3 Days in Modena, Italy
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
Emilia-Romagna is the region in Italy known just as much for Parmesan and balsamic vinegar as it is for motorsport. Aptly known as the Food and Motor Valley because of the range of food products that hail from this area as well as the number of iconic car brands, including Ferrari and Lamborghini. This dual identity has turned this region, and even more specifically Modena, into a favorite location to celebrate all the spoils of slow food and fast cars. On this 3-day itinerary I will share my favorite things to do in Modena, Italy that will delight the lover of food and wine as well as the speed aficionado.
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Where to stay
Hotel Cervetta 5
Nestled in the heart of the city, Hotel Cervetta 5 harmoniously combines classic elegance and modern comforts, ensuring a delightful stay enriched by its historical surroundings.
Casa Maria Luigia
Exquisite Italian hotel with Massimo Botturo's restaurant featuring contemporary art, vintage and design furniture — perfect for a summer holiday and/or romantic getaway.
Opera02 exudes contemporary charm and sophistication, blending modern design with artistic flair, offering guests a stylish stay in the heart of Emilia-Romagna.
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Day 1: Arrive to Modena
Arriving in the city
The nearest international airport to Modena is Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, which is about 35 minutes from Modena by car or you might arrive via Trenitalia to Modena Station, which is about a 15 minute walk from Modena city center.
The History of the Prancing Horse
Once you arrive, jump right into the heritage of Modena by traveling to the province of Maranello to visit the home of Ferrari. There is no better way to experience the history of the brand than with a private tour of the Museo Ferrari Maranello. You begin with a glass of prosecco and then your guide will walk you through the museum and highlight key elements that might be of most interest to you. My husband and I are Formula 1 fans, so our guide made sure to spend more time in those areas of the museum. There are a range of road cars, race cars, trophies, and memorabilia spanning across the company’s history.
After your visit to the museum, have lunch at famed chef Massimo Bottura’s Ristorante Cavallino, across from the historic Ferrari factory entrance where Enzo Ferrari would have driven through. The restaurant has elevated Italian classics in a refined setting, complete with modern art and car parts as decor. You might even see some Ferrari executives in a lunch meeting.
Next, travel back towards Modena city center and continue the history of Ferrari by visiting the Museo Enzo Ferrari Modena. This museum is set in a futuristic building that highlights the life and work of Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the iconic brand. You can also visit a second building on the property, which is the former house and workshop of Enzo’s father.
After all the history, you’ll want to rest your feet. I recommend Casa Maria Luigia – a luxury bed and breakfast nestled in the Emilian countryside in Modena by Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore, filled with their favorite things: contemporary art, books, vinyl records, iconic Italian cars, special edition motorcycles and a pantry full of delicious Emilian ingredients. Good thing those are my favorite things too, so it made it easy to feel right at home! The property is home to a relaxing pool, beautiful gardens, and a building dedicated to Massimo’s car and art collection that also houses the property’s gym. Explore all the areas and imagine that you are visiting some of the most fun and welcoming friends and make yourself at home.
Dinner in the city
Massimo Bottura is a name that keeps coming up because he has become an ambassador for Modena and does such an amazing job of highlighting what makes this place so special. Visit his restaurant Franceschetta58, closer to the city center and try a glass of local Lambrusco, a vibrant sparkling red wine and a specialty from the menu. The tortellini in Parmigiano Reggiano sauce is a must, and we also tried the pigeon.
After dinner, stroll through Piazza Grande and see the Duomo di Modena.
Day 2: Slow Food and Fast Cars
A Feast of Modena
Waking up to the breakfast spread at Casa Maria Luigia is like a special family holiday tradition that you feel lucky to take part in. You will be spoiled with a table full of delights, including seasonal quiche, roasted vegetables, fresh fruit, local honey and jams, and pillowy dough topped with silky mortadella and soft cheese with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. And this is only the beginning of your education in local ingredients for the day.
A Cheese is Born
Emilia-Romagna is home to many protected products — PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) — which are not easy to achieve. This region is home to many of the products that define Italian cuisine and none is more iconic than Parmigiano Reggiano.
Tour the 4 Madonne Caseificio dell'Emilia to see each stage of the production process of the famed cheese – from the delivery of local milk to the pressing, salt bath, and aging room to see how the cheese is born. The warehouse stacked high with wheels of Parmigiano is awe-inspiring. Leave room to try a range of ages of cheese at the end of your visit and you won’t look at your grocery store cheese counter the same when you return home.
NEED FOR SPEED
Next, visit the Modena Autodrome to drive a Ferrari on a race track. You will get a brief safety training and then jump into an iconic car with an expert to try your hand at the fastest lap.
During the afternoon, tour the oldest acetaia in Modena, Acetaia Giusti. Here, you will learn how the family has been producing balsamic vinegar for over 400 years. Balsamic vinegar is traditionally made from only one ingredient – the juice of freshly pressed grapes called “grape must” - which is concentrated, fermented, and aged for 12 to 25 years or even longer in wooden barrels. You will be able to see the attic where the oldest barrels are aging and taste a range of types.
THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR
Many people only know of Modena for chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, and let me tell you that it does not disappoint. I’m lucky to have had many amazing culinary experiences in my life so far and this one tops my list. If you’re staying at Casa Maria Luigia, you can get the experience without having to hope for luck in getting a reservation. We were fortunate enough to have Lara Gilmore share the stories of each iconic dish, from “The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna” to “Oops! I Dropped The Lemon Tart.” It was truly a meal – and an experience – to remember.
Day 3: Depart
Spend the final morning relaxing around the hotel property or visiting the city center. If you go into town, take in the historic architecture and wander the cobblestone streets, with a backdrop of the yellow and orange buildings that define this region. Make a stop at Modena’s food market, Mercato Albinelli and have lunch at Bar Schiavoni in the market for a focaccia sandwich before departing Modena.
Need to Know
For more Italy travel inspiration by Ann, check out her guide, Foodie's Guide to Piedmont.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.