10 Fantastic Things to Do in Modena, Italy, Plus Foods to Eat

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Looking for things to do in Modena, Italy? This charming city in the Emilia Romagna region might not be as famous as Rome or Venice, but it offers unique experiences that make it a must-visit.

Although it’s the third most visited city in Emilia Romagna, Modena benefits from the region’s reputation as the foodie capital of Italy. Emilia Romagna is celebrated for iconic Italian foods like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto, and handmade pasta such as tortellini and tagliatelle with ragu—all of which are part of Moden’s local food scene.

We explored the heart of Modena, tasting our way through the city and checking out the top spots. We missed eating at Osteria Francescana, the best restaurant in the world, which is located in Modena. But there is always next time.

Featured blog image shows a beautiful view of the historic center in Modena, Italy, prominently featuring the Modena Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower. The text overlay reads "Modena, Italy - Things To Do,"Pin

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In this guide, I’ll share the best activities and sights in Modena, perfect whether you plan a quick day trip or a longer stay.

What is there to see in Modena?

Modena’s historic center is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ghirlandina Tower, Piazza Grande, and Modena Cathedral. Car enthusiasts will also love visiting the Enzo Ferrari Museum and nearby attractions like the Panini Motor Museum. If you prefer a quieter, less crowded destination, Modena offers a peaceful escape while still brimming with cultural treasures.

1. Take a Food Tour

Exploring Modena through its cuisine is a must-do for our Tasty Itinerary, and joining a food tour with Taste Bologna was a highlight. We started our day with gnocco fritto and cappuccinos at a local café. Gnocco fritto, resembling a flaky, savory pastry made with lard and perfectly fried, was unexpectedly light and delicious. It’s the same treat featured in the Venice episode of Somebody Feed Phil, which partly inspired our culinary adventure here.

During the tour, we dunked our gnocco fritto in cappuccino, embracing the local way of savoring it. Our route also took us through Mercato Albinelli, a vibrant market where Modena’s residents buy fresh ingredients. Here, we sampled various ages of Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoyed my first taste of Lambrusco—a sparkling red wine unique to the region.

Next, we tried Tigella, a local street food similar to a thin English muffin, perfect for filling with meats, cheese, and local spreads. The tour also included an exclusive balsamic vinegar tasting, where we experienced the depth of flavors from vinegars aged up to 50 years, produced by small family operations in Modena.

We concluded our food tour at a beloved local pastry shop, a favorite of both Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari. This tour not only filled our plates but also our hearts with the authentic taste of Modena.

Book this same food tour here.

Similar Tour Idea:
Modena Traditional Food Tour – Do Eat Better Experience [book now]

2. Piazza Grande


Piazza Grande in Modena, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the central meeting point for the Taste Bologna food tour. This iconic square is encircled by historic buildings, including the majestic Modena Cathedral on one side and a towering clock tower, part of the town hall, on the other.

The piazza is also a vibrant hub of activity, lined with various shops and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to relax with an aperitivo or coffee. We enjoyed some people-watching from the comfort of Caffé Concerto, soaking in the bustling atmosphere and picturesque views.

archway by Ghirlandina TowerPin

3. See the Crypt Inside Duomo di Modena

The Duomo di Modena, situated in Piazza Grande, is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Each church we visit in Italy impresses us with its grandeur or simplicity, and the Duomo di Modena is exceptionally striking.

What surprised us about this magnificent cathedral was its crypt, which houses the remains of Saint Geminianus, the patron saint of Modena. The crypt is specially opened to the public once a year on his feast day, offering a unique glimpse into the city’s spiritual heritage.

Admission to the cathedral is free.

4. See or Climb the Ghirlandina Tower

The Ghirlandina Tower, an integral part of the Modena Cathedral complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site stands as a prominent symbol of the city at 89.32 meters tall. It’s often the first landmark you spot when approaching Piazza Grande.

For just 3 euros per person, you can climb the tower and enjoy the best panoramic views of Modena. However, you must book your visit in advance. To reserve your spot, email torreghirlandina@comune.modena.it.

Interesting Fact: Torre Ghirlandina has a subtle lean due to foundational issues, which isn’t immediately obvious until you’re right in front of it. Even then, it’s so slight that you might second-guess yourself. Our tour guide confirmed the tower’s unique tilt during our visit.

5. Explore the Jewish Ghetto

Synagogue of Modena

The Jewish Ghetto in Modena, established in 1638, is among Italy’s oldest. The heart of this historic quarter is Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini, where you can explore the Synagogue of Modena.

This charming square is shaded by trees and features outdoor seating from surrounding cafes, perfect for soaking in the local atmosphere. Boutique shops and foodie spots line the area, frequented by locals who gather to chat. While here, treat yourself to some gelato at Bloom and indulge in multiple tastings of Modena’s famed balsamic vinegar at La Consorteria 1966.

6. Go Balsamic Vinegar Tasting

example of series of barrels used for modena balsamic vinegar productionPin

This is an example of a series of barrels used to produce traditional balsamic vinegar in Modena at La Consorteria 1966.

