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19 Absolute Best Things to do in Modena, Italy (2024)

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Are you planning a visit to Modena, Italy? We’re sharing a complete guide of all the best things to do in Modena.

Modena is a beautiful city in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. The city is known for both its incredible cuisine and luxury cars, such as Ferrari and Maserati.

While food and cars may be the main lure of Modena, there are many wonderful historic sights and museums worth visiting as well. We spent over a week in Modena discovering the best places to eat and things to see, and we are sharing them all in this guide!

This guide includes the top things to do for a visit to Modena, including restaurants, hotels, and practical tips for your trip.

19 Best Things to do in Modena

1. Modena Cathedral (Duomo di Modena)

Located in the heart of Modena, the Duomo di Modena, or Modena Cathedral, is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque-style architecture. The church was built between 1099 and 1184 and is dedicated to Saint Geminiano, the patron saint of Modena.

The Modena Cathedral was designed by architect Lanfranco and sculptor Wiligelmo. Wiligelmo sculpted four relief panels on the exterior facade depicting biblical scenes, as well as the columns in the crypt.

The interior of the cathedral is not nearly as grand as the exterior and is made of a dark brick. Inside, visit the crypt of Saint Geminiano and take a look at the Altar of the Figurines (Altare delle Statuine) by Michele da Firenze from the 15th century, which is made entirely of terracotta.

The Duomo di Modena, Torre Civica (Ghirlandina Tower), and the Piazza Grande were all recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Duomo is open Tuesday to Sunday from 7:00am to 7:00pm. On Mondays, it has a split opening hours, you can access it between 7:00am and 12:30 pm and then from 3:30pm to7:00 pm.

Admission to the Duomo is free.

2. Ghirlandina Tower

The Ghirlandina Tower, or Torre Civica, is a historic bell tower located next to the Modena Duomo. The bell tower was completed in the early 14th century and is 89 meters tall (292 feet).

You can climb up 200+ steps to get to the top of the tower for incredible views overlooking the Piazza Grande and the city of Modena. We suggest visiting near sunset when the lighting is best.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Ghirlandina bell tower is open everyday with reserved time slots. You need to either email or call to book ahead of time, otherwise time slots may be full. Tickets cost €3 per person. Visit the official website to reserve your tickets.

3. Piazza Grande

Along with the Modena Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower, the Piazza Grande is also one of Modena’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Medieval piazza, or square, is located along the Via Emilia road, which stretches from Rimini all the way up north to Piacenza.

Piazza Grande was built in the late 12th-century and is surrounded by some of the city’s most historic buildings, such as the Duomo, the bell tower, and the city hall. Take some time to wander around the square, grab a drink at one of the cafes, and take in the views.

Many food festivals and markets take place in this square throughout the year, so make sure to keep your eye out for any events happening in Modena while you are visiting.

4. Duomo Museum (Musei del Duomo di Modena)

If you would like to learn more about the history of Modena’s Duomo, then a visit to the Musei del Duomo di Modena is a must. The museum features several exhibits, which take you through the history and construction of the cathedral.

It also gives you a closer look at some of the artifacts and artworks found during the 19th century renovation of the church. From Roman sculptures to 11th century texts, it’s fascinating to walk through and learn more about this significant Romanesque church.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Duomo Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm-6:00pm. Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm-7:00pm. It’s closed on Mondays.

Tickets cost €6 for full price entry and €4 for reduced entry. You can purchase tickets at the museum.

5. Albinelli Market

The Albinelli Market (Mercato Albinelli) is one of the best covered food markets in Italy. It opened in 1931 and was built in an Art Nouveau style.

Inside of the market, you’ll find different vendors selling meat, cheese, fresh produce, pasta, baked goods, and pretty much anything you need to make a delicious meal. It’s fun to watch all of the locals doing their daily shopping in the morning.

One of the best things to do in Modena is to wander around the market, grab some cheese, produce, and pasta, and make yourself a home cooked pasta meal with fresh ingredients.

On one end of the market, you’ll notice a few pink marble tables. This is where the daily fresh fish market used to take place, but was closed due to sanitary reasons. Now you can purchase fish at another shop within the market.

There are a few restaurants inside of the market if you want a quick place to get lunch. We recommend getting lunch at Bar Schiavoni. A delicious sandwich shop with fantastic options.

