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Child pointing to F1 Ferrari race car on display at the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, Italy.

Emilia Romagna with Kids – The Land of Food & Fast Cars

Emilia-Romagna is lesser known than some of its famous neighbors (Tuscany, Veneto, Lombardy), but we like to think of it as a quiet little stella (star).  We love visiting the area with kids because it’s easy to travel around with or without a car, and there’s something for all interests (for kids and adults).

This is the place for bologna, folks!  And Ferraris and Lamborghinis!  Italy’s biggest theme park is in Emilia-Romagna, along with a drive-through zoo, UNESCO World Heritage mosaics, and the best salt in Italy (so good it’s hand-delivered to the Pope).

So, put on your seatbelt (we are driving race cars, after all), and let’s take a look at what you can do with your kids in Emilia-Romagna!

Emilia-Romagna Basics

Where is Emilia-Romagna?

Emilia-Romagna is a region in Northern Italy.   It’s surrounded by six other Italian regions which you may be visiting with your kids: Liguria (Cinque Terre), Piedmont (Turin), Lombardy (Milan), Veneto (Venice), Le Marche, and Tuscany (Florence, Siena, Lucca, Pisa, and more!).

How to Pronounce Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna is pronounced eh-MEE-lyah ro-MAH-nyah.

Listen to it here:

Reasons to Visit Emilia-Romagna with Kids

  • Italy’s best car museums
  • Delicious foods that tend to be popular with kids
  • Lively but not overrun cities
  • Chance to see ‘real life’ in Italy
  • Variety of kids activities (museums, zoo, theme parks, racetracks, food and car factory tours)

Reasons Not to Visit Emilia-Romagna with Kids

  • You need nice playgrounds every day
  • Your family has no interest in supercars or the region’s food (like Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar)

When to Visit Emilia-Romagna with Kids

You can visit Emilia-Romagna with kids year-round.  With a focus on food and cars, you’ll find many indoor activities to keep little ones entertained even if the weather isn’t cooperating.

The summers are very hot and humid, so you may want to avoid July and August.

Keep in mind that many places (theme parks, museums, etc) have limited opening days and hours in the late fall and winter months.  So, if you’re planning on visiting then, check schedules to make sure where you want to go will be open!

If you’d like to see a car or motorcycle race or event, it’s best to visit from April through September/October.

Map – Emilia-Romagna with Kids

16 Best Things to See and Do with Kids in Emilia-Romagna

Highlights for kids in this area are focused on Italian supercars and food. Here are our favorite places to visit and things to do in Emilia-Romagna with kids:

Bologna

Boy walking under the porticoes of Bologna, Italy.

In Italy’s food capital, kids will love trying classics like tagliatelle al ragù and tortellini in brodo.  Or, join a food tour and visit the Mercato di Mezzo and Mercato delle Erbe.  Stroll the porticoes, climb the Asinelli Tower, and visit our favorite library in the area. 

Fun Fact:  This is the home of bologna, but here it’s called mortadella, and it’s delicious!  Even if you don’t normally eat bologna, give it a try while you’re in Bologna.

Read more in our post on Visiting Bologna with Kids!

Ferrari Museum Maranello

This is one of our favorite car museums in Italy, and if you’ve got race car or Ferrari fans in your house, they’ll love it too.  Even if you’re not a big fan, it’s still an interesting museum to visit for its variety of displays, from F1 cars to mini toy models. 

Learn more about the Ferrari Museum Maranello in our post Ferrari Museums in Italy – Which One Should You Visit?

Lamborghini Museum

Lamborghini fans can’t miss the Lamborghini Museum MUDETEC in Sant’Agata Bolognese.  It’s a small museum, but it packs a punch with its variety of Lamborghinis on display and interactive digital displays that are fun for kids (and adults).  Our kids also love catching a glimpse of new Lamborghinis being tested on the main road in front of the museum.

Read more in our post about Visiting the Lamborghini Museum MUDETEC!

Enzo Ferrari Museum

Modena is home to the Enzo Ferrari Museum.  You’re probably wondering why there’s another Ferrari Museum.  This one’s focused more on the life of Enzo Ferrari, but you’ll find plenty of beautiful Ferraris to look at in a gorgeous, modern building (it’s designed to look like the hood of a car!).  There are more historic cars to look at, and if you’re planning on visiting both Ferrari museums with your kids, we recommend visiting this one first.

You may like our post on Visiting Car Museums in Italy with Kids!

Ducati Museum

Do your kids love motorcycles?  This museum (and factory tour) will not disappoint!  It’s conveniently located just outside Bologna, so it’s easy to combine with a visit to the city.  Kids can get up-close looks at the motorcycles – from the earliest models to the ones using the latest technology.

Good To Know:  If you’ll be in Tuscany, you can also visit the Piaggio (Vespa) museum for a look at Italy’s famous scooters!

