As we strolled the cobbled streets of Modena, Italy, surrounded by the graceful city’s earth-toned buildings, we couldn’t help but feel that we were back in an exotic part of the world that doesn’t often see visitors. The portico-packed, elegant lanes were decidedly Italian in architectural character, but locals seemed to approach us at every turn, asking us to take their photograph, curious about our story and what brought us to Modena. The latter certainly wasn’t a phenomenon that either one of us had ever encountered in Italian tourist meccas such as Florence, Rome, or Venice, but here in Modena, we visitors seemed a bit like a rarity, and that made interactions come even more effortlessly.
The mood on the streets of this northwestern Italian town was undeniably cheerful and seemingly perfect, at least on the surface. The streets were immaculate, and blooming forsythia bushes guarded the entryways to well-heeled shops. Bikers of all ages pedaled past us, some in classic business attire. Well-clad couples strolled, arm in arm. Military cadets from Italy’s prestigious academy walked the streets, wearing traditional uniforms, dressed in capes adorned with gold buttons. Children played on timeworn lions guarding Modena’s celebrated Romanesque cathedral, one of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. For three wonderful days, we simply soaked up the city’s must-see attractions, as well its serendipitous charms.
During our first full day, we savored the gastronomic delights for which Modena is renowned. We learned about Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and traditional balsamic vinegar production. We also tied on our aprons for the morning and learned how to make some tantalizing (and gluten free) dishes with the help of a renowned local chef at the Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro. After we’d feasted upon the dishes and savored the region’s delightful Lambrusco wine, we immersed ourselves in Modena’s celebrated car culture, visiting the childhood home of Enzo Ferrari, and spying the meticulously-maintained motors there. Well on our way to purchasing a larger-sized wardrobe, we indulged in more culinary pleasures at the Ristorante Da Danilo, before returning to our monastery-turned-palace-turned-hotel, the Canalgrande.
The next day, we sauntered about the city with no definitive plan. We chanced upon a classic wedding on the city’s Piazza Grande, which brought a tear to my eye; picked up picnic fare at the fantastic covered Albinelli Market; enjoyed Latte Macchiatos at a café teeming with bubbly personalities, admired porticoes adorned with fantastic frescoes, strolled past the city’s theatre honoring its favorite resident, the celebrated opera singer, Pavarotti; explored an open air art market as well as an archaeological park featuring treasures unearthed while building a parking garage, and finished off with three flavors of gelato ice cream. What a great city in which to savor life’s moments!
Our Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
- We picked up our picnic fare from the fantastic Albinelli Market, and dined at Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro and the Ristorante Da Danilo.
- Our 3 nights were spent at the elegant, historic, and centrally-located Hotel Canalgrande (affiliate link). One of our favorite memories from Modena, in fact, was sitting out on our hotel room balcony just before sunset, looking out over Modena’s rooftops, while enjoying goodies that we’d procured at the Albinelli Market earlier in the day.
- Peruse the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board and Modena websites for more details about Modena’s and the region’s rich offerings. The tourist board just recently released a free e-book that chronicles Emilia-Romagna’s Art Cities. I wish it’d been published when we were in the region, yet it’s since presented even more excuses to return to this stunning part of Italy.
- If you’d also like to “eat, feel and live local in Italy” as we did in Modena, check out the BlogVille project website.
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Italy.
Disclosure & Thanks:
Our Modena visit was supported by the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board, to which we extend thanks.
An extra special thank you to Nick and Francesca for coordinating all the details and making us feel so welcome in Emilia-Romagna. For these excursions, we also wish to say Grazie mille to our guide, Elena, for giving us much insight into local culture.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.