Stretching my legs in Modena, Italy

I was driving from northern Italy down to my home in Rome.

Anyone who knows Italian highways know they are replete with Autogrill reststops, which offer clean bathrooms and ridiculously overpriced, tasteless food.

So when lunch time rolled around, I was more than happy to escape rest stop food in order to stop in one of Italy’s foodie capitals – Emilia Romagna’s small city of Modena.

I was there on a beautiful October day, and it was a great opportunity to park the car, walk around and stretch my legs while exploring this pretty town, and to enjoy delicious local cuisine rather than bland highway sandwiches.


Modena, Emilia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Modena is a pleasant, small city, perhaps most well known as the birthplace of aceto balsamico (Balsamic vinegar), Ferrari and opera’s Luciano Pavarotti.

Any visitor will be stunned by Modena’s spectacular Romanesque cathedral, commissioned by Countess Matilda of Tuscany, Modena’s ruler in the 11th century. It is dedicated to San Geminiano, the city’s patron saint, who is buried here.

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

The city’s highest point is the slightly leaning tower just beside the cathedral – the Torre Ghirlandina. Work on the tower initiated at the same time of the cathedral, but took an additional two centuries to complete.

Legend has it the tower once housed a wooden bucket, which was stolen by the rival city of Bologna – and thereby sparking a war between the two cities in the 1300s.

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

It is supposed to be the inspiration behind Tassoni’s 17th-century poem La Secchia rapita, one of the few Italian poems my children (and, therefore, by extension, I) did not read in school, so I’ll have to look it up.

I was sorry not to have time to get to the art gallery on my short stay, so I will need to return, but I enjoyed wandering all the picturesque streets and squares.

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

And I did get to Modena’s wonderful covered market just before closing, so stocked up on tortellini, mortadella, pride-of-place Balsamic vinegar, and wines to ferry back home.

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

I also had a delicious lunch out on a pretty town square. Pumpkin was in season, so had a lovely pumpkin purée, with caramelized onions and – of course- the local Balsamic vinegar. The friendly chef/owner gave me a great explanation about many of the culinary traditions, so definitely need to come back for a longer stay.

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Had I had more time, I also would have stopped at the Ferrari museum, but that will also be for a future trip. Didn’t buy a Ferrari on my visit, but was able to afford – just about – some of the city’s Balsamic vinegar … although prices of the best labels can get quite pricey!

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Soon enough, it was time to head back to my car for the rest of the trip back to Rome.

So pleased I decided to eschew highway sandwiches for home cooked specialties in Modena, and an enjoyable walk around this stunning city. I’ll definitely be back!

Modena, Emiglia Romagna, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Leave a Comment