If your idea of heaven includes slipping into a blissful, pasta-induced food coma, we’ve got the ideal Bologna road trip for you.
Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is renowned for its fresh ingredients and restaurants that would make your nonna say, “How about another helping?” While there’s a high concentration of Michelin-starred chefs in the region, it’s the charming, hole-in-the-wall, family-owned establishments that get our motors running. Literally.
The Via Emilia, once an ancient Roman road, is now a proper motorway connecting some of Italy’s most delicious destinations.
Spend a few days in Bologna to start. The city is a hidden gem, bursting with friendly locals, street musicians, interesting architecture, and of course, its namesake ragù.
Hop on the Via Emilia and head northwest past Modena, ignoring (for now) the intoxicating scent of balsamic vinegar wafting through your windows. It’s cheese and ham that beckons you toward Parma, and it does not disappoint.
Your gourmet Bologna road trip begins in the surprising and lively capital of Emilia-Romagna. It’s here that the region’s remarkable history, food, and culture come together to form a completely underrated destination.
The city has a youthful energy, thanks in part to its large student population, with its large public piazzas teeming with life throughout the day and long into the night.
Medieval and Renaissance architecture is everywhere you look in Bologna. The centre of town is Piazza Maggiore, a bustling square lined with charming cafes and historic buildings like the Basilica di San Petronio.
Authentic ragù alla bolognese is a must and thankfully, you’ll find it on pretty much every restaurant menu here! Temperatures can run high in the summer months, so seek shade beneath the city’s many classic, arched porticos or indulge in an Italian treat of fresh gelato.
from Bologna depot
Main square with multiple cafes & street musicians
Medieval market district with local artisan goods
12th-century twin tower landmarks with city views
Casual, traditional Italian fare
Meat, cheese, & wine with helpful staff
Epic selection of gelato and cakes
Piazza Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Parking lot next to cathedral, 64 spaces
Centro Turistico Città di Bologna
Well-equipped, 20 min from centre
The city of Parma dates back to the Bronze Age, though its city centre is mostly composed of more recent Romanesque buildings like the beautifully frescoed Cathedral.
There are many elegant museums, art galleries, and even palaces to wander here, but honestly? That’s not what you came for. Admire the architectural sights if you must, but only en route to the next delicious trattoria or salumeria.
Foodies have been flocking to Parma for years, largely to sample its namesake ham and cheese. It’s true: the Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano make Parma a worthy inclusion on any gourmet Bologna road trip.
Leave your campervan at Area Sosta Camper’s Parma outpost and enjoy an easy, 12-minute bus ride into the city centre. Just be sure to arrive hungry!
Cattedrale di Parma
Romanesque cathedral with beautiful frescoes
Palazzo della Pilotta
16th-century complex with museums & art galleries
Beloved, hole-in-the-wall panini shop
Simple, traditional trattoria
Try the cannoncini at this pastry shop
Central parking lot, 98 spaces, max 2 hrs
Parking at 20 min walk from centre, 25 spaces
Area Sosta Camper - Parma
12 min from centre by bus, amenities
Modern art and cured meats may seem like a strange pairing, but as your campervan pulls into pretty Piacenza, Italy, things will start to make sense. Nestled beside the Po River where Emilia-Romagna meets Lombardy, Piacenza is an attractive city with a unique mix of period architecture.
One more recent addition is the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery, founded in the 1930s as a labour of love by local jurist and art collector Giuseppe Ricci Oddi.
If you’ve had your fill of the Renaissance greats elsewhere, swing by to get a taste of modern art from the last two centuries.
The real star of the show here in Piacenza is cured meat. Locals devour the coppa piacentina (dry-aged pork shoulder or neck) by the pound, but there’s a wide range of salumi to sample here.
No proper Bologna road trip itinerary should skip Piacenza’s boards of delicious cured meats, paired with cheese and mostarda for good measure.
Piazza dei Cavalli
Home of iconic equestrian statues & Gothic palace
Galleria d'arte moderna Ricci Oddi
Rare gallery of modern Italian art
Local butcher shop serving cured meats
Cosy, traditional Italian tavern
Osteria Santo Stefano
Try a local favourite, tortelli piacenti
Parking lot on western edge of town
Area Sosta Camper - Piacenza
8 min from centre by bus, amenities
About 45 minutes west of Bologna, the final stop on this Italian itinerary is Modena. The birthplace of both Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari, Modena is on many a foodie’s radar thanks to tortelloni and its year-round production of balsamic vinegar.
That and Osteria Francescana, twice voted the best restaurant in the world. (No big deal.) Tables at Chef Massimo Bottura’s famed resto are hard to come by, but its little sister Franceschetta 58 is more accessible and easier on the wallet.
After a few days of wandering Gothic churches and Romanesque piazzas, you’ll find the Enzo Ferrari Museum a surprising change of scenery. Housed in a jaw-dropping, futuristic glass building, the museum is full of interesting automotive history and tons of classic cars to ogle.
Before you hit the road back towards the depot, pop into La Consorteria 1966 to pick up some traditional balsamic vinegar to take home from this Bologna road trip. Your future dinner guests will thank you!
Museo Enzo Ferrari
Fascinating car museum in a futuristic new building
Torre della Ghirlandina
Iconic, landmark bell tower with sweeping views
Little sis of pricey Osteria Francescana
Cosy wine bar with warm atmosphere
Cheap and cheerful sandwich shop
Parcheggio del Centro
Perfectly positioned near city centre
Caravan Camping Club
Established site with great facilities