Piazza Grande, with its beautiful pavement in river stones, is at the center of Modena and is central to its residents’ hearts. There’s no better starting point for your walk.
Piazza Grande, together with the Modena Cathedral and the nearby Ghirlandina Tower, were recognized by UNESCO in 1997 as a World Heritage Site. The piazza is enclosed to the north and east by the Palazzo Comunale and the Cathedral. (Read more about visiting the UNESCO site.)
Once you’ve spent a few moments in Piazza Grande, you’ll understand why locals and tourists alike come here to relax, take in the disarming beauty of the Modena Cathedral, and appreciate the unique context in which these outstanding sites are found! At sunset, the atmosphere in Piazza Grande becomes even more special as light transforms the marble of the Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower into a palette of breathtaking pastels.
Immediately adjacent to the Ghirlandina Tower, you’ll find Piazza Torre, also known as Piazzetta delle Rivendugliole, a name that refers to the small greengrocers that were once concentrated here. Today, periodic art and craft markets are held in the shadow of the tower.
Continuing a bit further on the Via Emilia in the direction of Bologna, you’ll come upon another distinctive piazza: Piazza Mazzini. This piazza was established following the dismantling of the Jewish ghetto, of which only the 1873 synagogue remains as the seat of the Jewish community of Modena and Reggio-Emilia.
On two sides of the piazza, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings make this recently renovated space a delightful corner of the city.
After a brief stop to rest and refresh—several options can be found in Piazza Mazzini, including some very good ice cream parlors where you can sit at comfortable outside tables during the Summer—continue in the same direction along Via Emilia and turn left at Via Farini.
As soon as you start down Via Farini, you’ll be able to glimpse the sumptuous façade of the splendid building that is now the home of the Military Academy, but it will only be once you arrive in Piazza Roma, at the end of the street, that you’ll appreciate its grandeur and size.
Find a seat on one of the modern benches located around the piazza and spend a few minutes taking in the splendid view, the piazza itself, and the delightful play of water in the fountains. When it’s time to think about lunch, several restaurants are located nearby, including some with views of the piazza. You’ll have no trouble finding a place to enjoy the best of local cuisine.
First stop: Piazza Grande
Piazza Grande has been and still is the hub of Modena’s social life, especially on such special occasions as the celebration of the city’s Patron Saint, St. Geminianus (San Geminiano) each January 31st, when the piazza is filled with cheerful stalls. The piazza is no less lively on “Fat Thursday” during Carnival (usually in mid-February), when crowds gather beneath the balcony of the Palazzo Comunale to hear the bombastic “rant” of Sandrone, a traditional masked Commedia dell’Arte character in Modena, and his family, the Pavironicas.
Second stop: Piazza Torre
Directly alongside the Ghirlandina Tower is Piazza Torre, also known as Piazzetta delle Rivendugliole, a reference to the small greengrocers that were once concentrated here. Even today, art and craft markets are periodically held in the shadow of the tower.
The poet Alessandro Tassoni, a Modena native, is honored with a statue in the center of the piazza. Tassoni is the author of the epic poem “La Secchia Rapita” (the “stolen bucket”), the saga of the war between Modena and Bologna around the 1300s.
Third stop: Piazza Mazzini
Fourth stop: Piazza Roma
Find a seat on one of the modern benches located around the piazza and spend a few minutes taking in the splendid view, the piazza itself, and the delightful play of water in the fountains. When it’s time to think about lunch, several restaurants are located nearby, including some with views of the piazza. You’ll have no trouble finding a place to enjoy the best of local cuisine