During my little trip through the Emilia-Romagna region, I spent two days in Modena. Starting off with a few days in Bologna, I wanted to see more of its neighboring cities. Since it’s only 20 minutes away by train, it makes for a perfect day trip from Bologna.

colorful streets of modena

I would’ve visited Modena anyway but my interest grew even bigger after seeing the brilliant second season of Master of None. Back in 2017, I loved every episode of this nearly-perfect season. Moreover, the first two episodes were set in Modena and shot in black and white. An homage to the Italian neorealist cinema, it made Modena look charming.

By all means, seeing it with my own eyes delighted me. The old town is a mix of colorful architecture, beautiful porticoes, cobblestone streets, and enticing window shops. Speaking of, I discovered something brilliant during my visit to Modena. A pastry made of spinach and ricotta cheese that blew my mind!

Essentially, erbazzone is a savory pie made of spinach and parmesan. So when the owner answered my questions about some pastries, and I heard erbazzone dolce, I knew I had to try it. I never dreamed of hearing that a dessert version of that exists. Let alone that it would taste so delicious!

You’ll find this surprise at Antica Pasticceria San Biagio. Located in the heart of Modena, it’s a shop renowned for its pastries and other local products. Rest assured, I came back for more after my first taste! What’s more, the origins of this unique recipe stem from Emilia-Romagna, specifically from the province of Modena. By pure chance, I discovered the most original dish possible during my visit!

beautiful buildings in modena

While it’s true that you can visit Modena in one day, as a day trip from Bologna, you’d be missing out. It’s such an enchanting city, almost like a mini version of Bologna. The city felt a bit sleepy during my early morning walk which I loved. It easily charmed its way into my heart.

Certain corners of the city have seared themselves into my memory. In particular, the imposing Palazzo Ducale. The home of the Military Academy of Modena, this gorgeous historical building dominates Piazza Roma. Whether at sunrise or at dusk, I found it mesmerizing and yearned to see its interior!

The best viewpoint in Modena

There is only one place for the best view of Modena and that is Torre Ghirlandina. One thing you should know beforehand is that you need to reserve your ticket in advance. Unfortunately, you can’t just arrive there and purchase a ticket. I don’t know why but a reservation is mandatory. In spite of that, once you climb the 200 steps leading to the top you get an amazing view of Modena.

I spent the majority of my time in Modena walking through almost every street in the city. My desire to see each of the filming locations from Master of None resulted in an active visit. In fact, I was in the middle of photographing a café featured in the show when I might as well take a break and see its interior. I needed to warm up with some hot chocolate so I sat down at Menomoka. At first glance, I loved the walls covered in caricatures of famous people and their quotes.

On the whole, Modena is not a big city so I quickly ran out of places to see in the city. Rather impulsively, I decided to hop on the train. After a few hours of wandering through Reggio Emilia, I returned to Modena for an evening stroll. I think I liked those the best, walking through the city at dusk and wondering what it would be like to live here. Naturally, I always ponder this question in every new place I visit but even more so if it’s winter. Only noticing locals around me gives me a clearer picture of what their daily life in that city might look like.

The main square in Modena, Piazza Grande, was relatively empty whenever I walked past it. It’s the eye-catching Torre Ghirlandina that towers above the cathedral and the main square. After marveling at the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral, I continued discovering all the nooks and crannies of Modena.

If you’re big on food, you need to visit Mercato Albinelli. This covered food market has been in use since 1931 and offers a variety of fresh produce, ranging from fruits, meat, and fish, as well as pastries. It’s situated inside an Art Nouveau building and its aim is to preserve the values and traditions of Modena cuisine. While there, I couldn’t resist this tempting pistachio sfogliatella. I wasn’t even hungry but I was too curious, having heard so much about these unique Neapolitan pastries!

mercato albinelli food market in modena·

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to learn random tidbits about the place I’m visiting. What I learned about Modena is that it’s the birthplace of balsamic vinegar. Even though it’s not my favorite condiment, it was interesting to learn something new. From now on, any mention of balsamic vinegar will inevitably make me think of Modena!

palazzina dei giardini in modena

Whether you’re visiting Modena as a day trip from Bologna or staying longer, you’ll love it. Let yourself be seduced by the vibrant architecture and the impressive food scene. I already miss those quaint streets full of cobblestones. Eventually, it was my aimless strolls through Modena that made me fall in love with this little city. And let’s be realistic, it’s rare that something you see on TV manages to dazzle you in real life!

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