When the summer was already about to end and the hot was starting to disappear, we decided to have one day trip to Modena, located in the flat territory of Emilia-Romagna. You must know that in Italy the cities in the so called Pianura Padana are very hot, really really hot, to the extent that the high heels of women walking around the city got stuck in the concrete of the floor! This happens because the hot wind and air cannot move from the plain and got stuck there. Most of the Italians avoid these places during summer as many of them prefer sea destinations over historical cities located in this area and the same goes for the locals. Despite this bad weather in summer, the cities are perfect to visit during autumn and spring because the weather is cooler.
Some Information About Modena
Okay, let’s start with some geographical information: Modena is located in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, as I said previously, entirely matches up the territory of Padana Plain, the flatest territory in Italy. The region of Emilia-Romagna is known for its great food culture, from here many traditional italian dishes come from like the famous Tagliatelle and Tortellini. The first settlement was founded by Etruscans and then, the Gauls took over. After Rome extended its power until the Gauls territories, this place became a Roman colony and later, the capital of Cisalpine Gaul. During the Renaissance, Modena was ruled by the powerful family of the Estensi that left in the city a big influence and innumerable historical monuments and buildings constructed for the noble family. As regards the more recent history, Modena was known as “The Death Triangle” or “Black/Red Triangle” because of the ferocious fights between the Italian Resistance and the fascist militias during the Second World War. Many Italians died in these riots in order to set their homeland free from the occupation of the Germans and the Fascists. The post-war years were incredible for they city, which developed at a fast pace thanks for the establishment of many factories in the area like Ferrari, Maserati and Panini.
All around the city you find a lot of different porticos that give to Modena an ancient elegance and, at the same time, typical italian vibes. In my country you can find these porticos in many cities therefore it is a distinguished feature of Italy abroad as well. I am a portico-lover (yes, I am pretty weird, I already have an addiction of temples) so we started wandering around the city in the search of some nice porticos to take photos of :3 During our pilgrimages in Modena, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a crazily beautiful church! It is really true that the best is always well-hidden. This church from the outside is nothing out of ordinary but inside, it is wonderful.
Oh well, this section would be endless but I will try to sum everything up 😉 Italy is already well-known around the world as a great food destination thanks to its good-tasting food and its diversity. As I have already mentioned before, Emilia-Romagna is a sort of Italian culinary culture’s stronghold. Many of famous food that is loved and famous worldwide originated here (I am not talking about pizza, by the way ahah): Piadina, a kind of bread filled with cheese, salad, salami or anything you dessire, Lasagne alla Bolognese, Tortellini, a disputed dish between Bologna and Modena, Tigella, Lambrusco Wine and of course, the Modena Vinegar, the main product the city is famous for. We found a very cute restaurant just behind the Duomo that is cheap and serves good-quality food, I highly advise you to go there; they have a lot of Modena and Emilia-Romagna’s traditional dishes: Taverna dei Servi (I think it is just in Italian but if you need translations, ask me or else just look at the reviews on Tripadvisor or other travel websites).
The Duomo of Modena is huge and imposing, no wonder that it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage. It overlooks the whole ancient square and contains innumerable art masterpiece. The religious complex is pretty old, the construction dates back to the 9th century when the architect Lanfranco started working in order to build the Cathedral. We do not know much about this Lanfranco but he was mentioned in an old manuscript as the architect of the building. The place where, now, the church is located, before was occupied by two other churches but, later, replaced by the nowadays Duomo in order to contain the relics of the beloved Saint Geminiano, who is the Saint Patron of Modena. We can also spot a tall church bell that stands out the religious complex, that construction is called Ghirlandina Tower, which was built by the Maestri Campionesi. They came from South Swizerland where nowadays Italy still has an enclave called Campione d’Italia (I must say the names are alike!). From the tower, of course, you can have a view over Modena but we did not climb up because we were too tired xD
The style is romanesque as we can understand from the rose window located on the main façade and when you step inside the church, it is like going back in the time! The atmosphere is perfect: you hear solemn religious chants everywhere you go and only a few sun rays can penetrate through the church’s windows therefore inside it is quite dark. I warn you, before entering, always wear a veil to cover your body (of course, only if you are wearing like exposing summer clothes) because I have been scolded by a church guard that urged me to wear something more decent xD Make your way through the main entrance, there you can find some veils to wear on your clothes (unlike I obviously did)
…And Piazza Grande
Another landmark not to miss, which is part of UNESCO World Heritage List, is the Piazza Grande, the main meeting place in Modena. The square is quite large, as the name already points out, and I must say, it looks older than some other italian squares I have been to. On the square you can see the great Duomo of Modena and the Town Hall, which resembles the one in Bologna a lot! I guess the cities and towns in Emilia-Romagna have very similiar architecture because of the proximity.
Palazzo Ducale was one of the most important Baroque palaces in the 17th century built by Avanzini but with the supervision of Bernini, a very well-known sculptor at that time. Thanks to him, the Palace conveys a solemn and elegant Baroque style. The Palazzo at that time was used as Estensi family’s residence but now it hosts the Italian Military Academy. At the beginning, it was built on the outskirts of the city, out of the ancient walls, but later, the walls were enlarged so that the Palazzo itself would be located in the center of the city as to symbolize that they were there to protect and rule over Modena. In front of the Palace, you can find a splendid fountain that during hot months is used by children to play with water and refresh themselves with their parents resting at the Palazzo Ducale’s shadow.
Second World War’s Victims Memorial
I wanted to spend some words about this “Memorial” I came cross while wandering through Modena picturesque streets. I must say I am a history-lover, I always read a lot about history and especially about the two wars. My whole family was involved in the war as they fought for or against fascist Regime at that time. At the feet of the great Duomo of Modena, you can find a large photo collection of men, women and children that fought against the fascist regime in Italy during the Second World War. Before these portraits were just hanged there in order to see if some Modenese saw these people as they got lost during the chaos of the war but now it became a sort of memorial of these people that were never found. They likely were people that fought for the Italy’s liberation. I do not know if you are very-well informed about the controversial role of Italy in this war but you must know that, at the beginning, Italy was ruled by the famous dictator Mussolini that decided to ally with Hitler, thus was part of the Axis alliance. Nevertheless, throughout the war years, Italy made up its mind because many Italians did not want to be with Hitler and Mussolini so they started fighting against their fellow italians, that, on the other hand, were fascist, meaning they supported Germany and the fascist regime. In this perspective the Italian Liberation Front, whose members were called Partisans, was formed and the fights started and they were harder than you would imagine. In a nuthsell, this memorial is here to pay honour to those heroic italians that died for their motherland but do not forget also all the other victims that were fascist or pro-germany, killed by partisans after the war ended. Even if the partisans were at the right side, they commited some crimes too but everyone is human and everyone can make mistakes so now, just forgive each other and make love instead of war 😉 Sorry for this long section, I wanted to convey how I feel about this Memorial that really had a strong impact on me.
How To Reach
To reach Moden is relatively easy because it is quite an important city from the commercial point of view and the train transportation in Emilia-Romagna is boosted enough.
- From Bologna: If you are staying in Bologna is very easy, just go to the central station and buy a regional ticket; I guess more or less 30 minutes and you arrive.
- From Parma: For me it was a bit harder because I live in La Spezia so I had to change train in Parma but if you are staying in Parma, no need to change the train you are on, just relax, sit down and after 30 minutes, you reach your destination.