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Bologna might be the gastronomic capital of Italy – but neighbouring Modena marches close on its heels. Balsamic vinegar is the city’s most famous creation, plus it whips up world-class tortellino, spiced salami and sparkling Lambrusco. It’s also home to some of the best restaurants in Italy, including Osteria Francescana, a holder of three Michelin stars.
One of the most popular sights is the Ferrari Museum. This sleekly designed transport hangar is a love letter to a car invented just up the road from Modena. Pavarotti was another famous son. You can tour his country house on the outskirts of Modena or catch an opera at the Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti.
Fancy more in the way of ancient history? Head for the close-knit city centre. The Palace of Museums (Palazzo dei Musei) is home to Galleria Estense – a showcase of Italian masters like Correggio. Then wander down to Piazza Grande, where Modena Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower break the skyline.
Modena doesn’t have its own airport, so it’s best to fly into Bologna. From there, it’s a 40-minute drive into Modena’s city centre – or hop on public transport. It’s a 15-minute bus journey from Bologna Airport to the main station, where fast trains will deliver you straight to Modena within half an hour.
The balsamic vinegar of Modena
Modena is often a byword for balsamic vinegar. The local stuff is almost sweet enough to drink as an aperitif, pressed from local Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes, aged in wooden casks, and often bottled 12 to 25 years later. It’s a versatile ingredient, so you’ll find it drizzled over everything from chunks of salty Parmesan to sharp strawberries.
Street food and markets
Modena is also picking up a reputation for top-notch street food. Mercato Albinelli is one of the best markets for fresh snacks – think cups of homemade tortellini in broth and pyramid-shaped gnocco fritto (AKA crescentina) pastries packed into paper bags. And the market circuit isn’t complete until you’ve also picked up a dark espresso.