Residing within a region of traditions, passion for good cooking and motors and car design, the Province of Modena (in the heart of Emilia Romagna, in northern Italy, extends from the Apennine Mountain ridges to the the low plains south of the Po River.
The mountainous terrain includes the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the towering Mount Cimone with its peaks of over 2,000 m.
The highest point of this area is the Regional Park of the Modenese High Apennines (best-known as the Frignano), a rich and rather multi-colored environment, with unique habitats favoring the growth and preservation of rare species, animals and plants.
The plains area extends from north of the Via Emilia to the border with Lombardy, and features typical rural homes characterizing its landscapes.
These plains, considered the most beautiful in Italy, is covered with castles, fortresses, towers and villages. History has certainly left traces intiguing the intellectual, artistic, cultural and sensorial interests of all who tread here.
The Province of Modena, in line with the best of Emilian traditions, is a lterritory defined by flavors, nature and its love for motors.
Its Capital, Modena, is a city with an important past; to begin with, it was built along the ancient Via Emilia, and it seems to be Etruscan in origins. Later, the Celts and the Romans laid claim to it.
The city, the capital of the Estense Duchy for an important period, underwent frequent and vast urban and architectural modifications.
Further structural changes occurred during the 18th Century under Francesco III d'Este, and under the Austrian-Estense dynasty during the 19th Century.
The city hosts petite jewels of art, such as the Romanesque Cathedral, completely constructed with white marble and located in the heart of Modena, in Piazza Grande. The Cathedral - together with the Piazza and the Ghirlandina Tower - makes up oen of the 48 Italian sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Ghirlandina is the bell tower that rises majestically over the rooftops; its name derives from its marble balustrades around the steeple, suggesting the lightness of garlands. Located in the same square, one finds the ancient City Hall (Palazzo Comunale) - a complex of Medieval buildings remodeled during the 17th-18th Centuries - and the Torre Civica.
Nearby are the College and Church of San Carlo, historic heart of residential Modena; the College is characterized by its wide colonnade, the grand entryway and staircase, and frescoes and rooms of unseen beauty.
Traveling the Via Emilia, one reaches the Palazzo dei Musei that houses the most important cultural institutes of the city, such as the Lapidary Museum and the Estense Gallery, conserving many masterpieces and works of art; the Civic Museums; the Municipal Historic Archive; and the Estense Library, with important illuminated codices and the famous Bible of Borso d’Este, illuminated by Taddeo Crivelli.
The streets of Modena are rather tighly-knit, consequence of the construction of buildings and streets along canals that once flowed in the heart of the city. An example is Corso Canal Grande, one of the most characteristic streets, crossed by the Via Emilia, with its residential buildings. In the first stretch of this street lies the Church of San Vincenzo, the Teatro Comunale, and the Ducal Palace, an impressive, princely building from the 17th Century that partly arose on an ancient castle owned by the d’Este Family; today it is the seat of the prestigious Military Academy of Modena.
Moving out from Modena proper to the Province, one should undertake a visit to some of the numerous surrounding towns. Passing Castelfranco Emilia and moving towards Panzano, one should make a stop at Villa Sora, with its huge surrounding park and a green area retained to be the primary exemplar of 19th-Century romantic gardens. View the stables and the orangery, in neo-Gothic style.
Nonantola is the location of the renowned Benedictine abbey, founded by the abbot St. Anselm, Duke of Fiuli c. mid-8th century A.D. The abbey's archive guards unique and treasured items, such as a great number of documents belonging to Charles the Great, Mathilda of Canossa, and Frederick Barbarossa.
Fortresses and castles are sprinkled throughout the countryside, evidence as to the Province's considerable past. Among the most beautiful manors stands that of Vignola, a Medieval fortress transformed into a well-preserved aristocratic residence, complete with towers, drawbridges and moats.
Finale Emilia boasts the 15th-Century d’Este Fortress; Carpi the impressive castle known as Palazzo dei Pio; and Monte Cucco its early Medieval castle, village and Romanesque Parish Church of Renno.
Finally, a visit to Sassuolo and its Ducal Palace is also an option: the Palace, with its lavish rooms and frescoes, served as the holiday resort for Francesco I d’Este.
Museums are never missing in the Province, as just about every community has at least one of its own.
Of them, one in particular pleases motor lovers and non. In Maranello, the Ferrari Gallery exhibits the legendary cars, pictures and trophies that have made the brand renowned all over the world.
Modena Province's cultural heritage pairs with the natural beauty of its mountains, hills, valleys and rivers.
Hiking and trekking enthusiasts can enjoy the area's diverse natural parks and reserves. Take some time to admire the Natural Reserve of the Salse di Nirano, in the Modenese Apennines, where the ground is subjected to the geological phenomenon of resurgent clayey mud that leaves cones of volcanic shape in the dried subsoil. The Regional Park of the Sassi of Roccamalatina is not far away from Vignola. It possesses splendid sandstone rocks from mountains to plain, in addition to a great number of animal species - for instance, peregrine falcons and buzzards.
Amidst the lakes, waterfalls and mountains in the Regional Park of the High Modenese Apennines, the landscape turns on its full charm. Along the valleys and in the woods, it is possible to choose between walking, horseback riding and mountain bike trails.
Mount Cimone and the surrounding terrain offer downhill, Alpine and cross-country skiers and snowboarders ample runs and modern ski-lifts, all making for the perfect vacation defined by winter sports, nature and fun.
In the quiet of the vineyards near Sassuolo, the Thermal Baths of Salvarola - well-known even by the ancient Romans - are a world apart for the therapeutic properties of their sulphur waters.
The most interesting local folk events include D'Este Week in Modena, an historical re-enactment of jousting, musical entertainment and feasting, in 16th-Century costume.
A great number of festivals take place all year-round, particularly the Feast of San Nicola (the Tortellino Sagra) in Castelfranco Emilia and the World's Largest Zampone Festival in Castelnuovo Rangone.
Food and motors are the two true passions of the Modenese.
The cuisine of the Province of Modena, based on the simple ingredients bequeathed by the fertile soil, is one of the reasons for the success of this Province all over the world. We commence with the zampone and the cotechino of Modena.
Symbol of the local cuisine, zampone (stuffed pig trotter) with lentils is cooked not only during the Christmas holidays and New Year's, but all year-round.
Among the typical products that have received the DOP quality recognition are the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, with its particular, more sweet-than-sour taste, and the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Other renowned products are Vignola cherries and typical Modena pears.
The legendary tortellini, stuffed with pork meat, ham and parmigiano cheese, and the tigella, a flatbread cooked in a wood oven and served with the famous salames and a mix of cheeses, are both even better if paired with a Lambrusco wine.
Among the other specialties, try the Borlengo, the “rice bomb” (a rice mould stuffed with stewed pigeon meat), and the Bocconcini alla Modenese.
Typical desserts to be tasted - along with the local Christmas treats - are the amaretti of San Geminiano, the bensone, and the Barozzi Cake.
Among the wines are the famous Lambrusco Grasparossa of Castelvetro, the Lambrusco of Sorbara and the Lambrusco Salamino of Santa Croce.