Modena, found in northern Italy, is a fantastic place for those looking to indulge in some of the most characteristic traits of Italian culture: great food, luxury, and rich history. This city is home to the most expensive sports car manufacturers in the world, including Ferrari (Modena being the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari), Lamborghini, Pagani, and Maserati. It’s also the birthplace of famous singer Luciano Pavarotti and hosts a very ample and varied menu of cultural activities to satisfy even the most exquisite and demanding tastes.
Modena is home to about 200,000 people and continues to experience one of the highest rates of economic growth in Italy, despite the financial crisis affecting other parts of Europe. This growth is mainly influenced by the car industry, a healthy balsamic vinegar-producing sector, and a growing tourism industry, encouraged in part, by being a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For the food-lovers among you, Modena may be overlooked because of its more famous neighbors Bologna and Parma, however, Modena is the true home of delicacies like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Tortellino pasta, Lambrusco wine, prosciutto, and its proudest creation: balsamic vinegar.
So, to further entice you into visiting this wonderful town, here’s a short list of the best things to do and see in Modena. Enjoy!
No better place to start than with the most regarded symbol of the city. Modena is home to the factory and museum where all things Ferrari are celebrated.
Enzo himself used to live in what is now part of the museum, and his spirit lives on through the fascinating exhibitions detailing his life and legacy. Car-lovers and regular folks alike will enjoy this speedy treat immensely.
Modena Giardini Pubblici
This public garden is a fantastic display of manicured lawns stretching all the way from the front of the palace to the border of Modena’s old town. The relaxing and fresh air in the park is perfect to spend some time admiring the ornate flower pads and gardens or for enjoying a delicious cup of coffee while listening to the chirping of the birds.
Piazza Grande is a picture-perfect opportunity to stroll down old historic Modena and get a true feeling of its charming and lovely atmosphere.
The cobblestone plaza and the surrounding ancient buildings, including the Cathedral, are beautifully maintained and invite visitors to enjoy a nice afternoon complemented by a great meal or snack in one of the varied cafes in the area.
Villa San Donnino
For those of you who don’t know, balsamic vinegar is made from fresh grapes aged in wooden barrels over many decades, and Villa San Donnino is famous for producing some of the finest balsamic vinegar in Italy and the world.
The tradition of producing the vinegar extends hundreds of years and has allowed manufacturers in Modena to perfect their process. There are tours and tastings offered by some of the producers who are mostly family-run businesses, which are much more open and charming to visit than some of the larger factories.
If you’re one of those travelers who wants to experience Modena like a local, you really have to visit Albinelli Market. Every week, about 30,000 thousand visitors come to this century-old market to get their provision of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, pastries, spices, and truffles.
The market is an adventure for all your senses and will make you fall in love with the welcoming locals.
One of the most iconic sites in the city, Modena Cathedral was built as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features some of the most ornate and stunning architectural designs and decorations.
The Cathedral is located in Modena´s Piazza Grande in the center of historic Modena and is perfect for a nice day of strolling in the area while absorbing its magnificent presence.
Panini Motor Museum
Modena is synonymous with sports cars and motorsports mostly because of its very extensive history of car manufacturing and motorsports competitions.
So, it’s no surprise that the Panini Motor Museum is home to a unique collection of historic cars from a variety of eras. These marvels include vintage Maseratis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and the winner of the Mille Miglia, 1936 6CM and the Berlinetta Pininfarina.
Standing at over 285 feet, Torre Ghirlandina is the Cathedral’s bell tower and is a beloved icon of the city. Visitors can climb the tower to enjoy magnificent views from the tallest structure in town.
Palazzo dei Musei
Literally a Palace of Museums, the Palazzo dei Musei is divided into several museums including a history museum, an art library, a municipal museum, and several more.
The various museum and galleries hold fantastic collections of fine art, historical artifacts, informative displays, and interactive activities that beautifully depict Modena’s and the region’s history, heritage, and culture.
Some of the most interesting exhibits include musical instruments, weaponry, sculptures, maps, paintings, an extensive collection of textiles, and a collection of Bronze Age and Roman artifacts.
Chiesa di San Francesco
Italy’s rich history and Roman-Catholic heritage is present all over the country. However, Modena is home to several fabulous churches, one of which is Chiesa Di San Francesco.
This gorgeous church was constructed by and dedicated to the Franciscan Friars; dating as far back as 1244, taking about two hundred years to be completed.
The simple yet striking design features arched windows, circular stained glass windows, intricate patterns adorning every corner, 13 detailed terracotta statues, and a fantastic fresco of the Franciscan Friars.
Piazza Roma is one of several fantastic squares and plazas to be found around the city and stands out as one of the biggest and most beautiful ones in town. Filled with a variety of shops and cafes, the square is perfect for a leisurely afternoon, being adorned by a beautiful water fountain and a statue of one of Italy’s most famous revolutionary figures, Ciro Menotti.
Dating back to the 1400’s, this stunning building used to be the residence of the Este Dukes of Modena and is one of the most outstanding sites in Modena to visit. The Baroque facade is a perfect compliment to the surrounding Piazza Roma.
The symmetry of the constructions and the hundreds of windows lining the walls is gorgeously contrasted by the marble columns and the imposing arched doorway. Architecture and history buffs will love here especially.
Museum Della Figurina
Giuseppe Panini is a local symbol and there are tributes to him all over town. The Museum Della Figurina stands out as a special collection of figurines and collectibles Mr. Panini collected over many decades.
The displayed collection features cigarette cards, coupons, picture cards, menus, hotel labels, candy paper, stamped envelopes, and trading cards.
Parco Fluviale Fiume Secchia
The natural areas surrounding Modena and Reggio Emilia are as captivating and beautiful as the town itself. The region is known for its beauty and the River Secchia runs pretty close to the city, providing a quiet escape for nature lovers.
Take a bike ride or enjoy a hike through the forests and stunning woodland, lakes, and swamplands abounding in local fauna and flora.