Modena is a lovely town where many Romanesque and Gothic architectural marvels line its busy streets and often referred to as the city of arches in Italy. The architecture of the Duomo di Modena is very special; the contrast between the exterior and the interior is stunning. This is situated in the charming pedestrianized center of Modena, along the Piazza Grande that is fun to cross. Modena is certainly famous, not only for the various typical products of its territory (home of the best balsamic vinegar in Italy), but also for this jewel of Romanesque architecture.
The works of innovative Italian architects lines just about every street in Modena in the form of intricate arched columns. This modest city in Northern Italy is the birthplace of world class car maker Enzo Ferrari and the famous Italian tenor; the late Luciano Pavarotti. A walk through the old town of Modena is priceless as you calmly admire the scenic sights without haste and with the obligatory stop for a glass of cold beer and a slice of freshly made pizza.
When To Go:
The best time to plan your vacation to Modena is from the early start of the spring season. The tourist arrivals usually start to increase as early as the month of May and all the way to the summer months of July until August. Temperatures normally range from the mid 80s to 90s as the humidity rises. By evening, pleasant breeze welcome travelers who prefer to stroll around the Old Town or hang out on restaurants and enjoy a serving of Cotechino (a popular local sausage), downed with a glass of their popular Lambrusco red wine.
The coldest months of the year are felt from December up to January, amid which time the everyday high temperatures register a low of 40s. The evening temperature tends to be more chilly but with no chances of snow or extreme weather conditions. Modena has one of the ideal climates in Northern Italy, where visitors can plan a holiday anytime of the year.
Here are best attractions and
things to do
in the city of Modena:
Duomo di Modena (Cathedral of Modena)
This Cathedral is unique in its integration into the city, its proportions, simplicity, and style. The
Duomo di Modena
is a small cathedral, but the sobriety of the place reinforces the mystical dimension of the monument. It is a remarkable place that reflects the transition from Romanesque to Gothic art in northern Italy. The Tourist Office also offers French, English, and Italian speaking tour guides. The cathedral is right across a nice square and if you visit the interior, you can see a small marble chancel screen supported by four lions. The entrance to the cathedral is breathtaking because of the high vaults built with a touch of Gothic style. The crypt under the choir is supported by elegant columns and contains the coffin of San Geminiano di Modena.
Cathedral of Modena
is the first church in the city, built in the twelfth century on the site of an early Christian church. Modena Cathedral is probably the ultimate expression of architecture and Romanesque sculpture in Italy. It has been awarded with a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition since 1997. The Duomo was designed and constructed by Italian architect Lanfranco to honor the patron saint San Geminiano. The rebuilding began in 1099 as reported by the plaque outside the apse, proving the fact that it is the oldest church in the fifth century. The interior design was made by Italian sculptor Wiligelmo and the restructuring of the masters of Campione since 1167, after the disastrous earthquake of 1117. Among the several objects of art to admire are the lion sculptures, the stories of the Old Testament done by Wiligelmo on the façade, the crypt, and the balustrade that divides the courtroom from the presbytery. Today, Modena cherishes this amazing masterpiece that is not to be missed and a must see attraction of the city.
is the official symbol of the city and it is worth climbing the 200 steps towards the tower and learn the political history of Modena. Inside the bell tower is where the staff kept the Secchia Rapita, a chapter in the history of the city that is worth knowing (it is a copy, the original is kept and visible in the Town Hall) because it symbolizes the victory of Modena over Bologna way back in 1325.
It was here on Ghirlandina where the white flag was hoisted to let people know that the city allies had been liberated by the partisans. For the people of Modena, it is locally known as the ‘La Pioppa” a nickname that defines its bell tower. To enter, guests must come through a small wooden door. You need to climb several flights of stairs and stop at the level immediately below the bells. From here, you will have an unforgettable view of the rooftops, streets, and houses with terraces full of flowers.
