Every day these spaces offer a chance to re-experience the past. With a little imagination, it isn’t difficult to hear the echoing beat of drums, the stamping of horses’ hooves, or shouts ringing through a crowded outdoor marketplace.
This special excursion is designed to take you on a relaxing and picturesque walking tour through the main piazzas of Modena’s historical center and to show you their most interesting features.
This itinerary starts from the beating heart of the city: Piazza Grande, with its beautiful river cobblestone pavement.
Piazza Grande, together with the Modena Cathedral and the nearby Ghirlandina Tower, were recognized by UNESCO in 1997 as a World Heritage Site. The piazza is enclosed to the north and east by the Palazzo Comunale and the Cathedral.
Once you’ve spent a few moments in Piazza Grande, you’ll understand why locals and tourists alike come here to relax, take in the disarming beauty of the Modena Cathedral, and appreciate the unique context in which these outstanding sites are found! At sunset, the atmosphere in Piazza Grande becomes even more special as light transforms the marble of the Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower into a palette of breathtaking pastels.
Immediately adjacent to the Ghirlandina Tower, you’ll find Piazza Torre, also known as Piazzetta delle Rivendugliole, a name that refers to the small greengrocers that were once concentrated here. Today, periodic art and craft markets are held in the shadow of the tower.
Continuing a bit further on the Via Emilia in the direction of Bologna, you’ll come upon another distinctive piazza: Piazza Mazzini. This piazza was established following the dismantling of the Jewish ghetto, of which only the 1873 synagogue remains as the seat of the Jewish community of Modena and Reggio-Emilia. On two sides of the piazza, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings make this recently renovated space a delightful corner of the city.
After a brief stop to rest and refresh, several options can be found in Piazza Mazzini, continue in the same direction along Via Emilia and turn left at Via Farini.
As soon as you start down Via Farini, you’ll be able to glimpse the sumptuous façade of the splendid building that is now the home of the Military Academy, but it will only be once you arrive in Piazza Roma, at the end of the street, that you’ll appreciate its grandeur and size.
Find a seat on one of the modern benches located around the piazza and spend a few minutes taking in the splendid view, the piazza itself, and the delightful play of water in the fountains.
A short distance from Piazza Roma is Piazza San Domenico, named for the church located there.
With the arrival of the Este family, San Domenico, because of its proximity to the Ducal residence, became the official church of the court. Inside the church a beautiful group of 7 terracotta statues by Antonio Begarelli can be seen.
Walk back toward Via Emilia and continue on that street to Largo Porta Sant’Agostino, a large, rectangular piazza where a church of the same name looks out onto the square.
Nearby, on Via della Pomposa, is the Aedes Muratoriana complex, which includes the house in which the distinguished intellectual, Ludovico Antonio Muratori, lived between the 17th and 18th centuries. Muratori is considered the father of Italian historiography, and his residence stands alongside the church of Santa Maria Pomposa, one of the oldest in the city, where Muratori served as the parish priest from 1716 until his death.
Walk back toward Via Emilia and continue on that street to Largo Porta Sant’Agostino, a large, rectangular piazza where a church of the same name looks out onto the square. The imposing Palazzo dei Musei is also located there.
From Via Sant’Agostino, set off on your own through the dense network of streets and alleyways in search of other small piazzas and picturesque corners of the city center. In the small and intimate Piazza San Giacomo, you can admire the graceful Fountain of the Nymph, created by Graziosi in 1926.
Next, head for Piazza San Francesco and the Fountain of San Francesco, also by Graziosi (1938). If time permits, visit the interior of the Church of San Francesco which houses an impressive “Deposition from the Cross” by Antonio Begarelli.
Finally, continue up Corso Canalchiaro toward Piazza Grande and take a detour on your right for Piazzetta della Redecocca, a small space framed by lovely porticos and picturesque houses.