Things to do in Imola, Italy

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I must admit that when I think of Imola, I immediately think of Formula 1 motor-racing and the tragic death of Ayrton Senna, but earlier this month I had the chance to spend a day in Imola and discovered there is more to the town than just motor-racing.

Where is Imola?

Imola is in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy and part of the Metropolitan City of Bologna, even though it is approximately 40 kilometres south-east of Bologna.

How do you get to Imola?

Train:

Travelling to Imola by train from Bologna is very easy. The train takes about 22 minutes and costs €3.05 one way (prices correct in May 2019). From the station the centre of town is about 10 minutes walk away.

Driving:

Imola is on the E45 direct from Bologna and the drive takes around 45 minutes.

What can you see and do in Imola?

Like most towns in Emilia-Romagna, Imola is filled with streets of terracotta and ochre-coloured buildings, intriguing alleyways, arched arcades and open piazzas.

The Streets of Imola

The heart of Imola is within 10 minutes’ walk of the railway station and as you stroll along the streets, there is plenty to see. Walking up via Appia, the first thing I noticed was the number of coffee shops and gelaterias; virtually every other shop had tables and chairs outside where people sat passing time chatting and watching the world go by.

Via Appia leads you to via Emilia which is the main shopping street.  The shops range from clothes and shoe boutiques to suit all pockets, fruit and veg, cards and gifts, but there are two delightful shops that I would recommend having a look at.

Farmacia Comunale Ospedale Santa Maria della Scaletta

Farmacia Comunale Ospedale in Imola
Farmacia Comunale Ospedale

Now I must admit that it is not often I recommend going to a pharmacy, particularly when there is nothing wrong with you, but step through the doors of the Farmacia Comunale Ospedale at number 95 via Emilia and you will be transported to a bygone age.

Opened in 1794, much of the original furnishings are still on display including the countertops, shelving and the ornate cast iron cash register. Lining the walls are over 450 antique majolica vases all painted in the traditional blue with the names of the medicine on the front.

The arched ceilings is supported by columns and is  beautifully decorated with hand painted frescoes depicting Medicine and Nature. Six terracotta statues stand on the back walls. The low lighting and dark wood makes it much more atmospheric than its modern clinical counterparts.

Address:
via Emilia, 95 – 40026 Imola

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday – 8:30am to 12:30pm
Monday to Friday – 3:30pm – 6:15pm

Verdarte

Verdarte shop Front in Imola
Verdarte Shop Front

Step into the fragranced heaven of Verdarte at via Emilia, 92. Part florist, part perfumier and part shop filled with gorgeous goodies, think shabby chic meets Italian chic! Beneath the tented ceiling is a treasure trove of delightful lamps, jars, cushions and objects to decorate your home and garden. If I had a larger suitcase, half the shop would have gone home with me!

Inside Vedarte

Address:
via Emilia, 92 – 40026 Imola

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday – 8.30am to 1.00pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm

You might also be interested in 7 things to do in Ravenna.

Saturday Street Market

Saturday Street Market in Imola
Saturday Street Market in Imola

On Saturdays Imola town centre is buzzing with a sprawling street market. The main Piazza G. Matteotti is awash with stalls selling clothes, bags, shoes and plants. Around the corner in Piazza A. Gramsci you will find more stalls mainly selling clothing. Along Viale Domnico Rivalta you can stock up on buttons, bras, kids clothes, shoes, jewellery or check out the fresh food, vegetables and livestock on sale in the Agroalimentare Market place.

Rocca Sforzesca

Rocca Sforzesca in Imola
Rocca Sforzesca Fortress

This impressive fortress from the 13th Century stands near the centre of Imola and is a magnificent example from the Medieval and Renaissance period. Although the fortress was reinforced in the mid-1400s, there are still vestiges of the original building: the entrance doorways with its pointed arch, dungeons under one of the four towers.

The Fortress opened to the public as a museum in 1973 and apart from the collections of weapons and ceramics which have been restored, there is also the terrace which gives views over the town and the surrounding countryside.

