Modena is an ancient town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy (map), smack in between its more famous sisters Bologna and Parma (both less than an hour away). The town lies in the heart of what is known as Italy’s Motor Valley, the home of famous automotive brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. Modena is also famous for its balsamic vinegar and as the hometown of Luciano Pavarotti. Despite its small size, there are many things to do in Modena, from visiting the museums and factories of auto brands like Ferrari to indulging in culinary treats and wines.
On a flight to Bologna (just south of Modena), I had a panoramic view of Modena from the plane window. As the plane entered its final approach into Bologna, it flew right past the historic town centre of Modena. In the photo below, you’ll be able to see the Ghirlandina bell-tower (in the centre of the photo) adjacent to the Modena Duomo (Cathedral) and the Piazza Grande, all of which are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Things to do in Modena
Most tourists visit Modena (map) on a day trip but I recommend a longer stay. Here’s my suggested two-day Modena itinerary:
Day 1 – full day Ferrari tour
After arriving in Modena, spend the rest of the day visiting the Enzo Ferrari Museum and the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. The Enzo Ferrari Museum, my favourite of the two, showcases the life and work of Enzo Ferrari and under its striking yellow roof, houses some of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen. Read about my Motor Valley tour.
The Ferrari Museum in Maranello is situated about 20km away. A shuttle bus runs between the two museums every 90 minutes. This museum highlights the history of Ferrari through its cars. There are various interactive exhibits like sitting in the simulator of a Formula One racecar cockpit, and visitors can also go on a bus tour of the Ferrari factory.
You can purchase a single ticket for both museums as well as a ticket for the shuttle bus here. If you don’t have more time to spend in Modena, you can opt for a day trip (bookable via GetYourGuide):
- full-day Ferrari tour from Bologna
- if you’re interested in cars, food and some culture thrown in, join this Ferarri tour which also includes balsamico tasting and a visit to Pavarotti’s old home.
Day 1 – evening
Return to town for an overnight stay. In the evening, join locals for a bite and a drink at one of the cafés in Via del Taglio such as Bottega 39, Juta or Stile Libero. For a great meal, I recommend Franceschetta58 (also great for lunch), the little sister of Osteria Francescana (3 Michelin stars), one of the best restaurants in the world. Another Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant I can recommend is Ristorante l’Erba del Re.
Read more about the ultimate Emilia Romagna road trip
If you’re looking for a less glamorous but superb meal, book a table at Hosteria Giusti, or drop by at Osteria Ermes Modena or Osteria Stallo del Pomodoro for some fabulous home-cooked food.
Day 2 – morning
Start the morning discovering the culinary treasures of Modena! Visit a nearby cheese factory where Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) is produced and be awed by the ‘cheese library’! Continue with a tour of a farmhouse where balsamic vinegar is produced. This ‘aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena’ is worlds apart from the stuff found on supermarket shelves, and a single drop of this liquid black gold is sufficient to make you swoon! End the morning with a visit to a Lambrusco winery (I recommend Paltrinieri) where you’ll learn more about this (totally underrated and misconceived) sparkling wine.
Alternatively, you could join a tour that includes shopping at a market, a cooking course with a local as well as a four-course meal.
Day 2 – afternoon
After a morning of foodie discoveries, treat yourself to lunch in the historic centre of Modena. I suggest Bar Schiavoni for delicious focaccia sandwiches or Trattoria Aldina for a terrific home-cooked meal.
After lunch, go on a stroll around the charming streets. Don’t miss a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Piazza Grande with its Ghirlandina bell-tower and the 12th century Romanesque Cathedral. It’s possible to climb the tower for a panoramic view of Modena. Another great thing to do in Modena is visit Mercato Albinelli, a fantastic food market!
Read more about the Art Cities of Emilia Romagna
Should you wish to delve into the rich history of Modena, visit the Baroque-style Ducal Palace, the former residence of the Este Dukes of Modena, or the Galleria Estense that houses the art collection of the d’Este family who ruled the region between the 13th and 18th centuries. There’s also a museum dedicated to one of the city’s most famous sons, Luciano Pavarotti: Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti, located at the old home of the great master.
If you’re visiting areas in northern Italy like Milan, Venice or Tuscany, I highly recommend including the region of Emilia-Romagna in your itinerary. With its historic towns like Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Ravenna, its automotive attractions and culinary treats, this region is simply amazing!
How to get to Modena
Modena is easily accessible by train from Bologna, Milan and Parma, amongst others. From Bologna, it’s less than 30 minutes by train. From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the Piazza Grande in the historic centre. Visit TrenItalia for schedules. From Bologna or Parma, Modena is less than an hour’s drive. If you plan to explore Emilia-Romagna, I suggest hiring a car.
Thank you Leah for your lovely comment. I’m afraid I don’t know any tour guide. I recommend getting in touch with Modena Tourist Office and asking them. They’ll surely be able to help you. Visit: https://www.visitmodena.it/en
Have a great trip!
Hi Keith, We are traveling to Florence in November and I love your posts and itineraries! I would love to know if you could recommend a specific tour guide for Maranello/Modena. Our hope is to hire a driver to take us to both the Ferrari museum and do a balsamic tasting and a parm tour in one day…I know its a lot but we have two teenagers in tow and I don’t think they will tolerate multiple days of tours 😉 Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated – love your blog!!
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This is an awesome place. Bologna view map structure looks an ancient type but modernized. The Ferrari view was awesome. Hope you had a good drive on it? The structures and modern building looks dam cool.
[…] Towns that should be high on your list include Ravenna, with its UNESCO Heritage mosaics, and Modena in the Motor Valley, home of the world famous balsamico and motor brands such as Ferrari, […]
[…] Emilia Romagna is home to the world-famous Motor Valley where automotive fans can visit the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati. Visit the Casa Enzo Ferrari Museum, with its stunning collection of cars, in Modena. If you can’t get enough, head for the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Read more about my experiences in the Motor Valley. Book a day tour of the Motor Valley. Read more about things to do in Modena. […]
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[…] Read more about things to do in Modena. […]