I know I didn’t ‘discover’ Dozza, but I do feel like it’s still a little bit of a secret. I heard about it from a friend who had visited with a vintner from the Emilia Romagna region. She told me seeing the colorful hilltop village was worth the white-knuckle ride (the Italian vintner was driving) to and from Bologna.
So, on a recent family road trip through the region (ultimate destination: Harlem Globetrotters game in Forlì), we decided to detour a bit to check out Dozza.
Was it worth it? ‘Yes!’ says each member of my family, from our preschooler to my Type-A husband.
Here is our quick guide to Dozza, Italy, so you can stop in and see this medieval gem (yes, I know that’s overused, but it really is a gem).
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Where is Dozza, Italy?
I had that question too! Dozza is a tiny town in the region of Emilia-Romagna. It sits in the gorgeous countryside full of vineyards and farmland, between the cities of Bologna and Ravenna (35 kilometers from Bologna, 55 kilometers from Ravenna).
Important: Don’t get the medieval village of Dozza confused with the neighborhood of Dozza in nearby Bologna. You want to visit the village!
Reasons to Visit Dozza
The main thing that draws people to Dozza is its colorful murals. But, if you have a little more time, Dozza packs quite a punch for the little village that it is.
See Dozza’s Colorful Murals
Walking through Dozza is like walking through an open-air art gallery. The town hosts the Muro Dipinto, or ‘Painted Wall’ festival. International and national artists are invited to the village and are given a ‘canvas’ on one of Dozza’s walls (or even ceilings).
The murals’ sizes and styles vary, making the visit interesting for everyone. I loved seeing which murals my kids were drawn to (‘Franz’ by Karin Andersen and Paolo Barbieri’s colorful dragon).
You’ll see some of the murals before you even arrive in Dozza if you’re coming from the ‘main’ road, SS9 (you are, unless you’re already in the countryside). You’ll turn toward Dozza at the town of Toscanella, which also has some wall murals.
Good To Know: You can pick up a brochure with a map of Dozza’s (and Toscanella’s) most famous wall murals. The Dozza tourist info center is inside the rocca (fortress).
Attend the Painted Wall Festival
Dozza’s Muro Dipinto festival began in 1960 and it’s now a biennial event, taking place on odd-numbered years. It takes place in the third week of September, and if you visit Dozza during that time, you can see the artists working.
During the Painted Wall Festival, there are also special exhibitions set up throughout the village and you can sign up for workshops for all ages (just check to see if they’re in English or Italian).
Explore Dozza’s Rocca
We came to see Dozza’s murals, but I knew my kids would want to see the Dozza castle too. We all loved it, and if it’s open when you’re visiting, take 30-60 minutes to explore the 13th-century rocca (aka Rocca Malvezzi-Campeggi and La Rocca Sforzesca).
Highlights for us included:
- Views of the town, countryside, and vineyards from the upper and lower towers
- The statues in the moat
- Armor and weapons on display
- Fyrstan the dragon, with his treasure and egg
- Walking into the prison and seeing carved graffiti from former prisoners and looking down into the solitary confinement cell
- Checking out the kitchen from the 1500s
Good To Know: There are bathrooms (with changing tables) inside the castle.
Dozza’s fortress is one of our Favorite Italian Castles to Visit with Kids!
Soak up the Views
Hilltop Dozza isn’t lacking gorgeous views. Soak them up while enjoying a glass of local wine (or an Aperol Spritz) in town, looking out from one of the castle’s towers, or walking in the countryside around the village.
Go For a Walk
You’ll surely go for a walk around Dozza to look at the murals, but if you want to stretch your legs a bit more you can pick up a few trails from Dozza:
Wine Trail (Sentiero del Vino) – A 6.5-kilometer loop on strade bianche (“white” roads, aka gravel) and paved roads through the countryside. It takes you past vineyards, farmland, forest, and wineries. The walk starts and finishes at the rocca in Dozza, and you can stop at a few wineries along the way (call or email ahead to reserve tastings):
- Assirelli Winery
- Cenni & Assirelli Winery
- Poderi delle Rocche Winery
- Gandolfi Marco e Andrea
Green Park – Just below the Dozza rocca, you’ll find a wooded park that’s perfect to stroll to on a hot summer day. It only takes a couple of minutes to walk down to the park from the castle.
