Modena Things to Do

  • The start of our tour.
    The start of our tour.
    by 807Wheaton
  • The aging of the grapes
    The aging of the grapes
    by 807Wheaton
  • Some are 100 years old!
    Some are 100 years old!
    by 807Wheaton

Most Recent Things to Do in Modena

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    Palazzo dei Musei, Part I

    by von.otter Updated Dec 13, 2010

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    Palazzo dei Musei, Modena, May 2010
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    On Piazza Sant’Agostino, at the end of Via Emilia, you will find Palazzo dei Musei, an eighteenth century Neo-Classical building, built from 1764 to 1771. Since 1880 Palazzo dei Musei has houses Modena’s most important museums, including Galleria Estense, the art collection of the dukes of Este; the Estense Library, one of Italy’s most important libraries; the Museum of Mediaeval and Modern Art; the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum; and the Lapidarian Museum.

    Ticket price: € 4.00. Reduced: € 2.00 for visitors between 18 and 25 and teachers with permanent contracts. Free for visitors under 18 or over 65, disabled with a companion.

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    Palazzo Comunale: Story-Telling Frescoes, Part II

    by von.otter Written Dec 13, 2010

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    Palazzo Comunale, Sala degli Arazzi, Modena 5/2010
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    In Palazzo Comunale, the Town Hall, a number of frescoes telling historical stories of Modena can be seen. The 18th-century frescoes of Sala degli Arazzi (the Tapestry Room, see photos #1 and #2) depict the preparation and signature of the Constance Peace Treaty in 1183, the manifesto that ensured the independence of Modena and other Northern Italian cities from the Holy Roman Empire. Frederic I, Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, is shown seated on a large chair, wearing a plumed hat.

    The eighteenth-century Sala del Vecchio Consiglio (Old Council Room), where the city elders’ stalls (see photo #3) can be seen and the banner painted by Ludovico Lana in 1633 as a thanksgiving for the end of the plague. The ceiling paintings are by Ercole dell’Abate and Bartolomeo Schedoni.

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    Modena’s Coat-of-Arms and Motto

    by von.otter Updated Dec 13, 2010
    Modena���s Coat-of-Arms, May 2010
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    “We were too happy to get to Modena.”
    — from “Pencillings By The Way: Written During Some Years of Residence and Travel in France, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, and England” 1849 by Nathaniel Parker Willis

    Modena’s coat-of-arms is made up of a blue cross on the field of gold, it is often topped by the ducal crown and accompanied by the city’s motto.

    The Latin phrase Avia pervia is Modena’s motto. ‘Avia’ means difficult paths; ‘pervia’ means easy to walk. Therefore, the motto’s English translation is “Let difficult paths be made easy to walk.” A simplified translation commonly used is “Let’s make easy the things that are difficult.”

    All examples shown here were seen in Palazzo Comunale, the Town Hall, open for visits to the public.

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    Palazzo Comunale: Story-Telling Frescoes, Part I

    by von.otter Updated Dec 13, 2010
    Palazzo Comunale, Sala del Fuoco, Modena, May 2010
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    In Palazzo Comunale, the Town Hall, a number of frescoes, telling historical stories of Modena, can be seen. Depicted on the walls of Sala del Fuoco (Fire Room) are scenes from the 43 BC Battle of Modena. These frescoes were created by Nicolò dell’Abate in 1546.

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    Palazzo Comunale: La Secchia Rapita

    by von.otter Written Dec 10, 2010
    Palazzo Comunale, La Secchia Rapita, May 2010
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    Palazzo Comunale faces Piazza Grande and incorporates Medieval buildings from the 13th century. Modena’s most prized trophy La Secchia Rapita (the Stolen Bucket) is kept here. Kept protected under a plexiglass dome is one of the symbols of Modena, La Secchia Rapita, the Stolen Bucket. This ordinary wooden bucket recalls the glorious victory by Modena over Bologna in 1325 at the Battle of Zappolino. This incedent inspired the mock-heroic poem by Alessandro Tassoni, La Secchia Rapita. La Secchia Rapita is on display in the Camerino dei Confirmati (Confirmed’s Chamber).

    Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday and public holidays 3-7 p.m. Closed in August and on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. We walked into the public rooms of the Town Hall without admission fee or questions or passing any officials. Admissions: Sunday and public holidays €1,00; combined with a visit to the Ghirlandina Tower: €1,50; free in weekdays.

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    A Man in Uniform

    by von.otter Updated Dec 10, 2010
    Cadets from Accademia Militare, Modena, May 2010
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    Modena is a military town. According to a local woman seated next to us at lunch the military academy owns much of the real estate in town, using it to house the cadets and administer the Academy.

    We visited Modena on a Saturday. Many cadets were out and about, gussied up in their dressed uniforms, impressing all.

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    Palazzo Ducale, Part III

    by von.otter Updated Dec 10, 2010
    Palazzo Ducale, Courtyard, Modena, May 2010
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    “The military colleges are preparatory for the senior cadet schools, of which there are two: the Military School (Scuola Militare) at Modena for cavalry and infantry cadets, and the Military Academy (Accademia Militare) at Turin for engineer and artillery cadets.”
    — from “A Cyclopedia of Education” 1913 Edited by Paul Monroe

    The interior of Palazzo Ducale has a splendid courtyard, surrounded by an elegant open gallery on two floors, and the monumental staircase, decorated with many Roman sculptures taken from the Villa Este in Tivoli.

    Since 1960 the courtyard has been known as the Military Court of Turin. After aerial bombardments during the Second World War destroyed Accademia Militare di Torino, founded in 1669 by Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, part of its colonnade was brought to Modena, were it was set-up in the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.

    After Accademia Militare di Torino was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1943, the entire college was moved to Palazzo Ducale in Modena.

    At the main entrance to Palazzo Ducale is a chain barricade. The chain is held in place by the mouth of a fantastical bronze creature with a shiny nose (see photo #5).

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    Palazzo Ducale, Part II

    by von.otter Written Dec 9, 2010
    Palazzo Ducale, Aemilius Lepidus, Modena May 2010
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    Marble figures stand in two niches that flank the main entrance of Palazzo Ducale; they are Hercules, on the left, and the Roman Consul Aemilius Lepidus. Carved 1560, these are the work of the sculptor Prospero Spani, known as “Il Clemente,” from Reggio Emilia. These sculptures were given to Duke Rinaldo d’Este in 1724.

    The eastern facade is in the Neoclassical style and was completed in 1819 by the architect Gusmano Soli.

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    Palazzo Ducale, Part I

    by von.otter Updated Dec 9, 2010
    Palazzo Ducale, Modena, May 2010
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    “The course in the military school at Modena is two years. No mathematics is taken by the cadet, except what is included in the subjects of physical and natural sciences.”
    — from “A Cyclopedia of Education” 1913 Edited by Paul Monroe

    Francesco I, Duke of Modena, invited the Baroque architect Bartolomeo Avanzini from Rome and commissioned a new court palace from him. Building work on the new Palazzo Ducale, which now houses Accademia Militare di Modena, started in 1635. Using Avanzini’s original design, other Baroque architects, such as Francesco Borromini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, contributed to the plan.

    The palace, elegant and imposing, is made-up of a long three-storey façade topped by a marble balustrade decorated with sculpture that depict the Virtues, as well as other characters from the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Three imposing towers, two at either corner and the highest and architecturally most complex at the center, divide the building into two sections. The clock (see photo #3), still in use today, was installed in the upper portion of the central tower in 1756.

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    Portici di Modena

    by von.otter Updated Dec 8, 2010
    Portici di Modena, 29.May.2010
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    “This petty duke of Modena is a man of about fifty, and said to be the greatest tyrant after Don Miguel in the world. The prisons are full of suspected traitors: one hundred and thirty of the best families of the dutchy are banished for liberal opinions; three hundred and over are now under arrest (among them a considerable number of ladies); and many of the Modenese nobility are now serving in the galleys for conspiracy. He has been shot at eighteen times. The last man who attempted it, as I stated in a former letter, was executed the morning I passed through Modena on my return from Venice.”
    — from “Pencillings By The Way: Written During Some Years of Residence and Travel in France, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, and England” 1849 by Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867)

    Although not as numerous as the porticoes of Bologna, Modena, too, has covered walkways in its historic center, often with beautiful artwork overhead. Porticoes make it easy to walk in Modena on rainy days and hot, sunny ones, too.

