Updated: Sep 5, 2022
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What comes to mind when you think of Italy? The historical ruins in Rome? The villages of Cinque Terre? Perhaps your attention is drawn to the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. Regardless, you likely won't see Modena on most commercialized travel itineraries. We chose this city to visit during our two weeks in Italy because of its authenticity, its food background, and its close proximity to luxury cars. If those things appease you, read on to learn more.
Try Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is not the same as balsamic vinegar you buy in your local grocery store. Modena is the city where the commonly used condiment was first created. Legally, balsamic vinegar made in Modena must be in a round-shaped bottle, and vinegar from other regions cannot copy its design. Traditional balsamic vinegar must be aged at least 12 years, but is often aged a lot longer to create different tastes for a larger price.
Because the famous ingredient originated in Modena, there are many balsamic vinegar factories and tours, most of which include a free tasting. My husband and I bought a bottle aged somewhere between 15-25 years and it cost around $70 USD. This vinegar is a lot different than what you're using to. It has a sweet, syrupy consistency that locals sometimes put on their gelato.
Fans of liqueur need not panic. While much of Italy is famous for it's wine, Modena is famous for Nocino: a liqueur made from walnuts that is smooth, sweet, and sticky. This beverage creates quite the buzz, which we learned when a restaurant gave us a free bottle after dinner and told us to drink as much as we wanted. Its smooth going down, making it easy to drink too much if you aren't paying attention.
Drive a Luxury Car
A short distance by bus, Maranello is the official birthplace of Ferrari. When you visit, you have the opportunity to drive a Ferrari or Lamborgini at Pushstart Maranello (we booked our tickets ahead of time). Driving times range from 10 minutes to 120 minutes depending on the money you're willing to fork out. I opted to drive the Lamborghini Huracan Performante for about $237 USD for 15 minutes. My husband drove the Ferrari 458 Speciale for the same price and time limit. The instructors were great as well, telling us when a straightaway was coming so we could put the petal to the metal. Learn more about why you should drive a sports car in Maranello.
Visit the Ferrari Museums
Located right beside Pushstart is Museo Ferrari Maranello, which takes you on a journey of some of the most popular styles of Ferraris ever made. The museum is pretty short, but it's fun to learn a bit about the rich history of the company. The Ferrari race cars are on display at the museum as well.
Back in Modena is the Enzo Ferrari Museum, a museum dedicated to the life of the man who invented the brand. The museum utilizes Ezno's birth home and his father's workshop to pay tribute to the heart of Ferrari.
Eat at a World Famous Restaurant
Perhaps one of the most famous restaurants in the world, Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana has been rewarded with three Michelin stars. To ensure a spot, reservations must be made months in advance. If you go, I recommended that you try the 10-course tasting plate for 250 euros per person so you can get a small taste of everything. Though it's pricey, it's a once in a lifetime experience.
Peruse the Marketplace
Modena is home to this amazing high-quality marketplace called Mercato Albinelli. The marketplace has fresh fish, numerous cheeses, pre-made sandwiches for lunch, and a variety of meats, fruits, and vegetables. My husband and I visited the market, although we didn't purchase anything because it was our last day in Modena and we didn't want anything to spoil on the train ride to Milan. If you're looking for a fresh lunch, however, you should swing by.
Budget travelers should check out the B&B Hotel, located about a mile from the city center. A mid-range hotel, we stayed at Hotel Estense. The staff were very friendly. For views of a beautiful garden, spend a little extra for Phi Hotel Canalgrande.
This little city is a great escape from the highly visited tourist spots with a lot of activities nonetheless. If you like to merge off the beaten path, Modena is for you.