Last Update : February, 2018
Home of the Balsamic vinegar and Enzo Ferrari (yeah, the guy who came up with this work of art on wheels), located in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. The city is full of museums, spectacular architecture, churches, synagogues and sculptures. The perfect combo of a vibrant Italian city and a peaceful town which offers both culinary and cultural experiences.
Unlike the medieval one-day-visit Tuscan towns, Modena is a large city, and you can wander, eat and admire the city for a whole weekend! And that’s without counting all that hides around!
The first time I heard about Modena was from good friends who are notorious foodies and appreciate fast cars. They were smitten by city. After watching Massimo Bottura, the Michelin-starred chef, appearance on TV serie "Master of None", I knew that Modena was the next destination on the list! What kind of friend will I be if I don’t introduce myself to my friends' new lover?
WHERE TO STAY?
Only in the Old City! Airbnb offers a large variety of small apartments for reasonable prices and the old town is full of fun small boutique hotels.
QUARTOPIANO - A simple and luxurious boutique hotel located in the center of the old city.
WHAT MODENA HAS TO OFFER?
The old City
Wander through the alleys of the historic part between local shops and small cafes. In the heart of the old town is the central piazza, with its 12th-century cathedral. Decorated with statues, the cathedral was defined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with other buildings around it.
The Palace of Museums - a complex of several museums. the main one preserves the collection of Modena dukes in ancient times - the Estense family, which ruled Modena for a long time and gathered numerous works of arts during the years.
In the la Galleria Estense (4° floor) you will find paintings, statues of clay and marble, ancient musical instruments, one of the world's largest collections of ancient coins and the famous 17th-century statue sculpted by Bernini. The statue represents one of the dukes of the Estense family - Francesco I and was based only on two portraits sent to Bernini’s studio in Rome (They never met!).
The city also remembers and preserves the memory of Luciano Pavarotti, the legendary operatic tenor, with a museum dedicated to his legend and a beautiful bronze statue in the city center.
In the center of the Old City there is a local market, active since 1931 and named after the mayor who founded it. Mercato Albinelli offers fresh produce, a variety of fruits and vegetables (grown in the region), homemade pastas and endless fish and seafood. If you decide to rent an apartment rather than book a hotel, you can buy fresh products from the market and cook a real Modenese meal in your kitchen! And for my lazy not-doing-anything-on-vacation friends (I myself am going through those days sometimes), walking around the market will make your tummy growl and your mind dream about the next meal. The market is open only on certain hours which depend on the season and on holidays. Therefore, I will recommend checking the opening hours on the site before your visit.
So many kinds of Balsamic
Modena is the birthplace of the balsamic, hence you are likely to find different types of balsamic dishes in most local restaurants (Steak with balsamic sauce was particularly excellent). To this day, balsamic is not produced in any other place except this part of Italy, and only by traditional means. After wandering through the streets, we stopped at a small local store that sold a variety of balsamic and we found ourselves inside a balsamic paradise. The owner will be happy to explain the different balsamic types and the difference between balsamic and balsamic vinegar. He will even let you taste different balsamic and try to differentiate tastes according to the different years. In fact, a young balsamic will be good with salads, after a few years it will be more suitable for cheeses like Parmigiano Regino and very old balsamic will be paired with meat dishes. After countless tasting of balsamic, a few stains and two sticky hands, needless to say, we left with more than 5 different balsamic bottles. You will also find a variety of local wines, delicious (!) and at unbelievable affordable prices.
(Is it really possible to skip this part?!)
The old part of the city is home to major fashion brands and also local boutiques that offer Italian fashion at its best with perfectly affordable prices. Shops such as Zara and Foot Locker (and their usual friends) can be found on the main street of the old town. Local boutiques are also spread along the main street, but it is better to walk down more marginal street with real local shops- Via Del Taglio.
THE MOTOR VALLEY
TO SEE MORE OF MY PHOTOS OF THE 3 MUSEUMS (FRRRARI, LAMBORGHINI AND STANGUELLINI )
I can’t speak of Modena without a taking a moment to mention Enzo Ferrari! In one of Modena's small streets you will find the Enzo Ferrari Museum. Not far, only twenty minutes away from Modena Is the Lamborghini museum and not too far from the historic center, you will find a crazy museum of historical cars called the Stanguellini museum. The Italian Motor Valley indeed.
Things I Learned:
- If you once asked yourself why Ferrari's symbol is a horse the answer lies in Ferrari's mother- She asked him to add to his race cars the horse, symbol of a local military hero, to keep him from evil while racing.
- Lamborghini's symbol is a bull, symbolizing Ferruccio Lamborghini's astrological sign. Ferruccio owned a tractors business which made him very wealthy. He then bought a Ferrari, who was already a known car brand in the area. One day the car broke down and Ferruccio decided he could build a better car himself. And that's how the Lamborghini brand was founded.
- There is an annual car festival in Modena named Modena Terra Di Motori That showcases historical cars and new cars and sometimes even new prototypes .
Modena is located in the region of Emilia-Romagna. The province has contributed greatly throughout history to the traditional culinary development of Italian food and today the province is an honorary member of the Italian cuisine. In every local restaurant, you can enjoy traditional Modenese dishes. Don’t miss the tortellini and the various balsamic dishes - the region's specialties!
I must warn you, if you have not learned it yet; the good Italian restaurants are closed in the afternoon and therefore it is very important to plan your meal time and even book in advance in restaurants, especially if you are visiting Modena during the weekend.
First, if possible (financially), you should go enjoy a Michelin star dinner at Chef Massimo Bottura’s restaurant. The chef offers various interpretations to the typical Modnese dishes. He grew up in Modena and still lives there today. You will have to book a long time in advance and pay a considerable sum in advance, when booking.
Osteria Francescana, Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena MO
Another option is to eat at the "little sister" of the Michelin restaurant (more reasonable prices)
A nice café (since 1902) located on the main street. Stop for breakfast and a hot chocolate (the hot chocolate is amazing and comes with chocolate syrop on the bottom and whipped cream on the top !).
Homemade, on-the-spot, perfect, fresh sandwiches. highly recommended! Check out their wall art made by the Italian Collective “Collettivo FX”.
A typical Italian restaurant that has existed since 1934 and is located in the center of the old town of Modena. Taste traditional dishes such as tortellini and Italian bean soup.
A good bottle of wine with two pasta dishes and you will be rewarded with a particularly indulgent meal! You also must try the Tortellini soup as well as the Parmesan with the Balsamic.
Spaccio delle Carceri
Crazy fun restaurant (it even has a giant tub in the middle of a table). Not particularly regional food but you can find good quality hamburgers, salads and other nice dishes.