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    Church of St. Barnabas

    by von.otter Updated Dec 8, 2010

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    San Barnaba Parish Church, Modena, May 2010
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    “Modena is a place of great antiquity. It was a strong-bold in the time of Cesar, and after his death was occupied by Brutus, and besieged by Antony. There are no traces left, except some mutilated and uncertain relics in the museum.”
    — from “Pencillings By The Way: Written During Some Years of Residence and Travel in France, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, and England” 1849 by Nathaniel Parker Willis

    Church of St. Barnabas is an excellent example of the Baroque style in Modena. The present appearance of the church dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. The interior’s elaborate decoration is thanks to the on-going patronage of the dukes of Este.

    The facade — a work designed by Luigi Ronchi and completed around 1760 — is divided into two orders each of which has two niches, each displaying the figure of a saint (see photos #2 and #3): St. Augustine, St. Francis of Paola, Saint Michael and Saint Barnabas.

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    Torre dell’Orologio

    by von.otter Updated Dec 8, 2010
    Torre dell���Orologio, Modena, May 2010
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    “Modena (anc. Mutina), capital of the former duchy of Modena, stands on a broad plain in Northern Italy, 23 miles by rail NW. of Bologna. Pop. (1881) 31,053; in commune, 58,058. It is surrounded with ramparts, now converted into promenades, and has fine streets, many of them areaded both sides.”
    — from “Chamber’s Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge” 1891

    The 13th century wing and the 16th century wing of Modena’s Palazzi Comunali (City Hall) were connected by Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower); these new wings were blended by the means of a new facade and arcades constructed between the 17th to 19th centuries.

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    Modena’s Duomo: A Romanesque Masterpiece, Part III

    by von.otter Updated Dec 7, 2010
    Modena���s Duomo���s Leos, May 2010
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    “You don’t need any brains to listen to music.”
    — Luciano Pavarotti, Modena’s native son, (1935-2007)

    Is your astrological sign Leo, the lion? If it is, or if you travel with some who is a Leo as I do, here is a fun way to honor that person and that birth sign and to make unique photos: pose with lions, not real ones, but architectural ones, decorative ones.

    Modena’s duomo has many lions for posing with, both indoor and out.

    The two lions supporting the entrance’s columns (see photo #1) date from the Roman era, most likely discovered while the foundations were being dug.

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    Modena’s Duomo: A Romanesque Masterpiece, Part VI

    by von.otter Updated Dec 7, 2010
    Modena���s Duomo, Baptismal Fount, May 2010
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    “It was most delicious weather, when we came into Modena, where the darkness of the sombre colonnades over the footways skirting the main street on either side, was made refreshing and agreeable by the bright sky, so wonderfully blue.”
    — from “Pictures from Italy” 1846 by Charles Dickens

    Take time to enjoy the many fine and wonderful works of art at Modena’s 900 year-old duomo. The devil is in the details, even in a church!

    The baptismal fount, photo #1; the hand rail that terminates with an animal face, photo #2; the stained glass rose window, photo #3; the multi-colored marble inlaid ceiling, photo #4; and the lion column support, photo #5.

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    Modena’s Duomo: A Romanesque Masterpiece, Part II

    by von.otter Updated Dec 7, 2010
    Il Duomo, South Fa��ade, Modena May 2010
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    “Unless one has considerable time to spare, the sights of Modena will hardly compensate his stopping here.”
    — from “Harper’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Europe” 1873 by William Pembroke Fetridge

    I do not agree with Mr. Fetridge’s observation. Modena is charming; its art museum has first rate works to view and appreciate.

    On its southern side, the duomo’s secondary façade faces Piazza Grande and Palazzo Comunale, City Hall. From here the church’s three magnificent apses can be seen. Piazza Grande was once the main market square.

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