A graceful city that elegantly blends tradition and modernity, Modena is known for its high culture, fast cars and gastronomic delights. It sits in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, about half an hour from Bologna, and boasts a historic core as well as a reputation for cutting-edge design and engineering.
Along with a celebrated Romanesque cathedral and vast collection of art, it’s home to many of Italy's leading car manufacturers, including Ferrari and Maserati. This combination of traditional values and contemporary glamour make it a fascinating place to explore.
Modena's old town is a tightly packed core of narrow medieval streets bisected by an ancient Roman road, Via Emilia. At its heart is the Duomo, Modena's celebrated Romanesque cathedral which was consecrated in 1184.
Unlike most other churches of this era, Modena's cathedral was never reconstructed and so is one of the purest examples of Romanesque architecture style in Italy. It’s now protected as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The façade is punctuated by detailed bas-relief sculptures, while inside, the dark brick arches lead to a Gothic rose window — one of the only additions from the 13th century.
Across the grand square from the cathedral is the Palazzo Comunale, the seat of the civic rulers since the 11th century. Its cluster of medieval municipal buildings was unified in the 17th and 18th centuries behind a marble colonnade. Visitors can explore the historic rooms and see the elaborate artworks which adorn them.
Elsewhere around the old town you'll find many Baroque churches, erected in the 16th century by the ruling Este family who did much to promote music, the visual arts and the performing arts in the city. They instilled in their citizens a great love for culture that continues to this day. As you wander the streets today, you'll notice a large number of libraries and cinemas.
At the Palazzo dei Musei, where many of the city's museums and galleries are gathered, you can visit the Galleria Estense with its rich collection of northern Italian art, which includes works by Correggio, El Greco and Velázquez. You'll also find the city's archaeological and civic museums here.
For live performances, the Teatro Comunale, recently renamed after local hero Luciano Pavarotti, hosts a varied selection of classical concerts, operas, ballets and recitals. Perhaps more interesting, however, is a visit to the tenor's home. A much more intimate experience, here you can see his personal belongings and a build a picture of his personality and interests, which go far beyond his international stage reputation.
Along with high culture, Modena is known for its links to the automotive industry and particularly to the world of high-performance racing cars. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Bugatti and Maserati are, or were, all linked to the town. Enzo Ferrari was born here and his childhood home is now a superb museum tracing his life and work and displaying many of his most famous cars in a striking new building next door. A little further away in Maranello you can also visit the Ferrari factory museum.
For many visitors though, fine food and superb wine are the highlight of a visit to Modena. The flat, foggy nature of the Po Valley makes it ideal for agriculture and balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese), lambrusco (a sparkling red wine) and an array of smoked meats have been produced for centuries. You can visit many of the producers to sample their wares first-hand, or simply wander the lanes of the old town to find a humble trattoria for lunch.
Map of Modena
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Places near Modena
- Bologna 38 kilometers away
- Parma 51 kilometers away
- Verona 89 kilometers away
- Sirmione 95 kilometers away
- Forte dei Marmi 97 kilometers away
- Florence 102 kilometers away
- Ravenna 105 kilometers away
- Lake Garda 109 kilometers away
- Porto Venere 110 kilometers away
- Cinque Terre 111 kilometers away
- Pisa 111 kilometers away
- Gardone Riviera 112 kilometers away
- San Gimignano 132 kilometers away
- Portofino and Santa Margherita 142 kilometers away
- Venice 142 kilometers away
- Siena 152 kilometers away
- Genoa 160 kilometers away
- Milan 164 kilometers away
- Madonna di Campiglio 177 kilometers away
- Como 194 kilometers away
- Blevio 195 kilometers away
- Torno 196 kilometers away
- Laglio 196 kilometers away
- Bellagio 198 kilometers away
- Lezzeno 198 kilometers away
- Lake Como 202 kilometers away
- Tremezzo 203 kilometers away
- Perugia 208 kilometers away
- Dolomites 209 kilometers away
- Assisi 223 kilometers away
- Barbaresco 225 kilometers away
- Umbria 227 kilometers away
- Alba 229 kilometers away
- Alta Badia 229 kilometers away
- Lake Maggiore 231 kilometers away
- Stresa 233 kilometers away
- Verbania 234 kilometers away
- Orvieto 236 kilometers away
- Barolo 237 kilometers away
- Piedmont 256 kilometers away
- Turin 260 kilometers away
- Rome 332 kilometers away
- Costa Smeralda 409 kilometers away