Modena - Via Emilia, the centre and famous celebrities

In 189 BC the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus decided to build a road to connect Rimini to Piacenza, the Via Aemilia, finished in 187 BC, and at a later date extended to reach what is now Milan.  Rimini was linked to Rome by the Via Flaminia, while the Via Postumia left Piacenza to run as far as Aquileia. Consequently, by allowing the armies to travel faster, the road was of fundamental importance for north Italy. Along this route, about 25 kilometres apart – a stretch corresponding to one day’s marching for the army – numerous cities sprang up and grew, including Mutina.

In Largo Garibaldi, where we can now admire the beautiful Fontana dei Due Fiumi – a fountain built as a tribute to the Secchia and Panaro, the waterways which delimit the province, by the Modenese sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi – once sat Porta Bologna, a gate that gazed towards the regional capital. A little further on is the façade of the Teatro Storchi, built in 1886 on the initiative of the Modenese merchant, Gaetano Storchi.

One of Modena’s most famous sons once lived and worked in this area: Enzo Ferrari. Before creating his own car company, The Drake, as he was nicknamed, owned the Alfa Romeo racing workshop which, just like his home, was to be found a stone’s throw from the Fontana dei Due Fiumi. A trueborn Modenese, Enzo Ferrari came from the suburbs, in the area where Maserati is now situated, and, despite the construction of the car plants at Maranello, this great personality always lived in the city.

Continuing towards the centre, nestling amongst the eighteenth-nineteenth century townhouses along Corso Canalgrande, we come across the new Teatro Comunale, built in 1841 to a design by Francesco Vandelli. Dedicated to Luciano Pavarotti in December 2007, the theatre recalls the most famous tenor in the world who grew up in Modena along with Mirella Freni, the top-class soprano who was also a dear friend of his.

In front of the theatre is Palazzo Ciro Menotti. Menotti was a well-known Risorgimento patriot who, as a plaque on the facade recounts, was hanged in 1831 together with Vincenzo Borelli. The statue commemorating this historic figure sits in front of the Palazzo Ducale and shows him gazing at the windows of the Duke’s residence. Returning to the Via Emilia and continuing westwards under the Portico del Collegio, takes us through the people of Modena’s favourite area for strolling and shopping.

The Collegio di San Carlo, with its splendid seventeenth century church, used to board the aristocratic youth of Modena, and not only, for their course of studies. The institution still exists today and continues its educational role thanks to postgraduate advanced philosophy courses and its library specializing in philosophy and theology, which is also open to the public.

From Via Farini  there is a fine view of Palazzo Ducale, while a little further on is Piazzetta Ova – on the left, with the large vault which leads to the Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Grande – and Piazza Mazzini on the right, once the site of the Jewish Ghetto founded in 1638, which was later demolished in the early 1900s following its abolition with the Unification of Italy. The piazza is notable for its beautiful buildings with their Liberty-style facades and for the large Synagogue opened in 1873, which rounds off the view.

Passing the Chiesa del Voto – built in 1634 to give thanks to the Madonna For the end of the four-year-long Plague – we find Piazza Matteotti, the Church of San Giovanni Battista Decollato – which contains the superb terracotta Lament by Guido Mazzoni, then, with the shortest of detours to the right from Piazzetta Muratori, we find ourselves in the splendid Piazzetta della Pomposa, a genuinely unique city sight, which is home to the Museo Muratoriano, devoted to the figure of Ludovico Antonio Muratori, a librarian and ducal archivist, considered the father of Italian historiography, who passed away in Modena in 1750.

Returning to the Via Emilia, we arrive last but not least at the Largo Porta Sant'Agostino, the city’s westernmost limit, defined, on the right, by the eighteenth century former hospital building, now used as an exhibition venue, and, on the left, by the imposing Sant'Agostino church adjoining the Palazzo dei Musei.

ComuneModena - 41100 (MO)

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