15 Best Things to Do in Modena (Italy)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Modena is a city that has an integral history with the manufacture of famous Italian sports cars such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati. Furthermore, it is a city that is rich in culture and history and contains a plethora of fantastic buildings and museums. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, Modena lies in-between Bologna and Parma and has a central location that is equidistant from both the east and west coast of the country. With a current population of 184,000, Modena is one of the largest cities in the region and is also an important economic powerhouse. Its main source of economy is car manufacturing and Modena is actually home to the global Panini Group.

This city has actually been inhabited since the Iron Age by various tribes and records show that a permanent settlement was made here during the 3rd century BC. During the Roman era, Modena was hugely important due to its central location and several Roman roads passed through it. In later years and the Middle Ages, the rule of the city changed hands several times but it remained an important place and eventually became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Today, Modena present a wide variety of attractions such as the Torre Ghirlandina and the Enzo Ferrari Museum and it is easy to see why it is a popular destination of Northern Italy.

Lets explore the best things to do in Modena:

1. Modena Cathedral

Modena CathedralSource: flickr
Modena Cathedral

Built in a Romanesque style, the Cathedral of Modena is a beautiful building and undoubtedly a highlight of this city.

Located in the Piazza Grande and the Piazza della Torre, the church is in the centre of the historic town centre and was completed in 1319. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a hugely important structure and features some stunning architecture and decoration.

The front facade features three large wooden doorways and huge circular stained glass window, at the main entrance, statues of two lions stand guard.

Inside, the brickwork really stands out and the artwork above the main altar is laced with gold and depicts the Passion of Christ.

2. Torre Ghirlandina

Torre GhirlandinaSource: flickr
Torre Ghirlandina

Standing next to the Cathedral is the Torre Ghirlandina which acts as its bell tower.

At a height of 86.12m the tower is the tallest structure in Modena and is now an icon of the city that can be seen for miles around.

Originally constructed in 1179, the tower was meant to compete with the various ancient towers of Bologna.

The design of the tower matches closely with that of the Cathedral and it uses the same building materials but also features similar style arches and decoration.

It is possible to climb the tower for fantastic views of the city of Modena and the surrounding countryside.

3. Palazzo dei Musei

Palazzo dei MuseiSource: wikimedia
Palazzo dei Musei

As the finest historical museum in Modena, the Palazzo dei Musei is split into several different sub-museums including a history museum, an art library and a municipal museum.

Hosting within these sections is a wonderful collection of fine art, historical artefacts and informative displays about the history of Modena and the surrounding region.

Exhibits include musical instruments, weaponry, sculptures, maps and paintings.

Particularly important displays include a show of over 2000 textile samples from earlier ages, and a collection of Bronze Age and Roman artefacts.

4. Museum Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari MuseumSource: flickr
Enzo Ferrari Museum

Did you know that the creator of the Ferarri car brand was born in Modena? Enzo Ferrari indeed lived in this city and the Museum Enzo Ferrari pays homage to his life and the business he built.

Part of the museum is actually housed in the legends original home, and sitting next to this is a modern contemporary exhibit hall.

Inside the museums are a fantastic collection of Ferrari sports cars from various decades and a wide selection of related memorabilia.

Furthermore, inside his house, is a range of exhibitions detailing the life and works of Enzo himself.

For any Ferrari or motorcar lover, this museum is a real treat!

5. Villa San Donnino

Villa San DonninoSource: flickr
Villa San Donnino

Balsamic Vinegar is one of the finest products to hail from Modena and this city is renowned for the high quality Balsamic that it creates.

Balsamic is actually made from fresh grapes and then aged in wooden barrels over many decades.

The Villa San Donnino is a producer of fine Balsamic Vinegar and has been perfecting the art for countless years.

Tours and tasting sessions are available and although this producer isn’t one of the largest in the city, it is a family run business and has much more relaxed, homely and charming feel.

6. Piazza Roma

Piazza RomaSource: flickr
Piazza Roma

Modena has several ornate and decorative squares that have a great deal of charm and character – The Piazza Roma is one such square and can be found at the front of the Palazzo Ducale.

At the far side of the Piazza is the mighty Palazzo Ducale which also has a spot in this top 15 list, whilst surrounding the other sides are a series of old buildings fitted with arched walkways.

A plethora of shops and a couple of cafes line these arches and this Piazza is a wonderful place to escape.

In the centre of the Piazza there is a water pool and a series of beautiful water jets/fountains.

Furthermore, there is also a statue of Ciro Menotti who was seen as a revolutionary figure of Italy during the 1800’s.

7. Palazzo Ducale

Palazzo DucaleSource: wikimedia
Palazzo Ducale

This former palace resides at the end of the stunning Piazza Roma and is one of the most recognizable and imposing buildings in the whole of Modena.

Originally created in the 1400’s, the palace originally served as the residence for the Este Dukes of Modena.

A Baroque facade frames the building and its beauty and symmetry are unparalleled within the city – hundreds of windows line the walls and the middle section contains several marble columns and a beautiful arched doorway.

Currently the palace holds part of the Italian Military Academy and military ceremonies and performances are often held here.

8. Modena Giardini Pubblici

Modena Giardini PubbliciSource: flickr
Modena Giardini Pubblici

Located in the north east part of the historic town centre, the Giardini Pubblici is a public garden that featured an ornate palace in the centre.

