Forli is a beautiful commune in the northern region of Italy and is the capital of the Forli-Cesena province. With a population of 118,600, it is one of the larger cities in the Romagna region and is an important agricultural centre. The main produce of this region is silk, clothing, household equipment and rayon.
In ancient history, archaeological findings have shown that Forli has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era. During the times of the Roman Empire, the first settlement of Forli was dated approximately 188 BC – a forum was constructed together with the Via Aemilia. Once the Roman Empire had collapsed, Forli came under the rule of the Ostrogoth’s and eventually the Holy Roman Emperors.
In modern times, the city was largely devastated during WW2, but saw a great regeneration and is now a thriving economic centre. As a tourist destination, Forli benefits from a plethora of historical sites such as the Sam Mercuriale Abbey and the Palazzo del Podesta. The city has a prime location in the region and is situated close to a handful of national parks and the stunning Adriatic coast.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Forli:
1. San Mercuriale Abbey
Located in the Piazza Aurelio Saffi, the Basilica Abbey of San Mercuriale is a fantastic structure that stands as the main religious building in Forli.
Built in the 12th century, the current church is a restoration of an older version that was damaged in a fire.
Constructed in a Romanesque style, the front facade is plain but attractive, and the immense bell tower dominates the skyline of Forli.
Inside the Abbey you can find a series of famous artworks from artists such as Passignano and Tempesta.
Aside from the paintings and frescos, the church features some beautiful wooden choir stalls and several decorative chapels.
2. Piazza Aurelio Saffi
The Piazza Aurelio Saffi is one of the main squares in the centre of Forli.
You can reach this square on foot and it features several important landmarks.
Notable buildings include the San Mercuriale Abbey, the historic post office, the Palazzo Comunale and the Chiesa del Suffragio.
In the centre of the Piazza is a marble statue depicting Aurelio Saffi who was an important politician during the unification of Italy.
The architecture of this square I fantastic and there is a number of shops and restaurants for your pleasure too.
On certain days, local market are also held here in which the square comes alive with a hive of trading activity.
3. Parco Urbano Franco Agosto
This large public park is located on the south western edge of the city centre and is one of the main public recreational spaces in Forli.
Dedicated to the first mayor of the city, the park covers over 20 hectares and has several entrances.
On the left hand side of the park is the River Montone and alongside the river is a series of wooded trails through which you can walk.
Furthermore the park also features a large lake, a pizza restaurant and several large lawns.
This is the premier place to relax on a fine summer’s day – bring the family, take a picnic and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
4. San Domenico Museum
Accompanying the San Mercuriale Abbey is the fantastic San Domenico Museum complex.
Located in the Piazza Guido da Montefeltro, this set of museums is hosted in an old monastery that was created in the 13th century and has since been restored.
Within this complex is the Palazzo Pasquali, the Chiesa di San Giacomo Apostolo, the Convento degli Agostiniani and the Convento dei Domenicani – each structure features some fantastic artwork, frescos and architectural detail.
The museums feature various works relating to the religious history of the region, and also temporary exhibitions dedicated to a certain artist for example.
5. Forli Cathedral
This structure looks more like the ancient Roman Pantheon than a cathedral and features an ornate pediment supported by a series of 6 orange columns.
Located in the self-titled Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral is within walking distance from the centre of Forli and represents a fantastic piece of neoclassical architecture.
Aside from the impressive front façade, the interior also features a series of huge marble columns that line the aisles.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Fire is gorgeously decorated and features a plethora of gold, marble and opulent artwork.
Moreover, the main dome of the cathedral features a colourful fresco detailing the ascension of Christ.
This church is a fantastic place to visit and is truly stunning inside.
6. Palazzo del Podesta
A modest but important structure located in the Piazza Saffi, the Palazzo del Podesta (Palace of the People) was constructed in 1460 on the ruins of a previous structure.
The building has an ornate Gothic style and features a series of arches that form a portico on the ground floor facing out towards the square.
Furthermore, above the portico is a small circular balcony – this was made to cover the cages that used to hang here to display corpses or convicts awaiting trial.
7. Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi
The Casentinesi Forest is a vast area of parkland that was designated an Italian National Park in 1933. You can reach this area of parkland in approximately 1 hour from Forli.
Covering an area of 368 square kilometres it is one of the largest parks in the region.
Much of the park is covered in dense woodland and there are also several mountains such as Monte Falco.
For those who love wildlife, you can see several different species here including the Apennines Wolf, the Eurasian Badger, the Red Deer and the Fallow Deer.