Visit the Regional Enoteca of Emilia-Romagna
The rocca isn’t just home to Fyrstan the dragon – it also houses the Emilia Romagna Enoteca Regionale (Emilia Romagna Regional Wine Shop). Inside the wine cellar, you can sample and/or purchase regional and local wines. Salute!
Mangia! (Eat!) in Dozza
Dozza is in a fantastic food region (Emilia Romagna), and there are quite a few restaurants in the tiny village and neighboring Toscanella.
For classic regional cuisine with views of the Fortezza (fortress), reserve a table at La Scuderia (via XX Settembre, 53. +39 0542.678103).
Good To Know: Nearby Imola (less than 10 km from Dozza) is home to 2-star Michelin restaurant San Domenico (classic Italian cuisine, outdoor seating available).
The Best Time to Visit Dozza
Dozza is beautiful in any season. You can see the murals year-round.
It’s a very quiet town, even more so in late fall, winter, and early spring.
If you’d like to watch the artists at work, be sure to visit on an odd-numbered year around the 3rd week of September.
If you’re interested in visiting wineries, it’s best to avoid harvest time.
Good To Know: Don’t visit Dozza if you’re looking for a busy, lively town. It’s really quiet – there’s a chance you’ll be the only ones there! And, depending on the time of year you visit, you may not find many restaurants open.
How to Get to Dozza, Italy
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
ZTLs in Italy
Bus – You can take the bus to Dozza, and you’ll be dropped off about 400 meters from the town in San Lorenzo (quick 5-minute walk). For example, the bus from Bologna takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes and involves one change in Toscanella.
Train – Dozza doesn’t have a train station. If you’re traveling around Italy by train, you can take the train to Bologna and then take buses to get to Dozza (but check your timing because they don’t run frequently).
Plane – The nearest airport to Dozza is Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi international airport (BLQ).
Visiting Dozza with Kids
Dozza makes a lovely stop for families! You can make it a half-day trip, or just stop in for a bathroom break and to stretch your legs (that’s what we did).
See the Murals – Kids love looking at the colorful and varied murals. And the town is small, so little legs won’t get tired quickly.
Visit the Castle – After looking at the artwork, head into the magical castle! Don’t miss climbing up the towers to visit Fyrstan the dragon! And, depending on your family’s interests, check out the living areas (kitchen, laundry, bedroom with baby crib), weapons and armor, and the prison!
Playground – Just outside town to the east, you’ll find a nice playground – Parco Comunale della Mimosa. It has a lot of playground toys, a water fountain, and some shade. There are also a couple of toys in the green park below the Dozza castle.
Strollers – They’re fine in town, but not in the castle.
Baby Supplies – If you need diapers, wipes, baby food, etc, you can get basics at the pharmacy just outside the village walls.
You may want to read about visiting Emilia-Romagna with Kids!
Things to Do Near Dozza
Cervia Salt Flats – gorgeous scenery and learn about the famous Cervia salt – the salt of the Popes!
Italia in Miniatura – theme park with mini versions of Italy’s most famous monuments
Bologna – a fun stop for a couple of days; climb the Asinelli Tower, stroll the porticoes, and indulge in incredible food
Ravenna – UNESCO World Heritage site mosaics
Modena – balsamic vinegar, towers, and a lively market
Parma – colorful city that’s home to Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma
Labirinto della Masone – Mason’s bamboo labyrinth is a fun active stop for all ages
Brisighella – another small, beautiful village in Emilia-Romagna
I hope this has convinced you to detour to visit Dozza!
Are there any hotels in Dozza?
Dozza has a couple of small B&Bs in the center of town (like Locanda Dolcevita), and you could also stay in the surrounding countryside.