Mason’s Labyrinth

This probably isn’t on your radar, but if you’ll be in the area (Parma), it’s worth a detour.  It’s the world’s largest maze / labyrinth – and your kids will love wandering through the bamboo and finding their way to the pyramid in the center.  You can also visit the owner’s unique art collection.

Learn more about Visiting Mason’s Labyrinth – Labirinto delle Masone!

Modena

Boy tasting balsamic vinegar in Modena, Italy.

Modena is one of our favorite small cities to visit with kids.  We love wandering the small streets, having kid aperitivo in the small piazzas, and visiting its lively Mercato Albinelli.  This is the place to sample aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), and culinary-loving kids can do a balsamic vinegar tasting. 

Read more about the fun things you can do in Modena with Kids!

Parma

Side street in Parma, Italy on a sunny autumn day.

If your kids eat prosciutto or Parmigiano Reggiano, don’t skip a visit to Parma.  It’s easy to sample them at shops and delis throughout town, or you can indulge in a sit-down lunch or dinner. 

For a memorable experience, visit a salumificio to learn how prosciutto di Parma is made, or a caseificio to see the parmigiano-making process.  And of course, you must sample the goods!

You’ll also love photographing colorful homes, taking in the piazzas, and running around the Parco Ducale.  

Read more about visiting Parma with Kids!

Ravenna

Ravenna is known for its UNESCO-World Heritage Sites – it has eight monuments on the list!  You don’t need to see them all if you’ve got kids with you, but you should definitely see the TAMO Mosaic Museum – kids will learn about the process of making mosaics, see the tools used, and see some of them up close.  It makes seeing some of the other mosaics on an Italy vacation (like in churches in Ravenna, at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and in Monreale Cathedral near Palermo) much more meaningful.

Read our post on Visiting Ravenna with Kids!

Food Factory Tours

Rather than just eating Emilia-Romagna’s famous food in restaurants, you can see the process in their creation.  Kids will love seeing how cow’s milk becomes Parmigiano and checking out the walls of prosciutto legs where they’re cured. 

You can visit an acetaio (where balsamic vinegar is made), but they’re not particularly kid-friendly, so I’d recommend a balsamic vinegar tasting.  You can do one in a town at a market stall, deli, or balsamic vinegar shop.

FICO Eataly World

Eataly’s grand food theme park opened in November 2017, but it’s stalled a bit since the COVID pandemic.  Many of the sections are closed or empty, but it still can be fun for kids if you’re in the area. 

Mirabilandia

Italy’s largest theme park is in Emilia-Romagna!  Mirabilandia is best for kids over age 3, but if you have a family with different ages, you can find enough to keep toddlers and babies entertained (watching siblings on rides, seeing some of the shows).

Good To Know:  Our favorite Italy theme park for small children is Leolandia in northern Italy (between Milan and Bergamo).

Dozza

Boys walking past colorful murals on the streets of Dozza, Italy.

Stop into the tiny hilltop village of Dozza, nestled in the hills between Bologna and Ravenna. Let the kids run around Dozza discovering their favorite murals in this open-air museum. And, don’t miss the incredible Dozza castle, which has a prison, towers, armor and weapons, and, Fyrstan the dragon!

Read more about Visiting Dozza, Italy and the Best Italian Castles to Visit with Kids!

Cervia Salt Flats

Visit the famous Cervia salt flats, home of il sale dei papi – the salt of Popes!  The ancient Roman salt flats have been industrialized, but a group of local salinari revived one of the ancient salt flats and they maintain it using traditional methods.  They even hand-deliver the Pope’s salt each year.

You can walk around on your own, but it’s best to go on a guided tour (in English, book in advance).  Combine with a visit to the nearby MUSA Museo del Sale (Salt Museum).  And don’t forget to bring some prized Cervia salt home as a souvenir!

Visit an Autodromo (Racetrack)

Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferarri (Imola racetrack) is located in Imola, a small city between Bologna and Ravenna. Check to see if there are any events or races happening during your visit.  Kids will love seeing real race cars in action, and any kids who are F1 fans or play race car video games will recognize the famous track!

There are also tours of the track and special open days when the track opens up to cyclists and/or pedestrians (with strollers too!). 

Bonus:  The Imola racetrack is next door to the Parco delle Acque Minerali (Mineral Waters Park) a large green space that has a great playground for kids!

Good To Know:  Bring ear protection for kids if you’ll be watching cars practice or race – it gets loud!

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli (Misano racetrack) is on the Adriatic coast and is the home track of Italian motorcycle racing legend Valentino Rossi (he was born just 10 miles away).  There are major events on the track, including the San Marino MotoGP. 

Valentino Rossi fans will want to stop by the VR46 store in Rossi’s nearby hometown of Tavullia.

