As I mentioned in my last post, the Italian region of Emilia Romagna is not necessarily on every tourist's radar and it should be for good reason. If you decide to drop on in, and you should, the small city of Modena is a perfect spot for your home base. Its piccolo size makes Modena very walkable in about 15 min max from one end to the other and it is full of lively piazze and cute places to stop and have a spritz.
Modena is only a 30-min drive from Bologna and reachable by regional train (although the car will come in handy for venturing outside the city). Its location is somewhere in the middle of Milan, Venice and Florence making it an easy, less-touristy stop on your vacation to the larger cities. The most convenient airport to fly into is Bologna's Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) but visitors can also opt to fly into Milan's Malpensa Airport (MXP), Florence's Peretola Airport (FLR), or Venice's Marco Polo Airport (VCE) depending on what else is on the agenda. We flew into Bologna and made Modena our homebase for exploring Emilia Romagna but you could also fly into one of the larger cities and make your way through the region, stopping in places along the way. An Italian road trip...the best kind! Regardless of how you do it, make sure Modena is on your list. Here are my recommendations for a magical and memorable stay:
SEE & DO
Piazza Grande - As the name suggests, this is the largest of the piazze in Modena and where you'll find il duomo. Perfect for grabbing a cappuccino and watching the world go by.
Piazza della Pomposa - This lively square in the northern corner of the city is a little more quaint and a great place for aperitivo or post-dinner drink.
Acetaia Pedroni - Venture about 30 minutes outside the city center to experience one of the best balsamic vinegar producers in the region. This family-run acetaia offers guided tours to learn about the intricate details of producing this "liquid gold." After the tour, dine in their osteria where you'll have the chance to taste the thick, syrupy substance (*note: NOTHING like we Americans know) with your yummy dish of pasta. After having actual aceto balsamico di Modena, I'm convinced what we've been getting here in the States is not real! (Via Risaia, 6, 41015 Castelfranco Emilia)
Museo Enzo Ferrari - If you're into fancy cars and nice things, then this is the museum for you. Learn about the man behind the brand and admire these works of art in the area where the sports cars were born. For those interested, there are shuttle buses that bring you to the 2nd museum in Maranello (about 30-min away) which is where the factory is located. For those looking to splurge a little, it is possible to take a Ferrari for a drive from both locations. (Via Paolo Ferrari, 85, Modena & Via Alfredo Dino Ferrari, 43, Maranello)
Osteria Francescana - This 3-Michelin starred restaurant run by chef Massimo Bottura was named the Best Restaurant in the WORLD in 2016. Dining here will not be cheap but will be memorable to say the least. Be sure to reserve your table at least 3-4 months in advance or risk disappointment! (Via Stella 22, Modena)
Franceschetta 58 - Located on the outskirts of the city is this contemporary little cousin of Osteria Francescana. This place is a perfect way to experience amazing food from talented chef Bottura if gastronomy and fine dining is not really your thing (or if you simply cannot get a table at Osteria Francescana). Not a bad choice on the menu. Be sure to go with an empty stomach and make a reservation. (Strada Vignolese, 58)
Ristorante Da Danilo - A great place to experience the typical food and drink of the region like tortellini in brodo (ricotta-stuffed pasta in broth), tortelloni di zucca (pumpkin-stuffed pasta in a butter and parmesan "sauce") and lambrusco. Great wine list. (Via Coltellini, 31)
Mon Cafè - A lovely place to have coffee and breakfast, and reminiscent of a stylish Parisian cafe. The owners, who also own a B&B in-town (info below), are extremely welcoming and accommodating. Excellent coffee and pastry and a sophisticated outdoor terrace make this place a must. (Corso Canalchiaro, 128)
La Bicicletta Caffe & Salumi - Located in a quaint piazza, this lively salumeria is a great place to be for aperitivo (happy hour) sipping on an Aperol spritz. There is a large, outdoor patio for when the weather's nice and yummy snacks to go along with your drinks. (Via Sant'Eufemia, 26)
Al Goblet Birroteca - If you need a break from wine or are simply curious what local craft beers are like, head here. Its location in Piazza della Pomposa makes this place perfect for aperitivo or post-dinner drinks when you can expect the crowd to be congregating out in the piazza. (Via Castelmaraldo, 41)
Caffeteria Giusti - This tiny little hole in the wall makes a great spritz served with some salty nibbles and is great for a more intimate, quieter aperitivo. When the weather is nice, there are a couple tables outside under the loggia. (Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 83)
B&B Quartopiano - Unlike the larger hotels in this city which are limited and nothing special, this stylish 2-bedroom bed and breakfast run by owners of Mon Cafè is a cozy place to rest your head and bellies. The decor has a warm, charming, farmhouse feel to it with neutral linens and vintage furnishings and the owners are very welcoming, offering their local recommendations. You can opt to have breakfast at their cafe too which was lovely...and included in your room rate. Rooms from 100eur/nt including breakfast. (Via Bonacorsa, 27)
If you're looking for fantastic food, fizzy wine and fast cars then put Modena on your next Italian itinerary. I promise you will not regret it! Buon viaggio!