With over-tourism a problem in some areas of Italy, it’s nice to find a place that has cultural significance without so many crowds. Modena, Italy is a relatively small town, but there are three things associated with it that are quintessentially Italian – Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, and Ferrari.
Modena has been around since at least the 3rd century BC. It is the only place that Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, traditional balsamic vinegar, can be made. It is also part of the only region that can make Parmigiano Reggiano. Storied car marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are all headquartered in the area.
Other than these reasons, the drive alone can take you to Modena, Italy. The countryside is our favorite part of most of the countries we have been to, and the same has proved true with Italy so far.
What is there to do in Modena Italy? Our Top 5 Reasons to visit:
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena
You have probably never tasted true balsamic vinegar. Our main objective in visiting Modena was to tour where they make authentic traditional balsamic vinegar, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. This is something that Matt has wanted to do for over 10 years, and it was a dream come true.
Please, do yourself two favors: read here all about true balsamic vinegar, and then travel to Modena to try it yourself.
The best way to experience this delicious, historically-significant creation is to visit an acetaia, where the aceto is carefully crafted according to specific, traditional methods.
We found a small family-run acetaia just outside of Modena. Our host, Sofia, gave us a tour where she explained everything it takes to make true Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. She was passionate about what she does and she is working hard to make people aware of what Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena really is.
The crowning moment was when she allowed us to dip our fingers into a barrel of over 25-year-old vinegar to taste it. Buonissimo!
Sei bella, Ferrari – and you have my heart! I’m pretty sure all cars that sound this good and go this fast would win my heart but this was yet another reason why Modena was at the top of our list of places to visit.
Enzo Ferrari, racing driver and founder of the company bearing his name, was born in Modena. Today it is the home of two museums that bring this rich automobile heritage to life. What would be the perfect end to a great weekend in Modena? Driving a Ferrari through the streets and hills of Modena and Maranello!
The funniest part of our whole trip was when Royce was having a hard time walking through the cheese factory – it smelled like cheese and he didn’t like it. However, when we went to see the cows, the dairy smell surrounded us and yet he didn’t seem to notice it at all!
We got a unique look at the making of Parmigiano Reggiano. It is the most famous cheese in Italy, and can only be made in a very specific region, where raw milk is transformed into cheese without any additives except for salt from a salt bath. It has to undergo specific stringent criteria for it to be called Parmigiano Reggiano, and we witnessed it!
The kids loved watching the 100 lbs rounds of cheese roll into the salt bath. They wondered how the rounds of cheese got to the top as we walked into the room to see row after row of cheese towering above our heads! Truly incredible. Read here to find out more about Parmigiano Reggiano.
Another funny moment was when we were given samples – we looked down and Jeannie’s mouth was bulging with a huge chunk of cheese she had snatched! She loves her cheese!
The Ducal Palace was a lot different than the last palace we visited, Caserta Palace. It had a fun park behind it where we had breakfast at and let the kids play around. We then drove to the front where there was a nice piazza, complete with fountains.
When in Rome, do as the Romans! Other kids were stripping down to their underwear so we let our kids strip down and play in the water. They had a blast, and the cool water was perfect on such a hot morning.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area not only has the Cathedral of Modena but also the Town Hall and Clock Tower.
The Cathedral of Modena had its first stone laid in 1066. Two weddings celebrations were being held between the Cathedral and Town Hall while we were there – we couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place for making vows with a loved one.
There are plenty of shops and charming streets in the area, and it is a wonderful spot to people-watch and enjoy a golden afternoon.
Where to stay in Modena Italy
There are plenty of hotels in the city; you can find many on Booking.com. We chose a great Airbnb downtown with parking and an extra room and beds for the kids. It is worth it to be downtown so you can walk to dinner and breakfast!
Where to eat:
Gelato – Slurp was next to our Airbnb and had Zuppa Inglese as a flavor. Zuppa Inglese is a delicious pudding dessert – as gelato, it is even better!
Breakfast was at bakeries. All of the bakeries were so good and had such wide selections that you could probably try any and be happy, but our favorite was Forno Cristini.
For lunch, we went to La Nunziadeina. We had a great experience. The owner came and spoke with us, then he brought his daughter over to chat with our kids; later his wife and son and another one of his friends came out to chat. It was everything I imagine a classic Italian restaurant being. Later the kids played in the doorway, creating a barrier for potential customers, but hey – we were practically family now!
For dinner, we headed to L’Or-Ma Crescenterie. Crescenterie are traditional Modenese sandwiches made in endless combinations. This part of town was so beautiful. All of the buildings are an orange hue, there are cobblestone roads and people walking around chatting with one another, and it has a great nightlife for those that want to eat or bar hop.
Plan your trip: