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How to Spend the Perfect One Day in Modena, Italy

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Planning to spend one day in Modena? We’re sharing all you need to know in this guide.

Modena is a charming city located in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. It is famous for two things: Balsamic Vinegar and Ferrari.

You can easily visit Modena on a day trip from Bologna, Parma, or Milan. We recently spent a week in Modena, and based on our experience, there are two ways that you can spend a day in Modena.

In this guide, you will find two day trip itineraries. The first one is a Ferrari itinerary for those looking to visit both of the Ferrari Museums around Modena. The second one is a foodie itinerary for those looking to taste and learn about the local cuisine.

Here is our guide to one day in Modena, plus all of our tips to help you plan the perfect day.

Ferrari Itinerary: One Day in Modena

This itinerary is built for those looking to visit both the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena and the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, just outside of Modena.

Pay attention to the times listed below, as you’ll need to arrive at the museum in the morning in order to catch the shuttle bus on time to Maranello.

Enzo Ferrari Museum

Get to the Enzo Ferrari Museum right when it opens at 9:00am or 9:30am depending on the month. You can check the opening hours online at the official website.

The Enzo Ferrari Museum focuses on the history of Ferrari and its founder, Enzo. It features vintage cars, engines, drawings, and you can even take a peek at Enzo’s original office.

The museum is located outside of the city center and is a 15-minute walk from Piazza Grande. You only need about an hour to visit this museum.

There is a cafe inside with sandwiches, drinks, and other snacks if you need to pick up something for breakfast.

If you are visiting both Ferrari museum, then purchase the combined ticket to save money.

Tickets: €27 per adult. Combined ticket option for both the Enzo Ferrari Museum + the Maranello Ferraro Museum is €38 per adult. Purchase your tickets online at the official website.

Ferrari Museum in Maranello

Unless you have a car, you need to take either the public bus or the Ferrari shuttle bus to Maranello. We suggest taking the shuttle to Maranello, since it is faster and stops outside of the Enzo Ferrari museum.

The bus arrives outside of the Enzo Ferrari museum at 10:45am, make sure to get there 5 minutes beforehand. You need to purchase your shuttle tickets online at Vivara Viaggi. These book up and there may not be seats if you don’t purchase in advance.

The Ferrari Museum is located in Maranello where the first factory was built and where it still is today. Inside of the museum, there are a mix of vintage cars, current models, and futuristic prototypes.

For an additional cost, you can sign up for one of these extra activities in Maranello:

Make sure to book these online a few weeks in advance – time slots book up fast. We tried to reserve these on the day of and they were sold out.

If you want to test drive a Ferrari around Maranello, you can book this tour where you get to drive a Ferrari car between 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on what you book.

You could easily spend a whole day here if you book the panoramic factory and track tour and do the simulators. Otherwise, if you just walk through the museum, plan on spending 1.5 hours here.

Tickets: €27 per adult. There is a combined ticket option for both the Enzo Ferrari Museum + the Maranello Ferraro Museum that is €38 per adult. Purchase your tickets online at the official website.

Hours: Opening times vary depending on the month. Check out the official Ferrari museum website for up-to-date information.

Taking the public bus: The shuttle bus doesn’t leave the museum in Maranello until 2:45pm. We finished our tour of the museum earlier than that and took the public bus back to Modena. If this is the case for you, take the public bus #815 back to Modena.

You can purchase your tickets with contactless payment on the bus or at a tobacco shop in Maranello. The ride takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on traffic.

Ghirlandina Tower

You should have enough time for a few activities in Modena after your morning at the Ferrari museums. The first thing we recommend doing is climbing the Ghirlandina Tower, which towers over the city of Modena.

You can climb the 200 steps up this 12th century bell tower for spectacular views overlooking Modena.

The hours vary, so it’s best to double check online at the official website. You need to reserve a time slot in advance online here.