There are two smaller racetracks in the area:

  • Autodromo di Modena (Modena racetrack), conveniently located just outside Modena.  It’s a local track that focuses on test-driving experiences and local events.
  • Autodromo Riccardo Paletti – Varano de’ Melegari (Varano racetrack), another smaller test track.  It has a lot of local events and is perfect for kids.

Ferrara

The highlight of Ferrara for kids is visiting the Castello Estense (Este Castle).  Admire the moat, walk down into the dungeon, climb up the tower, and imagine life living here in the Middle Ages. 

Good To Know:  I haven’t been up to the top of the tower so I can’t tell you what the climb is like.

Ferrara, like most towns in Emilia-Romagna, is very bike-friendly.  You can rent bikes from a shop in town and use one of the area’s cycling paths, which are paved (mostly), flat, and in the countryside.  The bike shop will help you find the best path/route for your family.

More Things to Do with Kids in Emilia-Romagna

AcquaPark – the region’s best water park for families, located in the hills above Bologna

Dinosauri in Carne e Ossa (near Bologna) – dinosaur replicas are set up around this small park; combine it with a visit to the nearby playground and the Luigi Donini Museum of Prehistory.

CerviAvventura (near Ravenna) – adventure park with 9 different ropes courses

Safari Ravenna (near Ravenna) – the highlight is the area you can drive through in your own car

How Long to Spend in Emilia-Romagna with Kids

You can visit some of the cities on day trips or make a base in the area and spend 3-5 days exploring all the region has to offer.

On a day trip to Emilia-Romagna, the easiest place to visit is Bologna.  If you’ve got motorcycle lovers, you can visit the Ducati Museum (bus ride from Bologna center).

If you have a car and a day in the area, you could visit a car museum (the Lamborghini Museum MUDETEC or the Ferrari Museum in Maranello), visit a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, and wander around the city center of Modena. 

With a few days in Emilia-Romagna, choose a base in a smaller city (like Modena), and use your car or a train to get to the other cities and sites. 

We like Modena as a base because it’s easy to get in and out of the city with a car (and parking is easy), but it doesn’t have a good playground for small kids.

Parma makes a nice base for older kids and teens because it’s a beautiful city in the evenings and you’ll enjoy being out for aperitivo (it doesn’t have to include alcohol!) and dinner. 

Bologna is our favorite if we’re just moving by public transport. 

Transport in Emilia-Romagna with Kids

Trains in Emilia-Romagna

The cities you’ll want to visit in Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Parma, Ravenna, Ferrara) are all on train lines.  Bologna is on alta velocità (high-speed) train lines. 

Driving in Emilia-Romagna

We prefer driving a car in Emilia-Romagna because it gives so much more flexibility and allows you to easily reach destinations outside cities (car museums, parmigiano factories, theme parks). Don’t forget a car seat if your kids are young.

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

Cycling in Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna has a lot of flat areas, so it’s a nice place to cycle, especially with kids.  The Ciclovia del Sole cycling path is easy to ride from (and back to) Bologna. 

Along with cycling in the Dolomites, this is a great place to ride with kids because of the abundance of cycling paths (that don’t have cars). 

Things to See and Do with Kids Near Emilia-Romagna

Check out some of our guides to Italian destinations with kids:
Alpe di Siusi with Kids
Bologna with Kids
Bolzano with Kids
Dolomites with Kids
Emilia-Romagna with Kids
Florence with a Baby or Toddler
Florence with Kids
Florence with Teens
Lucca with Kids

Milan with Kids
Montalcino with Kids

Ortisei with Kids
Orvieto with Kids

Siena with Kids
Sirmione (Lake Garda) with Kids
Venice with Kids

Emilia-Romagna Logistics with Kids

mom pushing kids in stroller in parma, italy

Strollers

You can use your stroller in each of the cities in Emilia-Romagna.  They’re all flat and have decent sidewalks.  You will find some cobblestone streets can be a pain with stroller wheels, but you can always find an alternate route (or move to the sidewalk or edge of the piazza).

Baby Supplies

Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, formula, and baby snacks can be found in grocery stores and pharmacies.  Bologna, Modena, Parma, Ferrara, and Ravenna each have ‘city’ versions of the larger grocery chains, and inside you’ll find what you need, but a limited selection.  If you want more selection, you’ll need to visit the larger stores outside the town centers.  You can also find all baby supplies at pharmacies, but again, less selection and at higher prices. 

I hope this helps you plan your visit to Emilia-Romagna.  It’s really a special place to visit, and it’s often overlooked.  So, sneak in and enjoy the food, cars, and beautiful cities of the region on your family vacation in Italy!

You may want to check out
Italy with a Baby or Toddler
Italy Packing List for a Baby or Toddler
Italy with Teens
Italy Packing List for Kids