Modena Travel Guide

This northern Italian city is known for Parmesan cheese

modena picture, portico picture
••• A portico in Modena. by Martha Bakerjian

Modena, in the heart of northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, is the hometown of the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti and carmaker Enzo Ferrari. The area is also known around the world for its balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese production. 

This is a city made for tourist exploration. Its medieval center is a delight to walk around and the 12th-century duomo, or cathedral, is one of Italy's best Romanesque churches.

The cathedral, its Gothic bell tower called Torre della Ghirlandina, and Piazza Grande, the main square where these monuments are found make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

How to Get Around Modena

On the rail line between Parma and Bologna, Modena is easy to reach by train, and it's a short walk to the historic center or the Enzo Ferrari Museum from the station. If you're driving, Modena is easily accessible via the A1 Autostrada. It's about 60 kilometers northwest of Bologna, which is the closest airport, and 60 kilometers southeast of Parma. 

Eating in Modena

Travelers will find plenty of delicious food when visiting this part of Italy. Zampone, or Cotechino Modena (the less fatty version), a type of pork sausage, often served with lentils is one of the traditional dishes. It's also served as part of a bollito misto, a typical Emilia Romagna dish of boiled meats.

Stuffed pastas such as ravioli and tortellini are plentiful and are often served with the aforementioned Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.

 Sparkling red Lambrusco is the local wine, served with any variety of pasta and red sauce.

Top Things to See in Modena

Piazza Grande: Around the main square are several monuments including the cathedral, town hall, the picturesque 15h century clock tower, and medieval relics including a marble slab that was used as a speaker's platform and the stolen bucket from a battle against Bologna in 1325.

It inspired a famous Italian poem called, fittingly, "The Stolen Bucket.".

Duomo: The 12th-century cathedral is a perfect example of a Romanesque church. Its exterior is heavily adorned with sculptures representing Biblical characters and stories. Art works inside include two terra cotta nativity scenes (15th and 16th century), the 13th-century marble parapet portraying the Passion of the Christ, a 14th-century wooden crucifix, and mosaics. 

Torre della Ghirlandina: The cathedral's Gothic bell tower, which dates back to 1167, towers above the city. Originally five stories tall, the octagonal section and other decoration were added to the top during renovation in 1319. The interior is adorned with frescoes.

Ducal Palace was the seat of the Este court from the 17th to 19th centuries. Its Baroque exterior is stunning, but today the palace is part of the military academy and visitors are only allowed on special tours held some weekends.

Museum Building: Inside the Museum Palace are several museums including the Estense Art Gallery and Library, the Archeological Ethnographic Civic Museum and the Civic Art Museum.

The Enzo Ferrari House Museum is a short walk from the historic center and houses a display of Ferraris and other exotic cars.

Inside the childhood home of Enzo Ferrari are a series of videos about the history of the cars, photos, and memorabilia. There's also a cafe and a store.