READ ALSO: 19 Best Things to do in Modena

Duomo di Modena

Just a few steps from the Ghirlandina tower is the Duomo di Modena (Modena Cathedral), the most important cathedral in the city. This Romanesque cathedral dates back to the 12th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cathedral is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. On Mondays, it has a split opening hours, you can access it between 7:00 am and 12:30 pm and then from 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

Admission to the Duomo is free.

Dinner at local restaurant

Head to one of Modena’s top-rated restaurants for some traditional Emilia Romagna cuisine. From 3-star Michelin restaurants, including one of the best restaurants in the world, to classic Italian trattorias, you have many fantastic options to choose from.

Check out our Modena restaurant guide below for some ideas. Make sure to call ahead and make your reservation a few days in advance.

Late night gelato

Gelateria Bloom is the best gelato shop in Modena. They scoop up unique flavors that are made with fresh and local ingredients.

Try one of their seasonal flavors, like pumpkin in the fall, for something a little different.

Foodie Itinerary: One Day in Modena

This itinerary is designed for those looking to get a taste of the local cuisine in Modena. Your morning will be spent on a food tour either around Modena or to a local acetaia.

Afterwards, you have time to explore some of the main attractions in the city.

Take a Food Tour

Modena is located in the heart of the Emilia Romagna region, which is also known as Italy’s Food Valley. The food produced in this region includes some of Italy’s most famous products, such as Balsamic Vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, and the list goes on…

Modena is famous for its traditional balsamic vinegar, which aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels.

Balsamic Vinegar Emilia Romagna

The best way to get a taste of the flavors and unique foods from Modena is to go on a food tour.

You have a couple of options for your food tour. You can either take a 4-hour walking food tour around Modena or you can opt to go on a balsamic vinegar tour where you visit a traditional acetaia with tastings.

Here are two tours that we recommend:

  • Modena Food Tour: A 4-hour tour of Modena with tastings of different specialties, such as Balsamic Vinegar, Lambrusco Wine, Tigelle, and more.
  • Balsamic Vinegar Tour: Spend 2 hours touring a historic acetaia with the owners. You will learn about the process of making traditional Balsamic Vinegar and enjoy lunch at the house. Pick up from Modena is available for an extra fee.

Both tours are fantastic options, we’ve taken the food tour in Modena a couple of times, and it’s a great way to taste a lot of food in a short amount of time. Plus you learn about the history of the city while walking around with your guide.

Of course, if you have more than one day in Modena, we suggest doing both.

Ghirlandina Tower

After your food tour, you have time in the afternoon to visit some of Modena’s main sights. The Ghirlandina tower is an 86-meter-tall bell tower built in the 12th century.

You can climb to the top, 200 steps, for incredible panoramic views looking over the entire city of Modena.

Reserve your entry time online and pay upon arrival. The fee is €3 per adult with discounted rates available for students and children. The hours are a bit random, so make sure to check opening times here.

Duomo di Modena

Just a short walk from the tower is the Duomo di Modena (Modena Cathedral.) This 12th century church is one of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is an important Romanesque church in Italy.

The Cathedral is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. On Mondays, it has a split opening hours, you can access it between 7:00 am and 12:30 pm and then from 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

Admission to the Duomo is free.

Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande is Modena’s central square, and is also one of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Surrounding this historic piazza is the Modena Cathedral, Ghirlandina Tower, and the Palazzo Comunale.

Several cafes line the square, and it’s a lovely spot to grab a coffee in the morning or an aperitivo before dinner and people watch. Many of the city’s festivals and events take place here as well.

Palazzo dei Musei

Just a 7-minute walk from Piazza Grande, the Palazzo dei Musei houses several museums that are worth visiting. We spent a couple of hours here and were impressed with the collection of artworks.

If you only have time to visit one museum within the palace, then make sure to visit the Galleria Estense, located on the top floor. The gallery originally opened in 1854 by the Este family that ruled the region.

The collection of art is impressive and includes a marble masterpiece by Bernini called the “Bust of Francesco I d’Este” and “Madonna and Child” by Correggio.