Furthermore, the region is littered with an extensive network of hiking trails that allow you to explore this dramatic and beautiful landscape.
8. Visit the coastal town of Cesenatico
Forli is in close proximity to the eastern coast of Italy – this stretch of coast sits on the Adriatic Sea.
Cesenatico is a wonderful coastal town that can be reached from Forli in just 40 minutes.
Regular buses run between the two cities and there is a train service too.
Cesenatico has a fantastic stretch of beach that is lined with bars, restaurants and resorts.
Come here to escape from the city and relax in the beautiful Italian weather.
Behind the beaches on the promenade and the town centre, you can find all manner of shops and eateries.
The atmosphere of Cesenatico is laid back and it really is a magnificent coastal location.
9. Sample a local Italian dish at the Trattoria Petito restaurant
Italian food is simply divine, but it tastes the best when made in Italy at a local restaurant that uses traditional methods and ingredients.
The Trattoria Petito restaurant is once such establishment that serves fantastic authentic Italian dishes in the heart of Forli.
Located on the Via di Porta Cotogni, the restaurant is housed within its own building and is not far from the university and Rocca di Ravaldino.
Dishes served here include carbonara, tortellini, lasagne, plus a variety of meat and fish courses.
The presentation is second to none and a great amount of attention to detail is given to each item.
For a fine dining experience and a great atmosphere, this restaurant is the perfect place!
10. Porta Schiavonia
The Schiavonia Gate is the sole remaining part of the cities once mighty defensive system.
Located at the western edge of the city, this impressive gate was constructed in the 1200’s – originally, the gateway would have been part of a city wall.
Throughout the subsequent years, the gate was built upon, improved and fortified.
Located in the Piazzale di Porta Schiavonia, the gate is a fantastic monument and stands in a great condition.
You can see the main archway with its opulent pediment, and a section of the city wall, plus two of the defensive guard towers.
11. Parco della Resistenza
Another fine park in the centre of Forli, the Resistance Park is located in the south western region of the city with the main entrance next to the Monumento ai Caudti.
Originally designed and created in 1816, the park has an Italian design with English landscape garden influences.
This park is truly beautiful and features a series of ornate fountains and is full of gorgeous trees and plants.
It is also possible to hire a bike to cycle through the park and the city from a kiosk in the grounds.
12. Rocca di Ravaldino
Forli has a many historical architectural buildings and the Rocca di Ravaldino is one of the most important.
This fortress served as a defensive complex for the city during the 14th century and was reinforced and built upon later on in the 15th century.
Located in an area full of trees and sitting next to the city prison, the castle is quite photogenic and features four round towers and four connecting crenulated walls.
Although you cannot enter the castle, it is still an impressive structure and a fantastic place to enjoy a walk and take some photos.
13. Torre Civica
This immense tower has stood for hundreds of years and has seen much devastation and restoration.
Originally the tower was constructed in the 14th century but it was destroyed during WW2 and then recreated in the 1970’s.
Standing at 65m high, it is the tallest structure in Forli and towers over the surrounding structures and the Piazza Aurelio Saffi.
Whilst walking through the historic town centre, you cannot fail to miss this gigantic structure and it is a great building to admire and serves as a reminder of the cities past.
14. Enjoy a fine ale at the Barbeer pub
For a night out in Forli and to sample a few drinks, there is no better place than the Barbeer pub.
Located in-between the parco della resistenza and the parco Franco Agoso, this pub has a central location and is on the popular Via Decio Raggi that features a handful of other bars and restaurants.
This bar has a cool modern vibe and the area behind the bar is lined with hundreds of different beer mats.
Furthermore, the walls are lined with hundreds of bottles of beer both local and imported.
You can sample a wide range of ales, beers, lagers and spirits, plus a cool selection of cocktails and mixers.
This really is a lively and cool place to spend an evening!
15. Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola
For those who love the outdoors and exploring our world, the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola is the perfect place to visit.
Located just over an hour’s drive to the west of Forli, this park covers 6000 hectares and features mountain ranges, pastures and large areas of vegetation.
The forests of this park are truly beautiful and feature a wide variety of endemic trees with hiking trails winding through them.
One of the main man-made features of the park is the Monte Tondo plaster quarry – this impressive quarry can be seen for miles around and has a large snaking path that winds down the mountain slope.
Points of interest include Monte Mauro, Carne Park and the Park Monticino Geological Museum.