The Internet's most comprehensive Travel website for Italy
Use quote marks to search for exact names eg "Hotel Florence"

Chiesa di San Francesco, Modena

Palazzo del Ducale, Modena

Statue of Perseus, Modena

Welcome to Modena
From Jesse's Journeys in  Italy

Population: 175,442 (2003)
Official website:

Modena is another city of the plain in north central Italy, laid out in a grid of avenues and streets, sitting on the south side of the River Po at the intersection of two of Italy's most important highways, the Autostrada del Sole (A1), connecting the north with central and southern Italy, and the Autostrada del Brennero (A22)- through the Brenner pass to Northern Europe.

The "centro" with its large, traffic-free piazzas fronted by majestic buildings, has a kind of ancient majesty, while the "new city", spreading round its ancient walls is modern, busy, and muscular.

The surrounding territory was, and remains, an important and highly productive agriculture area, but Modena is better known as a center for car design and manufacture.  All the major sports car manufacturers are here: De Tomaso, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati  and  Paganiare.

Modena's ancient history, from its days as a Celtic settlement, Etruscan city and important Roman military center on the via Aemilia, is long, complicated and bloody.  The city was conquered, besieged, sacked, re-conquered, abandoned, invaded, sacked again and virtually destroyed by flood.  But it has always rebuilt to regain its forward momentum.

During the 9th Century AD, Modena achieved relatively stability.  The first ring of walls was built around the "old city", and within those walls, over succeeding centuries, whether as a "free" comune, or as the capital city of the powerful Este Dukedom (1336-1796) Modena's most significant piazzas, buildings and monuments were built.

The Duomo, on Piazza Grande, built in the 12th Century, is an astonishing example of Romanesque architecture, as is the massive, white marble campanile, about 88 meters high, known as the Ghirlandina.  The cathedral has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The Palazzo dei Musei, housing an important art gallery, The Estense, and the  famous Biblioteca Estense (Este library), is a neo-classical building built between 1753 and 1767.  The grand and imposing Ducal Palace, also on the Piazza was put up in the 17th Century.  It is now home to one of Italy's premier military academies.

After the fall of Napoleon, around 1816, Modena, unhappy under Austrian domination, underwent a transformation.  Virtually all its medieval walls were taken down, and it was laid out in the grid of streets and avenues that exists today, with a well-treed ring road round its periphery.  The Modenese rebelled in 1830 and 1848, only to be violently suppressed by their Austrian masters.  In 1859, however, Modena's recalcitrant and patriotic politicians declared itself part of the Kingdom of Italy.  A year later, in 1860, the people voted and confirmed the decision.  So, Italian to the core, Modena was, is, and always will be.

There are numerous galleries in and around Modena other than those in the mentioned.  We highly recommend you visit the Gallery of Modern Art (Galleria Civica d'arte contemporanea) whose collection will wrench you out of Modena's "glorious past" and put you in touch with  today's Italy, modern, vibrant and stylish.  If you love opera (this is Luciano's birthplace!) and live theater, check out what's on offer at Modena's theatres, particularly the Teatro Storchi and Teatro Comunale.

The city brags, with great justification, about its balsamic vinegars - subtle to robust - and its hearty cuisine, made from the bounty of the surrounding area.  Indeed, Modena hosts an annual culinary fair, the Asso di Gusto every October, making October a great, off season, time to visit the city.

Whenever you go, try to make time for a visit to the Nonantola abbey, a few kilometers from the city, founded in 752 AD, and one of the most important medieval centers of learning.

by Vian Andrews November 24th, 2005



Bologna - 60 km;
Ravenna - 133 km;
Florence - 143 km;
Rimini - 170 km;
Milan - 180 km;
Venice - 203 km;
Ancona - 270 km:
Perugia - 295 km;
Rome - 417 km


Sports car manufacturing, Modena


Duomo, Modena

Tell us about your trip to Modena.  What were your favorite places to visit, stay, and dine.  Contribute


Modena is the birthplace of Luciano Pavarotti, the great operatic tenor of the 20th century.  More info


The University of Modena, founded in 752 AD, has a long tradition of studies in law and medicine, was founded in 1683.


The Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) on Piazza Grande is now a military academy.


The Biblioteca Estense houses historical volumes and 3000 manuscripts.