We also recommend walking around the Estense Lapidary Museum and the Giuseppe Graziosi Museum, which are both located in the courtyard on the ground floor.

I personally enjoyed the Civic Museum which displays artifacts and objects from around the world dating back to the Paleolithic times. It includes everything from ancient pottery and coins to fabrics from the the 1800s.

Practical info: The Galleria Estense costs €8 to visit. All of the other museums are free. Hours vary for each museum – please see the official websites below for accurate and up-to-date times.

Ducal Palace

This beautiful, Baroque palace was once a royal residence of the Este Family. Today, the palace hosts the Italian Military Academy, and because of this, you unfortunately cannot visit the inside of the palace.

Instead, admire it from the outside at one of Modena’s largest squares – Piazza Roma. Next to the palace is both San Domenico church and the Ducale Estense Gardens if you want to have a wander around those as well.

Wander the streets

After a busy day of eating and sightseeing, take it slow and get lost in the streets of Modena. Admire the city’s bright orange and yellow-colored buildings and wander underneath the porticoes.

Take a peek into some of the shops around town, grab a gelato at Bloom, or enjoy a late afternoon drink from Giusti Caffetteria.

Dinner at a local restaurant

Whether you have reservations at Osteria Francescana, Italy’s most famous restaurant, or at a local restaurant serving traditional food, the culinary scene in Modena is incredible.

Check out our food guide below for our top restaurant recommendations in Modena.

Map for your Modena Day Trip

This map includes the best things to do during your one day in Modena, plus the best places to eat. You can use it to easily navigate your way around town.

To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.

To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.

Foods to Try in Modena

From fresh pasta to red wine, cheese, and other local delicacies, Modena has a rich gastronomic heritage and is renowned for its delicious food.

Here are some of the foods and drinks you must try while in Modena:

  • Traditional Balsamic Vinegar: A delicacy from Modena aged for a minimum of 12 years with rich and complex flavors.
  • Gnocco Fritto: Light and airy bread fried in lard, often served with cured meats and cheeses with aperitivo or as an appetizer.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: The world-famous cheese known for its savory and strong flavor, aged for 12-36 months, and a staple of Emilia Romagna cuisine.
  • Tortellini: A small, hat-shaped pasta filled with a mix of meats (often pork) and served in a broth or cream sauce.
  • Tortelli: A stuffed pasta often filled with ricotta and spinach or pumpkin.
  • Lasagne al Ragu: A layered pasta dish (often with green noodles) with ragu, bechamel sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, baked to perfection.
  • Tagliatelle al Ragu: The region’s most famous pasta. Made with ribbon-lake pasta and served with a rich meat sauce. Our personal favorite dish.
  • Cotecchino: A pork sausage that is mixed with herbs creating a rich flavor. Get the cotecchino sandwich from Bar Schiavoni in the Albinelli market – it’s incredible.
  • Tigelle: Small, round, flat breads, traditionally cooked in a clay disk, and served with meats and cheeses.
  • Lambrusco: A sparkling red wine from the Modena region that pairs well with the region’s rich and hearty dishes.

Where to Eat in Modena

We’ve compiled this list of Modena restaurants from our various visits to the city. All of these are recommendations from locals, so you’re in good hands.

  • Osteria Francescana |One of the world’s best and most famous restaurants in the heart of Modena. This 3-star Michelin restaurant by Massimo Bottura is renowned for its unique take on Italian cuisine. To get a seat at a table here, you must book months in advance.
  • L’Erba del Re | With a blend of modern and classic Emilian cuisine, this 1-star Michelin restaurant is a more affordable and excellent fine dining option in Modena.
  • Bar Schiavoni | Our favorite sandwich shop in Modena, located at the Mercato Albinelli. Try their seasonal specialty, or simply try the best – the cotechino sandwich.
  • Trattoria Aldina | This unassuming restaurant is located across from the Mercato Albinelli on the second floor of the building. They serve up hearty and classic dishes from the region, and the portion size is generous as well!
  • Da Danilo | This is the place to go if you want to try a variety of traditional cuisine from Modena.
  • Trattoria Bianca | Located outside of the city center near Modena’s train station, this trattoria came highly recommended by a Modenese local.
  • Salumeria Hosteria Giusti| You can buy a variety and meats from this historic delicatessen, or you can opt to have lunch at their restaurant, which is highly rated.