Our go-to? The Cotechino sandwich – a savory and flavorful sausage patty with a delicious herbal pesto. It’s one of our top 10 sandwiches we’ve had on our travels.

Tip: Bring cash. Many of the vendors only take cash, especially for smaller purchases.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Albinelli Market is open Monday to Friday from 7:00am-3:00pm and Saturday from 7:00am-7:00pm. The restaurants inside of the market are open Monday to Sunday from 12:00pm-3:00pm and 6:30pm-11:00pm. Visit the official website for more information.

6. Galleria Estense

The Galleria Estense located inside of the Palazzo dei Musei is one of the most important art galleries in the Emilia Romagna region. The gallery houses an extensive art collection by the Este Family, who ruled over the region from the 13th to 18th centuries.

The Galleria Estense includes works by famous European artists, such as Correggio, Velásquez, and El Greco. One of the most famous pieces in the gallery is Bernini’s bust of Francis I d’Este sculpted out of marble.

Other notable artowrks include “Madonna and Child” by Correggio (famous for the frescoes in the Parma cathedral) and the Modena Triptych by El Greco.

In addition to the many artworks collected by the Este family, there are other sculptures, musical instruments, pottery, and decorative art objects.

We recommend spending an hour here.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Galleria Estense costs €8 for full price tickets. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30am-7:30pm and Sundays from 10:00am-6:00pm. You can purchase your tickets upon arrival. For more information, visit the official website.

7. Palazzo dei Musei

The Palazzo dei Musei is home to Modena’s most important art galleries and museums, including the Galleria Estense mentioned previously. We recommend spending a couple of hours here exploring the various museums, such as:

  • Museo Lapidario Romano: The Roman Lapidary Museum features Roman stones and tablets that were found in this region along the Via Emilia road. One of the oldest pieces dates back to the 1st century AD. This is free to visit.
  • Giuseppe Graziosi Plaster Cast Museum: Dedicated to the artist and sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi, this museum features sculptures, plaster casts, and paintings by the artist. You must request a tour to visit. Free entry.
  • Museo Lapidario Estense: Located on the main floor of the palace, the Estense Lapidary Museum features historic artifacts, including a sarcophgus from the region. Free entry.
  • Biblioteca Estense: The Estense Library features a variety of manuscripts and books dating back to the 14th century. Some are on display and its neat to take a look at books from Medieval times. Free entry.
  • Archivo storico di Modena: The Historical Archives of Modena contains over 5,000 different works. You can visit the archives if you make a reservation ahead of time. Find more information here. Free entry.
  • Museo Civico: Aside from the Galleria Estense, the Civic Museum of Modena is my personal favorite museum to visit. It has several exhibition rooms and a large collection, including textiles, artworks, figurines, ceramics, and religious artifacts from around the world. Free entry.

The times vary for each museum, so it’s best to double check opening hours ahead of time. All museums are free except for the Galleria Estense.

8. Palazzo Ducale

Located in Piazza Roma, the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) is a 17th century palace that was once a residence of the Este family. The interior features a grand hall, beautifully decorated rooms, and of course, relics and paintings of the Este family.

Today, the palace is home to Modena’s Italian Military Academy, so you cannot visit the interior. Instead, admire it from the outside and notice all of the Baroque details on the exterior facade.

9. Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

The Church of Saint Augustine is one of the most beautiful churches in Modena. Pop inside for a quick visit to walk around and admire its detailed interior.

The church dates back to the 14th century and one of the pieces you must see inside is the “Lamentation over Dead Christ” by Begarelli.

It’s free to visit.

10. Wander the Streets

Take some time to wander through the charming streets in Modena. We love exploring cities without any agenda, popping into shops, and soaking in the local lifestyle.

Like Bologna, Modena has porticoes, or covered archways, throughout the city center and many are painted in vibrant orange and yellow colors. While not a large city, you could easily spend an hour or so getting lost in the enchanting streets.

11. Enzo Ferrari Museum

The Enzo Ferrari Museum pays tribute to the life and legacy of Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the famous luxury and racing car company – Ferrari. The museum is housed in Enzo’s birthplace and his fathers old workshop.

Inside, you can take a peek into his old office space, Ferrari engines, drawings and sketches, and learn more about the founding of the company. There is also a modern building that houses a collection of both vintage and current Ferrari vehicles.