Palazzo Comunale di Modena
The frescoes inside the town hall or the
Palazzo Comunale di Modena
are really worth seeing. The town hall can be visited free of charge every day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. If you are in Modena, it is also strongly recommended to book a visit to the information office and the municipal Acetaia, where two nice gentlemen will explain the process for the production of real traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. The central square is dominated by the Cathedral of Modena and the town hall is a bit ‘sandwiched’ because the spaces are cramped. However, this is a fine example of 17th century architecture in Modena.
It is overlooking Piazza Grande in front of the apse of the Cathedral and dominated by the tower of Ghirlandina. The seventeenth-century building was designed by Raffaele Rinaldi. At the center of the main facade is the clock tower (built in the early 1500s) with a balcony that served as arengario (a deck where messages to the public is delivered). Inside, there are beautiful rooms to visit like; Hall of Torre Mozza, unsupported in the dressing room of which is placed the precious “bucket kidnapped”, the fire hall, the hall of the old council, the tapestry room, and the marriage hall.
is located next to the Duomo and in the shadow of the Ghirlandina. It also overlooks the Town Hall, clock tower, one side of the Archbishop palace, and the headquarters of a modern bank.
One of the characteristic features of this Piazza is the presence of the “Preda ringadora”, a rectangular marble stone with a length of about 3 meters; and its name means stone dell’Arringo because it was used as a stage by the speakers. Its functions were to serve as a place where crime offenders are exposed to the public and where the pillory (also known as the stone of shame) procedure was applied for insolvent debtors.
The piazza is paved with cobblestones, shops, restaurants, and a seventeenth century atmosphere created by all the buildings that surround this famous square in Modena.
houses the Military Academy of Modena and this building was created by Italian architect Bartolomeo Avanzini in 1631. It is here where the officers of their command troops both for the army and the police train and prepare for their life as a soldier and a law enforcer. The building was first used as the official house of the Duke of Modena in the early times. It has huge halls with interesting frescoes and one of the rooms contain memorabilia from the First World War, works that recall and describe the life of the Academy, and military medals like the Oro Military Valour, a medal that is given to students who attended this glorious Institution.
To organize a visit, tours must be booked in advance, which usually takes place when there are no official engagements for the young people studying in there. It is possible to visit the interiors only on Sundays. The Ducal Palace of Modena is splendid, full of well-decorated rooms, a beautiful courtyard, overlooking Piazza Roma which will soon be finally rearranged and made pedestrian. Note: this is an old building and there are no elevators available, making it not suitable for families with small children or people in wheelchairs.
Piazza della Pomposa
Piazza della Pomposa
is a square located in the historic center of Modena and just a short walk from Piazza Matteotti from the church of Pomposa where the famous Italian priest and historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori is buried (a man against whom the country’s history has an immense debt of gratitude). In this area and in his house were recently found frescoes of great historical and artistic value that are still being studied by modern historians. It takes its name from the church of Santa Maria della Pomposa that stands beside the Abbey of Pomposa, at Comacchio, founded in the ninth century.
The entire square is surrounded by century old Renaissance palaces and complemented by a small medieval church. This popular piazza in Modena is a gathering place in the evening and lined with many bars and pubs where you can spend quiet moments with friends. This square is very important for the headquarters of the Deputation of National History, but also for a variety of local restaurants and cafes that offer several alternatives, depending on the taste of the customers. In summer, it becomes a popular open air theater with an interesting series of events to celebrate the summer season of Modena.
After the restoration and reopening of the building in May 2015, it has been deeply renewed and now looks more interesting to explore. If you are in Modena for tourism and art, a tour of the
is a must. Inside this 18th century building, there is a large exhibit of paintings and sculptures from the collection of the Duchy of Este and within the same building (the Palace Museum) is where you can find the museum with memorabilia that the people of Modena donated to the municipality.
The museum reopened on May 29 after three years of rehabilitation after the earthquake of 2012. It had a successful makeover and each room is a surprise like the more extensive collection of the Este dynasty and enriched by acquisitions of masterpiece works and donations made by local art patrons. Paintings, sculptures, antiques, coins, the “room of wonders”, ceramics, this place is worth more than a one time visit when in Modena.
Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti captivated the world by his voice that is so unique and with his personality that is simple and very sincere. He is recognized as a symbol of this land and of the whole world of Opera. Visiting the house where he spent the last years of his life fills you in a crescendo of emotion esteem and affection for him and his art. Listening to the description of the audio guide will make you understand what makes the man click with his audience. Much of the house is beautiful and edited by him in detail starting from pictures, objects, art collections, unpublished projects and much more talk about the Maestro. Here is where the man used to live, a voice and a star that will shine forever.
Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti
is a visit through the intimacy of Maestro Luciano Pavarotti. It’s a unique museum in Modena where you can visit his house and learn all about his life and career as an artist and as a man. This among the many homes of the Master is definitely the one most dear to him because it was near his stables where he organized a major equestrian event and his restaurant. They have kept here all his memorabilia, some costumes, personal belongings and furniture. It is a path that is very interesting for opera lovers and for the Luciano Pavarotti fans. Also very close is the Montale Rangone cemetery where the Maestro Pavarotti is buried.
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari
is an enchanting place that is full of charm. You can see racing cars of the past and breathe the air of racing. The building is very nice with a shape that resembles the hood of the car reminding every visitor that this is indeed the home of the Ferrari family. It is a must visit for fans of the Ferrari legend.
The modern building was built next to the old workshop of the father of Enzo Ferrari where the works for their masterpiece engine was developed. Inside the new structure is a collection of beautiful Ferrari and a simulated driving module for Ferrari fans.
The museum is dedicated to the memory of Enzo Ferrari and consists of two buildings; a historian (workshop) where they show exposed engines and mechanical parts, and a modern section in yellow roof and all white interior, which displays the latest road models of the brand.
The part of the mechanical workshop will be most appreciated by fans while the modern part is aimed at a wider audience and is usually combined with a theme. A visit lasts just over an hour and at the end you can rest between the shop and the restaurant. Ferrari fans should come and visit this wonderful museum in Modena. It ranges from engines disassembled from cars each year with their charm in a futuristic environment.
Museo Lapidario Estense
Historically speaking, the
Museo Lapidario Estense
is the first museum built in Modena by Duke Francis IV in 1828. It tells the history of Modena through the tombstones and coffins placed in the lobby of the Palace Museum. The passionate and knowledgeable guide will keep you entertained during the tour and among other things without paying anything.
The museums in the palace are all free and frequented by students of all ages. It has a notable collection of artifacts and Roman ruins that were collected in the excavations that took place in Modena. The Palazzo dei Musei houses the Museum of Art, the Archaeological Museum Etnologico, the Biblioteca Estense, the Gipsoteca Giuseppe Graziosi, the Art Library Luigi Poletti, and the Municipal Historical Archivio.
Villa San Donnino
In Modena, it is impossible not to visit any of the places of production of one of the top products of the country – the traditional balsamic vinegar. The tour experience is sublime and you will be delighted by the love of the owner, Mr. David, an extremely helpful and friendly person. If you are really keen to see live the real difference between the industrial and meticulous production of traditional balsamic vinegar, a visit to this place is mandatory. The tour of the
Villa San Donnino
is led by Francesca, who carefully explain every detail behind the production and allows guests for a tasting tour of the various types of balsamic vinegars. The tour highlights the value of their product (Acetaia Villa San Donnino) and the reason behind their craft and competitive price. The guide will emphasize that you are not just paying a visit to the villa, but you are there as a witness to a demonstration that love, passion, and dedication of a family to deliver the best balsamic vinegar is priceless.
A tour of Modena City is like taking a time travel to the past where the most talented Italian architects selflessly shared their love for the craft as shown in the intricate designs and structure of the cathedrals, palaces, and government buildings all around the city. Modena occupies a very small territory, but it has produced artists who have contributed and shared their passion with the whole world. The museums of Ferrari and Pavarotti, the Palazzo with a collection of all the best museums in Modena, and the balsamic vinegar, and the hospitable people completes the list of reasons why Modena is worth discovering in Italy.