Make sure to either reserve online or call ahead at least a week in advance for most restaurants in Modena. For the Michelin-rated restaurants, you need to reserve those months in advance.

How to Get to Modena

The most convenient way to get to Modena is by train. Modena’s train station is about a 15-minute walk from the center and services both regional trains and high-speed trains.

If you are traveling on a high-speed train, make sure to purchase your tickets 2-3 weeks in advance to get the best prices. You can book tickets online at Trenitalia.com. We have the Trenitalia app downloaded and use it to purchase all of our train tickets in Italy.

For regional trains, you should be okay to purchase tickets at the train station before departure, as prices for these trains don’t fluctuate as much.

Bologna to Modena

  • Train: The train ride from Bologna to Modena is quick, between 17-30 minutes, making for an easy day trip or transfer. Catch the train at Bologna Centrale Train Station, which is a 20-minute walk from the center of Bologna.
  • Driving: The drive to Modena from Bologna takes about 45 minutes on the A1/E35. This route has tolls. If you prefer to avoid tolls, then take the SS 9 Via Emilia, which takes about 48 minutes. There are parking lots outside of Modena city center.

Milan to Modena

  • Train: From Milano Centrale station, you can catch a direct train to Modena that takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes. There is a high-speed train from Milan that stops over in Bologna, but it costs a lot more and is only 20 minutes faster. We suggest booking the regional train.
  • Driving: While we don’t recommend driving from Milan, if you are renting a car, the drive takes 2.5-3 hours with tolls.

Parma to Modena

  • Train: From Parma, the train ride to Modena is only 30-38 minutes. This is a direct journey with trains leaving Parma several times per hour.
  • Driving: The drive from Parma to Modena takes 45 minutes on the A1/E35 with tolls, or 50 minutes without tolls. Parking is available in Modena near the train station.

Venice to Modena

  • Train: From Venice S. Lucia station, you can either hop on a high-speed or regional train. The high-speed train takes 2.5 hours and costs double the amount of the slower train. The regional train takes 3 hours 18 minutes. Both have a stopover in Bologna.
  • Driving: The drive from Venice to Modena only takes about 2 hours with tolls.

Where to Stay in Modena

  • Luxury hotel: Hotel Rua Frati 48 in San Francesco | This 5-star hotel is centrally located and features beautiful, spacious rooms with modern amenities, such as WiFi and air conditioning.
  • Boutique hotel (Our top pick!): Salotto delle Arti | Located just a 5-minute walk from Piazza grande, this charming hotel features four poster beds, frescoed ceilings, and traditional Italian decor.
  • Mid-range hotel: PHI Hotel Canalgrande | This traditional hotel is more affordable than most hotels in Modena and has air conditioned and spacious rooms.
  • Apartment: Domus Tua | This gorgeous apartment is located in the Piazza Grande with views of the duomo. It has a fully equipped kitchen and air conditioned rooms.

One Day in Modena Frequently Asked Questions

Is One day enough for Modena?

Yes, one day in Modena is enough time to see the main sights. However, if you want to take a day trip around the region, or want to experience both a food tour and the Ferrari museums, then we suggest 2 days in Modena.

Is Modena worth visiting?

Yes, Modena is worth visiting. If you love food, cars, and charming Italian cities, then Modena will check off all of your boxes.

Can I visit Parma and Modena in one day?

We don’t recommend visiting both Parma and Modena in one day. Technically, you can, but you won’t have time to see all of the main attractions in both cities. We suggest spending one full day in Parma and another day in Modena.

More Information for your Trip to Italy

ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

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