The museum is a 15-minute walk from the center of Modena and takes about 1-1.5 hours to visit. If you plan on visiting both Ferrari museums, we highly recommend purchasing the combined ticket and visiting both in one day.

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.

12. Ferrari Museum in Maranello

The Ferrari Museum is located in Maranello, Italy at the Ferrari headquarters. The museum provides an in-depth look at the technological innovation and process of making these world-famous cars.

Located just a short walk from the Ferrari factory and racetrack, the museum also has an impressive collection of Ferrari’s most iconic models. From F1 race cars to the most recent models.

For an additional cost, the museum offers a couple of interactive experiences, such as:

Make sure to book these experiences weeks in advance. We tried to sign up for the factory and track tour on the day of and everything was sold out.

Additionally, if you are interested in test driving a Ferrari in Maranello, you can sign up for this tour, where you get to drive a Ferrari around for an allotted amount of time.

If you sign up for both the F1 simulator and the Factory Tour, you could easily spend the majority of your day in Maranello. However, if you just visit the museum, you only need 1.5-2 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.

Getting here: You have a few options for getting to Maranello – public bus, Ferrari museum shuttle, or driving.

  • Public Bus: Take bus #815 from Modena’s bus station to Maranello IPSIA stop. The journey takes about 40-45 minutes depending on traffic. You can pay with contactless payment on the bus, or purchase a physical ticket at a tobacco shop in Modena. We recommend using Google Maps to help map out your journey.
  • Ferrari shuttle bus: The Ferrari shuttle bus departs from Modena twice a day from the Enzo Ferrari Museum and the Modena Train Station. You can check shuttle times here. Make sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time on the Vivara Viaggi website because they do sell out. We took the shuttle bus from the Enzo Ferrari museum and it was super easy and convenient.
  • Driving: If you have a car, then you can easily drive from Modena to Maranello. The drive takes about 25 minutes each way and there is parking at the museum.

13. Umberto Panini Museum

Located on the outskirts of Modena, the Umberto Panini Museum is a remarkable private collection of Maserati cars. Showcasing many of Maserati’s historic models, this is a must for any luxury car or Maserati enthusiast.

The museum is housed on the Panini family’s organic farm, Hombre farm, where they still actually produce Parmigiano Reggiano to this day. To get here, you can either drive or take a taxi from Modena.

Practical info: The museum is closed in the winter from December to March. To visit between the spring and fall, you must request a reservation in advance. Fill out the form at the bottom of this page to make a reservation. You may pay via donation, however, payment is not necessary.

14. Maserati Factory Tour

The Maserati Factory Tour offers you a chance to take a look inside of Maserati’s production plant in Modena, Italy. This 90-minute guided tour takes you through Maserati’s showroom, engine lab, and assembly and manufacturing line.

A couple of highlights are learning about the assembly of the MC20 Engine and learning in-depth about the innovation and technology behind Maserati’s current engines and models from an expert tour guide.

You must reserve your tour in advance online at the official website. Tickets are €50 per person.

15. Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

The Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti in Modena, Italy, is a museum dedicated to the life and career of one of the most beloved operatic tenors of the 20th century, Luciano Pavarotti. Situated in the house where Pavarotti lived, the museum offers an intimate glimpse into the private and professional world of the singer.

Exhibits display a range of personal belongings, from his stage costumes and awards to letters and photographs. This museum not only celebrates Pavarotti’s extraordinary talent and his contributions to opera but also highlights his warmth and generosity as a person.

It’s a wonderful tribute to his legacy and invites fans or music lovers to connect with Pavarotti on a more personal level.

PRACTICAL INFO: The museum is open everyday from 10:00am-6:00pm. Full price tickets cost €10. For more information, visit the museum website.

It’s a 15-minute drive from the center of Modena. If you don’t have a car, then you can hire a taxi.

16. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar tasting

Barrels of balsamic vinegar in Modena

Modena is famous for its Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. The vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels, such as cherry, juniper, and oak.

Sometimes the vinegar is unfused only with one type of wood and other times it uses a variety of wood to create a more complex flavor. This vinegar is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before.

The flavor is sweet, complex rich, fruity, and woody. We were absolutely blown away the first time we tasted it and use it all the time in our cooking now.