Finely manicured lawns stretch out in front of the palace and beautiful flower beds line the many paths.

This is a truly pleasant and stunning park to spend time in and it has an extremely relaxed atmosphere.

Inside the grounds there is also a fantastic botanical garden filled with various exotic plants, and the palace now hosts a tasteful art gallery.

If you are looking for a bite to eat or a drink, there is also a reasonably priced cafe.

9. Chiesa di San Francesco

Chiesa di San FrancescoSource: modenatoday
Chiesa di San Francesco

Modena has several fantastic churches, and the Chiesa di San Francesco is one such structure that can be found in the south western part of the old town centre.

Dedicated (and actually constructed by) to the Franciscan Friars, the original church was built as early as 1244 but took over two hundred years to complete.

The front facade has a simple brick design with several arched windows, a beautiful circular stained glass window, and a doorway that features a fresco of the Franciscan Friars.

Inside, the church is beautifully decorated and the ceiling features a great amount of intricate patterns.

Furthermore, there is also a series of 13 terracotta statues that feature a great amount of detail.

10. Panini Motor Museum

Panini Motor MuseumSource: paninimotormuseum
Panini Motor Museum

Many of the attractions in Modena are related to motorcars and motorsport in someway – This is due to the cities extensive history that is intertwined with car manufacturing and motorsport.

The Panini Motor Museum provides an immense display of historic vehicles from a variety of eras.

Located to the south west of Modena, the museum is housed in a typical Italian farm building and has a collection of over 20 different vintage Maserati sports cars.

Models include the 1936 6CM and the Berlinetta Pinifarina which actually won the Mille Miglia.

For an interesting and insightful look at motorcars, this museum is a great place to visit.

11. Parco Enzo Ferrari

Parco Enzo FerrariSource: mapio
Parco Enzo Ferrari

The name of Enzo Ferrari is renowned throughout Modena and rightly so as this legend and genius is responsible for the creation of the Ferrari motorcar empire.

It is understandable therefore that there is a beautiful park named after this man.

Located to the west of the historic town centre, the Parco Enzo Ferrari covers a vast area and is a perfect place to relax and enjoy a walk in the sun.

At the edge closest to the Viale Italia, there is a huge amount of open grassland, perfect for playing sports, and in the centre there is a beautiful lake.

Furthermore, there is an ample amount of woodland, walking trails and amenities.

12. Piazza Grande

Piazza GrandeSource: flickr
Piazza Grande

A much quieter square than the Piazza Roma but nonetheless still impressive and charming, the Piazza Grande is located next to the Cathedral in the centre of the old historic town.

Paved with cobbled stone, the Piazza has an ancient feel to it and the surrounding buildings have a plethora of arches and beautiful colours.

Next to the Cathedral, a large ornate clock tower stands in the Comune di Modena building and there is also a variety of cafes and restaurants.

13. Museum Della Figurina

Museo della FigurinaSource: laguidadimodena
Museo della Figurina

This unique museum is not like any other you will visit and has a fantasti collection of figurines and collectibles that have been amassed over the years by Giuseppe Panini.

Included in the collection are cigarette cards, coupons, picture cards, menus, hotel labels, candy paper, stamped envelopes and trading cards.

The collection is beautifully presented and the displays are all well documented and eye-catching.

Located a short walk from the Palazzo Ducale, the Museum Della Figurina is a great place to visit when exploring the Piazza Roma.

14. Albinelli Market

Albinelli MarketSource: peekingduck
Albinelli Market

To truly see how the locals live, consider visiting the indoor Albinelli Market.

Located on Via Luigi Albinelli, the market has stood for over a century and is covered in the style of an old Bazaar.

With approximately 30,000 visitors per week, you can expect the market to be thriving with action on any given day and the sights and sounds are simply fantastic.

A myriad of different stalls line the walkways and you can find a variety of goods such a fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, pastries, spices and even truffles.

Haggle with the locals, overload your senses with the different smells and tastes, and see how the locals trade and live.

15. Parco Fluviale Fiume Secchia

Parco Fluviale Fiume SecchiaSource: visitsassuolo
Parco Fluviale Fiume Secchia

Modena is a beautiful part of Italy and the surrounding countryside is diverse and captivating.

The River Secchia runs close to the city and into the surrounding landscape and the Parco Fluviale Fiume Secchia is a natural reserve that provides a fantastic opportunity for a relaxing bike ride or hike.

Situated between Modena and Reggio Emilia, the reserve features woodland, lakes, swampland and a plethora of vegetation.

Birds live in abundance here such as Kestrels, Buzzards and Hawks; furthermore, there is a variety of different bushes, shrubs and trees.

Consider cycling from Modena city centre to this magical area and immerse yourself in the natural environment.

15 Best Things to Do in Modena (Italy):

  • Modena Cathedral
  • Torre Ghirlandina
  • Palazzo dei Musei
  • Museum Enzo Ferrari
  • Villa San Donnino
  • Piazza Roma
  • Palazzo Ducale
  • Modena Giardini Pubblici
  • Chiesa di San Francesco
  • Panini Motor Museum
  • Parco Enzo Ferrari
  • Piazza Grande
  • Museum Della Figurina
  • Albinelli Market
  • Parco Fluviale Fiume Secchia