 2 brothers-in-law were trying a new GPS device. They mistakenly set the hotel in Rome up as home base. When the car was picked up from Ciampino Airport the device took us into the centre of Rome and around the Colosseum. (Never a driving problem since). Despite my wife’s protestations they stupidly followed the directions. The retelling of this story, with embellishments, is a favourite and gets plenty of laughs. In Pisa, one of the BIL’s managed to pick up a ZTL violation to put on his CV. Only happened the once. That’s how you learn.

Driving the Amalfi coast, another great adventure, presented the opportunity to see and experience some close encounters, and on returning home, have dinner guests rolling with laughter at the stories.

This year we have an evening arrival into CDG in Mid-August. Next morning, Saturday, after picking up the leased Peugeot’s, my boys are planning on tackling the Champs Elsie and Arc de Triomphe. With four gopro’s in position. That’s their idea of an exciting challenge for this vacation. Well they are not allowed to bungy jump from the Eiffel Tower.

I am sure you and your son will have a fun and exciting time.

Posted by
186 posts

We were based in Bologna last summer and visited all the cities you have mentioned. If your main interest is cars, I agree that Modena is the best place to base yourself. It is smaller than Bologna, so will provide fewer headaches with your own car. Ravenna is to the east and Ferrara is to the north - both are less convenient for day tripping where you want to go. We actually spent three nights in Ravenna before transferring to Bologna for the rest of our time in the region.

I also recommend visiting Parma.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks @Nancy and @HK, it sounds like the two of you (and I think others) are leaning towards recommending Modena over Bologna. FWIW we are taking an all day car museum/factory floor tour (Lamborghini,Ferraris and Pagani) with an outfit that provides all logistics/guides and a four course lunch at a restaurant mid day. The convenience of doing it all in one day and having everything provided for is a small luxury I will afford for my son and myself. That tour leaves in the AM departing from the train station so the car tour issue will not be a deciding fact in where we stay as we will only be doing car tours on one day.

I am by nature indecisive and obsessive but have narrowed it down to Modena and Bologna. I've located some fine looking places with parking in Bologna, obviously not in the historic district but within a 15 minute walk which is fine by me. I just started this AM to look at Modena and there are opportunities there as well all though a lot fewer. I must say the photos I've dug up on Bologna look lovely and have been ready to book there. Assuming we are willing to accept any increased PITA that Bologna may provide over Modena in terms of getting in and out which is the better city to base out of? Again as far as interests, food, cars, architecture, fashion (my son not me ;<)), street photography, churches (even though I said early that that wasn't a priority) lovely piazzas to hang out it. A place that will entertain my 17 year old son.

Thanks again for all comments and bearing with me in this exciting trip planning process!!!!