A tasting of this Italian culinary staple is a must while you’re in Modena. We recommend taking this 2-hour Balsamic Vinegar Tour where you visit a local acetaia to learn about the process and get to enjoy a balsamic tasting menu.

If you prefer to do a tasting on your own, you can visit La Consorteria 1966 in Modena where they sell a variety of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

Our favorite place to taste balsamic vinegar in Modena is from Acetaia di Giorgio, located just outside of the city center. You can message them in advance for a tour on their website.

17. Modena Food Tour

Taking a food tour in Modena is the best way to get a sampling of the local cuisine in Modena. Located in Italy’s Food Valley, Modena is heaven for food enthusiasts.

From Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano to Prosciutto and homemade pastas, you are pretty much guaranteed to eat well here.

We always recommend taking a food tour to anyone visiting Modena and the Emilia Romagna region. This half-day food tour takes you around to different shops around Modena for a sampling of the city’s food.

We’ve done a tour very similar to this and loved the variety of foods we got to try.

18. Take a cooking class

We have taken several cooking classes in Modena and the surrounding region, and it’s always a highlight of our trip! From homemade pasta to rich sauces, this is the best way to immerse yourself into Italian culture and gain some cooking skills at the same time.

Here are a couple of cooking classes we recommend:

19. Try the local cuisine

If there is one tip we have for your trip to Modena, it’s this: come hungry! The food here is heavy, rich, flavorful, and extremely satisfying. We day dream about it practically all the time when we aren’t in Emilia Romagna!

Here are some foods you need to try 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. We love eating this with Prosciutto.
  • 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.

Map of Things to do in Modena

This map includes the best things to do in Modena and 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.

Best Time to Visit Modena

Emilia Romagna Travel Guide

The best time to visit Modena is in the spring or fall. April to June and September to November are beautiful months in Modena.

Personally, our favorite time to visit Modena is in October. The fall leaves light up the countryside with beautiful vibrant colors and the weather is usually perfect for sightseeing.

Not only that, but the food options this time of year are the best. With seasonal produce like truffles, porcini mushrooms, and pumpkin, the pasta options are incredible in the fall!

How many days in Modena is enough?

One day in Modena is enough time to see all of the main sights and do a food tour. If you’re looking to visit the historical sights, the Ferrari museums, and enjoy a food tour, then 2 days is ideal.

Where to Eat in Modena

Below is our restaurant recommendation list for Modena. This list includes a mix of both places we have personally been to and recommendations from locals.

  • 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.
  • Franceschetta58 | A highly-rated restaurant serving a unique take on Italian cuisine.
  • 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.
  • Bloom Gelateria |The best gelato in Modena scooping up natural and fresh flavors.

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.

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.

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.

Closest airport: The nearest airport is the Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport – just 30 minutes away by train. If you are flying in from a destination outside of Europe, then the Milan airport is the closest international airport.

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.

Modena Travel Frequently Asked Questions

Is Modena worth visiting?

Yes, Modena is a wonderful city for those looking to get a taste of Italy’s top culinary scene and for those who are sports car fans, with the Maserati and Ferrari factory nearby.

How do you get around Modena?

Modena is a small, walkable city. All of the sights in the historic center can be visited on foot. The public bus is useful for getting to places outside of the city center.

Can I do Parma and Modena in the same day?

We do not recommend visiting both Parma and Modena in the same day. We’ve done it ourselves and it’s too rushed. One day in Parma and another day in Modena is ideal.

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.

4 COMMENTS:

    1. Hi Jess! Yes, Modena does have clothings stores and other boutique shops around town. While not a large town, there will be enough options for you to do some shopping. Have fun on your trip!

  1. Hi there! Thanks so much for this blog – I have pored through so many of your posts as we’re planning our summer trip and really appreciate the details and recommendations.

    We’re looking at doing the driving experience at the Autodromo di Modena. Do you have any experience with this or other luxury driving experiences? We are most interested in the Lamborghini, but open to suggestions.

    1. Hi Megan,

      I’m happy to hear that our blog has been such a big resource in planning your trip!

      I do not have any experience with luxury driving experiences, unfortunately. I did find this Lamborghini tour through Motor Stars. I’ve never worked with them, but they get good ratings on TripAdvisor.

      Sorry I’m not of more help with this! If you end up booking a driving experience, I’d love to hear more about it.

      Best,
      Jenoa

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