One of the top activities in Modena is a balsamic vinegar tasting, a must-do given the city’s fame for its authentic traditional balsamic vinegar—nothing like the versions found in supermarkets at home.

You can experience this by booking a food tour with a balsamic tasting or visiting a local balsamic vinegar shop in the city that offers samples.

True balsamic vinegar from Modena or Reggio Emilia is crafted from local grapes that are pressed and cooked, then aged in a series of wooden barrels. This aging process involves transferring the vinegar to increasingly smaller barrels, enhancing its complexity and flavor profile. The climate and the wood used for the barrels also influence the final product.

When tasting or purchasing balsamic vinegar, look for bottles labeled “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” with a D.O.P. stamp, signifying its Protected Designation of Origin. This certification ensures the vinegar is made exclusively in the province of Modena, adhering to stringent production standards. This type of vinegar is a treasure worth taking home.

Optional Tour Ideas:
Acetaia Cavedoni Balsamic Vinegar Tour in Modena [book here]
Lunch and Tasting of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena [book here]

7. Pick Up Some Treats at Mercato Storico Albinelli

Mercato Albinelli has been a staple in the heart of Modena since 1931, offering locals a vibrant selection of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and pastries. Recently renovated to include a roof over what was once an open-air space, the market retains its historic charm. During our visit, we noticed the fish stations, crafted from pink Verona marble, were temporarily closed for restoration.

As you wander through the market, you’ll encounter a beautiful fountain adorned with a woman sculpture by Giuseppe Graziosi. This fountain is more than just a decorative feature; it historically served as a spot for locals to wash their fruits and vegetables.

Open daily except Sundays, Mercato Albinelli is the ideal place to grab a fresh pastry, a sandwich for lunch, or other local delicacies.

Tour Ideas:
Small Group Market Tour and Cooking Class in Modena [book here]

8. Visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum

If you’re a car enthusiast in Modena, the Enzo Ferrari Museum is a must-visit. For my husband, who adores cars for their engineering, design, and speed, this museum was a highlight of our trip.

Dedicated to the life and work of Enzo Ferrari, the museum stands apart from the Ferrari Factory Museum in Maranello. It delves into Enzo Ferrari’s story, showcasing his roots in Modena, where his passion for cars and racing began in childhood—his father was the first in Modena to own a car.

The museum exhibits include some of Ferrari’s earliest cars, various race cars, and some of Enzo’s favorite Ferraris. The museum’s thoughtful design and presentation make it accessible and enjoyable even for non-die-hard car fans like me.

Spanning two buildings, the museum offers enough to fill a few hours with exhibits, a café, and a gift shop. You can take your photo in a Ferrari for a fun souvenir for an additional $15.

Located about a 15-minute walk from the center of Modena, tickets are available on-site, though you might consider booking in advance during the busy summer months.

The museum opens daily, except on some holidays, allowing ample opportunity to explore and appreciate Enzo Ferrari’s legacy.

9. Visit Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti, the world-renowned opera singer, was born in Modena. His home, now transformed into a museum, Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti. Inside, you’ll find an intimate glimpse into his life through personal belongings like his piano, parts of his kitchen, living room, and bedroom. The museum also displays a collection of photographs, awards, and memorabilia that chronicle his illustrious career.

Located just outside the city center, the museum requires a 15-minute car ride, as it’s difficult to get there by foot.

Although we didn’t get the chance to visit due to our tight schedule, it remains a high priority for our next trip to Modena. Our local guide emphasized that it’s a truly special place, offering a unique insight into Pavarotti’s personal and professional world.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari were great friends?

10. Admire Palazzo Ducale di Modena

palazzo ducale modena italy

In the heart of Modena, Piazza Roma hosts the magnificent Palazzo Ducale. Originating from the 12th century, this historic palace was once the residence of the Este family, rulers of Modena and Ferrara. Today, it serves as the prestigious Italian Military Academy.

You can explore the grand interiors of the palace through guided tours available only on Saturdays and Sundays. To book your visit, email info@visitmodena.it and experience Modena’s regal history.

The Porticoes of Modena

Did you know that Modena, like Bologna, features historic porticoes? Although many were lost during World War II, remnants of these architectural treasures still grace the old city. Don’t forget to look up and discover these hidden gems when wandering through Modena. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past and resilient beauty.

porticoes in modenaPin

How Do I Spend a Day in Modena?


Modena is perfect for a day trip, especially from Florence. It is easily walkable and has a rich history and vibrant food scene. It’s quickly accessible by train:

  • From Bologna: 25-minute train ride
  • From Parma: 30-minute train ride
  • From Florence: about 1 hour and 5 minute train ride

Getting There

  • Train: It’s wise to book train tickets in advance. Check here for train schedules and ticketing. Bus options will also be listed if available.
  • Driving: If driving, park at Parcheggio del Centro near the historic city center (Viale Achille Fontanelli, 18, 41124 Modena, Google Map It) to save time searching for free spots.

