A classic historic center melds with a modern city in the heart of Emilia Romagna's Modena. A vibrant place with architectural gems and culinary highlights, Modena is a city that pleases. It is the birthplace of Pavarotti and Maserati; it is home to fine art and Ferrari. Here the sounds of opera arias mingle with the pitch of high-speed engines. Medieval piazzas are the modern scene of nightlife and mingling. It is, in short, a city for everyone.
Located on the Po River plain, it lies halfway between Bologna and Parma, and is only 90 miles north of Florence. It shares similarities to those cities, yet it has its own distinct identity. This is where prized balsamic vinegar is produced, so visit an "acetaia" while you're in the area to see how it is made and taste the real thing. The delicacies of the region are found here in abundance, like prosciutto, parmigiano cheese and rich meat sauce on delicate filled pastas.
Start your visit in the UNESCO-designated Piazza Grande, a vast and beautiful square that bears architectural treasures. The 12th century cathedral is done in an ethereal Romanesque style. It was completed in 1184. Next door is the celestial white marble bell tower that reaches up 87 meters (285 feet) towards heaven and is topped with a Gothic spire. The Palazzo Comunale and its clock tower are outlined in arcades, while next to it is the city's synagogue, built in 1873. The prestigious Caffe Concerto is located on this piazza, as well; it is a favored spot for a coffee or a drink with friends.
The city has a history that stretches back to the Etruscan age. It was invaded by Hannibal in 218 BC, and then became a Roman city. Evidence of a pottery center were found here, it was where the majority of Roman oil lamps were made, along with vases and bricks. The mighty Este family dominated Modena's politics and civic life from the 1200s through the 1800s. The Ducal Palace and accompanying Parco Ducale Estense were just a couple of their projects. The Baroque Palazzo Ducale is now home to the Italian Military Academy, Italy's West Point. One of the main attractions of Modena is the Palazzo dei Musei, a vast palace which houses four museums and a library. The Galleria Estense contains the Este family masterpieces accumulated through the years, including works by Tintoretto, Veronese, Guido Reni, Coreggio, Carracci and Bernini. An archeology museum and a museum dedicated to artisan works are also located here.
The Piazza della Pomposa and the surrounding streets are full of life and shops. The covered market, the Mercato Albinelli, is still a hub of action where locals buy their daily produce. Other spots of interest include the Botanical Gardens and the Ferrari Museum.
Modena is worth a visit; between the sights, the atmosphere, the food and location, you'll want to return to explore it more!
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