Forty-eight-hours in Modena
Some ideas for organizing a perfect weekend.
What do you think of first when you think of Modena? Art, culture, tradition, and outstanding gastronomic specialties. Those words are an excellent summary of everything Modena has to offer. A weekend that brings them all together is a perfect way to get away from the ordinary as you discover one of Emilia-Romagna’s most beautiful cities.
Here’s a suggestion for a forty-eight-hour getaway designed to give you an appreciation for all the city’s beauty.
Day 1 - Saturday
Before you start on your way, we suggest a stop at the Tourist Office on Piazza Grande. It’s a chance to gather all the information you’ll need during your stay as well as to buy the combined ticket that includes admission to some of Modena’s main attractions at a special price.
The best place to start is Modena’s UNESCO site: the Romanesque-style Cathedral, the Ghirlandina Tower, and Piazza Grande, a group of structures that were designated a World Heritage Site in 1997. Click here for our suggested excursion to the UNESCO Site.
Before lunch or at some other point during your weekend, take a guided tour of Modena’s Municipal Vinegar Cellar (reservations should be made through the Tourist Office) or of another private vinegar producer in or around Modena. Generations of families have made balsamic vinegar, and the story of its production is deeply entrenched in Modena’s culture.
From Piazza Grande, take a short walk across lively Piazza XX September, and you’ll find yourself at the Albinelli Market. The cheerful ambiance of this historic marketplace, the epicenter of local culinary traditions, is not to be missed.
In the afternoon, you can join one of the several guided tours we offer through our Tourist Office, an excellent opportunity to get to know the city more intimately and especially its architectural gems and the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Cathedral, the Ghirlandina Tower, and Piazza Grande. We can also suggest theme-based excursions; the tours organized by the Modena Arti Visive Foundation to the Museo della Figurina (a museum dedicated to illustrated and collectible postcards and sports cards, advertisements, matchboxes, calendars and more); a trip to local art exhibits, or the activities of the AGO Project (Modena’s “culture factory”). And there’s so much more!
Once you’ve finished your guided tour, take a walk through the center of Modena until it’s time for supper. On Saturday afternoons, the city comes alive, and the atmosphere is lively and fun. Modena has no shortage of interesting stores and fascinating artisans, and you can sample their wares at an historic shop or an artist’s studio in the historical center.
The Unesco World Heritage site of Modena
Alongside, the elegant Ghirlandina Tower, the symbol of Modena beloved by its residents, soars toward the sky. Be sure to include a climb to the top of the tower in your plans to experience a spectacular 360° view of the city. Back on the ground, stop at the Museums of the Cathedral, whose entrance is next to the Ghirlandina Tower, for an in-depth look at this stunning complex of buildings and to learn more about the history of the Catholic church in Modena.
Day 2 - Sunday
On Sunday morning, you’ll discover the history of the Este dukes with a guided tour of the Ducal Palace, the residence of the dukes for more than two centuries and now the seat of the impressive Military Academy. Online reservations for Palace tours—which you can make on the Palace’s website or through the Modena Tourist Information Office—are required no later than the Wednesday before your visit.
The Palazzo stands on the site once occupied by the castle built by Obizzo d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara, in 1291 and then rebuilt half a century later. Modena’s canals, flowing from south towards the Po River, converged here in the moat of the fortress and then flowed out as one from the rear, along what is today Viale Vittorio Emanuele II. After Ferrara fell under the control of the Pope in 1598, Modena became the capital of the Este Duchy, and Duke Cesare of Este settled in the medieval castle, which seemed to be unsuitable for the needs of a European court. In 1634, his nephew, Duke Francesco I of Este, had a new palace built, designed by the architect Bartolomeo Advini. Additional contributions to the project came from Girolamo Rainaldi, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Pietro Da Cortona.
Continue your journey to the time of the Estes among the spectacular works of art in the Estense Gallery at the Palazzo dei Musei.
In the afternoon, visit the exciting, avant-garde Enzo Ferrari Museum, only a short walk from the center of Modena.
The excursion comes to an end with a visit to the Luciano Pavarotti House and Museum, the residence of Maestro Pavarotti during the final years of his life. If you are interested in learning more about Pavarotti, check out our excursion dedicated to his life and work.
Located just outside the city, the Pavarotti House and Museum is an extraordinary place that brings the great Master to life, retracing his story in the intimate atmosphere of the rooms in which he actually lived. Get in touch with his human side, as you admire his personal possessions and discover his everyday habits, as well as with the personality of the great artist through photos, videos, and a display of the famous costumes that marked his career.
For an even more engaging experience at the Pavarotti House and Museum, choose one of the many special and exclusive events organized there, such as recitals by young opera singers accompanied by live piano. Check the events calendar before you go.