Exploring Modena:

  • Start early in the day with a food tour to explore Modena’s food scene and historic center.
  • Visit Piazza Grande, explore the Cathedral of Modena, and climb the Ghirlandina Tower for views.
  • Browse through the vibrant Mercato Albinelli and experience local market life.
  • Wander through the Jewish Ghetto, enjoy trendy shops, and maybe stop for a balsamic vinegar tasting at La Consorteria 1966.
  • For lunch, try Salumeria Hosteria Giusti for authentic local flavors.
  • In the afternoon, depending on your interests, you can visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum or Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti.

Tour Ideas:
Modena Highlights Small Group Tour with a Local Guide [book here]

City Explorer: Modena Private Day Trip [book here]
Modena Day Trip from Bologna with a Local: Private & Personalized [book here]

Modena Foods to Eat

The culinary scene in Modena is all about tradition, and sometimes, depending on where you eat, they beautifully marry this with modern twists. Here’s a short guide to the must-try foods in Modena.

Gnocco Fritto

his delectable fried dough, thin, flaky, and crispy, is a local favorite. While it’s delicious on its own, pairing it with Prosciutto di Parma elevates the flavor. A unique local tradition is dunking Gnocco Fritto in cappuccinos during breakfast. Find it at Bar Tiffany, where they serve substantial portions perfect for a morning treat.


Tigella is a round flatbread cooked between two clay disks, typically served warm and filled with ingredients like Mortadella, salumi, and Modenese pesto. It’s often a main meal in local restaurants, satisfyingly paired with Lambrusco. Visit L’Or-Ma Crescenteria for a diverse range of fillings, including prosciutto and formaggio.


Emilia-Romagna’s signature sparkling red wine, Lambrusco, is light, slightly sweet, and wonderfully refreshing. It pairs splendidly with both Gnocco Fritto and Tigella. When dining out, you’ll often have the choice between still or sparkling wine—opt at least once for the sparkling Lambrusco to savor the local flavor.

Torta di Erbetta

A savory pie made with spinach, chard, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Torta di Erbetta is reminiscent of spinach pie but with distinct local freshness. This specialty is available at Mercato Albinelli and various bakeries around the city center.


Forget about the tortellini you had back home. This small, ring-shaped pasta filled with a mix of meats like prosciutto, chicken, or pork is at another level in Modena. Available on nearly every restaurant menu, and you can even buy some fresh at the market to make back at your vacation rental.

Read More: What Foods to Eat in Emilia Romagna

Where to Eat in Modena

Modena features an impressive array of restaurants, many of which we had already bookmarked and were then recommended by our Airbnb host. Reservations are important if you plan to enjoy a sit-down dinner. We discovered this on our first night when we were turned away by several restaurants.

Making Restaurant Reservations is Key

Include restaurant reservations on your “things to do in Modena, Italy” list to avoid the inconvenience we faced. After several attempts, we found ourselves at a restaurant we had noted on Google Maps, hidden behind a nondescript door. This place charmed us with its cozy underground setting and vaulted ceilings.

Tip: Download The Fork app before your trip to Italy. It is their version of Open Table and Resy. Just like in the US, you won’t find all restaurants, but sometimes it does help in a pinch to get same-day reservations or farther in advance. We found some excellent restaurants here during our travels in Italy.

Taverna dei Servi

  • Via dei Servi, 37, 41121 Modena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Dining at Taverna dei Servi was among the top highlights of our two weeks in Italy. The welcoming hostess sympathized with our situation and seated us at an available table. She joyfully recommended her favorite dishes and wines, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Our meal began with gnocco fritto accompanied by Prosciutto di Parma and buffalo mozzarella. It was a first for us, including my husband, who is Italian and familiar with many Italian dishes. Thanks to the waitress’s recommendation, we discovered that gnocco fritto is best enjoyed with prosciutto and cheese.

Following that, we ordered two different tortellini dishes. One dish featured cheese tortellini in a white ragu, covered with a layer of crispy Parmigiano Reggiano. The other consisted of larger tortellini tossed with crispy pancetta and greens, topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The handmade tortellini were notably fresh and flavorful, perfectly balancing all the ingredients.

We also shared a plate of pork cheeks that had been marinated and simmered in balsamic vinegar for hours, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.

This exceptional meal left an indelible mark on us, and we highly recommend making a reservation at Taverna dei Servi to secure a spot for this memorable dining experience.

Our local host also recommended these notable dining spots:

Is Modena, Italy, worth visiting?

Modena is worth the visit to learn about and enjoy the local foods, see amazing historic architecture, tour a UNESCO site, learn about balsamic vinegar production, and visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum.

How Long Should I Spend in Modena?

While it’s possible to see Modena’s top sites in just one day, we recommend spending at least two to three days enjoying everything the city offers. Modena is also an excellent base for exploring other cities and towns in Emilia Romagna, such as Parma, Bologna, Ferrara, and Ravenna.

We stayed in the historic center of Modena for three nights. It was quiet, safe, and not overrun by tourists, which was exactly what we were looking for. After visiting the bustling city of Bologna, we even appreciated Modena’s more relaxed pace. Your choice of base city depends on your personal preferences.


Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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  1. Beautiful pics!! I really need a trip to eat GOOD Italian Food! I love that you really take the time to explore. Can’t wait to read more…