Competent auto-making, a vibrant gastronomic culture and Osteria Francescana are three things that make Modena what it is today. No doubt the city is known for its medieval history, but the Lambrusco and giant tortellini are now stealing the spotlight.
This medieval Italian town is a heady mix of art, food and cars. Notable for its authentic food culture, Modena has been an agricultural powerhouse since Roman times. Typical rural houses may outline the landscape of this city, but cars and food are true passions of the Modenese.
If you are planning to include Modena on your next holiday trip then here are 12 things that definitely need to make it on your itinerary.
The Ferrari Museum Maranello
Unlike Maranello’s Ferrari Museum dedicated to supersonic cars, this museum celebrates the creator Enzo Anselmo Ferrari. The structure of the building imitates a Ferrari’s bonnet. Browse through an amazing collection of vintage cars and themed exhibits. You can retrace the life of the legend and other people behind the success of Ferrari.
2. Palazzo Comunale
This UNESCO World Heritage site has been a seat of Municipal Authorities since the 12th century. This town hall enclosed as many as 12 palaces between the 13th and 15th centuries. Today, only one palace in the Piazza Grande remains. The exterior boasts of Romanesque white marble arches and columns while the interiors are embellished with paintings from different Modenese artists.
3. Osteria Francescana
Experience narratives through the dishes of Massimo Bottura in this discreet tradition busting Italian kitchen. The food is influenced by music, art and hosts one of the finest dining experiences in Italy. This three Michelin Star Osteria gives a flavour of the old with a hint of fierce modernity. Do try their Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, a singular interpretation of beef fillet alla Rossini with foie gras & caviar and an eel swimming up the Po river.
4. Villa San Donnino
As common as balsamic vinegar is, you will be surprised to know that most people haven’t tasted the real thing. A whiff of this meticulously aged vinegar can make you salivate and get your nose dry. Head over to the artisanal production centre at Villa San Donnino for tours and tasting of some DOP (protected designation of origin) designated vinegar.
5. Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti
Get a glimpse of the life and collections of Maestro Pavarotti in this estate turned museum that he bought in the mid-eighties. The rooms exhibit many unique handicrafts that the maestro loved and reflect his artistic career. The villa is located 8 kms away from the city center in Stradello Nova. Do look out for the costume section out here.
6. Estense Gallery
This is the oldest gallery in Modena and houses the artistic heritage of the Dukes and the Este family. With its big halls and sixteen rooms, it’s very easy to get lost here. They do have the largest coin collection in the world but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Satisfy your aesthetic mojo with famous paintings, sculptures, prints, woodblock matrices and various other decorative arts.
7. The Albinelli Market
Although the Modenese regard the Albinelli as their historic gourmet market, but there is nothing old about the place. If you are looking for some exotic fresh food products, then this is your cue. One can usually find only food vendors here but the market offers a catering service every Friday and Saturday from 6:00 pm to midnight.
With this little shop, you can experience an 18th century wunderkammer first hand. This boutique is full of offities and macabre objects and is definitely worth a visit for travellers with a penchant for curiosity. Expect to find phrenological skulls, fetuses in formaldehyde, fossils, vintage signs and animal impagli around here. Book before as visits are scheduled by appointment only.
Time to Pack Your Bags
If you are looking for a quiet yet extravagant European getaway then heading to Modena might be totally worth it. With an amazing weather, some of the best food and cultural heritage there can be no better destination for your summer holiday.