There is a great little café next to the Rocca Sforzesca and parking available but note the fortress is only open during the weekend:

Address:
Piazzale Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere – 40026 Imola

Opening Hours:
Saturday 3.00pm to 7.00pm
Sunday 10.00am to 1.00pm & 3.00pm to 7.00pm

Ticket Price:
ticket for 1 museum €4,00
combined tickets for 2 museums  € 6,00
combined tickets for 3 museums € 8,00

Basilica Cattedrale di San Cassiano Martire

Basilica Cattedrale di San Cassiano Martire in Imola
Basilica Cattedrale di San Cassiano Martire

Not far from the Rocca Sforzesca, along via Giuseppe Garibaldi, you come to the Duomo in Imola, the Cattedrale di San Cassiano. The patron saint of Imola, St Cassiano is interred in the crypt. The original cathedral was built at the end of the 12th century, but in the 16th century, renovations and additions, including the building of the bell tower started. These restorations continued into the 1700s when structural problems were discovered. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1775.

Address:
piazza Duomo 10 – 40026 Imola

Visiting hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7.30am-11.30am & 4.00pm-6.00pm

Palazzo Tozzoni

Palazzo Tozzoni in Imola
Palazzo Tozzoni

The Palace Tozzoni was the home of the 18th Century noble Tozzoni family. It was gifted to the town in 1981 by the last descendant, Sofia Serristori Tozzoni. The Palace is filled with collections of paintings, art, opulent furnishings as well as personal items from the family which gives an insight into the life of a noble family in the 18th Century.

Address:
Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 18 – 40026 Imola

Opening Hours:
Saturday: 3.00pm to 7.00pm
Sunday: 10.00am to 1.00pm & 3.00pm to 7.00pm

Ticket Price:
ticket for 1 museum €4,00
combined tickets for 2 museums  € 6,00
combined tickets for 3 museums € 8,00

Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari

The best way to see the Imola circuit
The best way to see the circuit in the back fo a Lancia 1600

The home of the San Marino Grand Prix from 1981 to 2006, Imola was included in the Formula One calendar in 1980 by hosting the 50th Italian Grand Prix. The success of this Grand Prix led the track to be included as the San Marino Grand Prix from 1981.

It is one of the few motor racing tracks that runs anti-clockwise, others include Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet and Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Brazil, Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan, Circuit of the Americas in the USA and Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore.

It is not only Formula One that has been held at Imola, but also the Superbike World Championships, World Touring Car Championships, International GT Open and the TCR International Series.

For a full list of events on at the circuit go to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit website.

While you are at the circuit and in between racing you can have a go on the simulators or have a look at Museo Checco Costa and the Ayrton Senna Statue:

Address:
Piazza Ayrton Denna da Silva, 1 – 40026 Imola

How to get to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari:
If you are coming by train, you can either take a taxi or the number 1 or 3 bus to the circuit and then it is a short walk to the circuit.

Museo Checco Costa – Ayrton Magico

This year, 2019, is the 25th anniversary of the death of Brazilian F1 Ayrton Senna driver at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, an accident which deeply affected the world of motor racing. The Museo Checco Costa has opened an exhibition telling the story of Senna with videos, images and memorabilia. The Exhibition will be open from 10 April to 30 November 2019. For more information see the Museo Checco Costa website.

Public Open Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 11.00 to 19.00 
Tuesday from 15.00 to 19.00 
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays from 10.00 to 20.00

Ticket Price:
Adult: from €19.06
Child: from €13.91
Check out the website for tickets

Ayrton Senna Statue

Statue of Ayrton Senna in Imola copyright Grand Prix Photo - thank you to Peter Nygaard for permission to use this photo

On 26 April 1997, the moving monument to Ayrton Senna was unveiled in the Mineral Water Park in Imola. The statue is near the Curva del Tamburello inside the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari where Senna crashed on 1 May 1994. For many fans of Senna and F1, the statue has become a place of pilgrimage.

Address:
via Atleti Azzurri D’Italia, 6 – 40026 Imola 

If you are visiting Imola, you are only 30 minutes by train from Bologna – read about other places that are great for a Day Trip from Bologna

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