Through the lens: Modena, Italy


Christmas lightsModena occupies a sweet spot in the heartland of Emilia Romagna, Italy’s breadbasket and economic engine. With many kilometers of cycling paths, a compact city center, and superb food to fit any traveler’s budget, the little city has long been on our bucket list of Italian places to go.  Tom and I had the good fortune to spend several days there as participants in Emilia Romagna’s “blogville” campaign. The city was tastefully decorated for Christmas and the main sights were all within walking distance of our hotel, along arcaded streets blessed with options for good espresso. 

Modena’s Medieval heart

The city’s virtues for the curious traveler are many. Its medieval heart is a superb example of architecture from the 12th century, a time in which religious and civic values were united in a Christian city. The Dukes of Este held court in Modena for almost five hundred years, and left their mark on the city’s architecture, arts and cuisine.

The Piazza Grande is the soul of the medieval city center. It is ringed by the cathedral, the Ghirlandia Tower and here, the Town Hall. Townsfolk were once punished for their misdeeds on the pillary, which stood atop the stone “table” lower left.
Modena’s cathedral, the Duomo, designed by Lanfranco and decorated by Wiligelmo, is a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque architecture (with some Gothic additions).
The Duomo’s facade features bas-reliefs telling stories from Genesis, such as Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
The rear entrance to the Duomo opens onto the old market square, and its lintel pays homage to tradesmen.
The Ghirlandia is the symbol of Modena, a civic tower locally named for the “garland” of balustrades crowning its spire.
Inside Palazzo Comunale, the Town Hall, frescoes tell stories of Modena. These 16th century frescoes by Nicolò dell’Abate decorate the walls of Sala del Fuoco (Fire Room), with scenes of the Battle of Modena in 42 BC.
The Baroque Ducal Palace on the Piazza Roma was built for Italy’s powerful Este family. It now houses Modena’s military academy.

A sleek auto museum in Modena

Automobile innovator Enzo Ferrari built race cars here in Modena.  The museum dedicated to his cars is modern and as sleek as the cars.

At the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, dedicated to the designer’s life and work. The airy exhibition space is topped by soaring yellow panels.

Gastronomy in the heart of Emilia Romagna

The gastronomic delights of Modena and the region are reason enough to travel to Emilia Romagna. Modena is a great place to experience world-class Parmigiano-Reggiano, Lambrusco wine, and above all, the region’s signature product, aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena.

Hundreds of Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels aging not far from Modena.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena was given Protected Designation of Origin in 2000
Just outside of Bologna, Gelato University trains makers of this iconic frozen treat

More about Emilia Romagna

Do we have your interest? Read more about this marvelous region’s unique heritage: the Zampone tradition, Rationalist architecture in Forli and Bologna’s splendid San Colombano Museum are just three more reasons to travel to Emilia Romagna.

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Grazie mille! to Emilia Romagna Tourism for hosting our stay in Modena, Italy, and for including this article in an eBook, The Art Cities of Emilia Romagna!


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