Love Touring Italy - The Emilia Subregion
feature for Modena: The pleasures of working your way around the world
you ever wanted to just stop whatever you are doing, throw some clothes
in a suitcase or backpack, and head off for endless travels around the
world? Escape the madness and stress of the normal daily life and
really live? This is something that most of us just dream about -
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map of Modena, Italy
a city and a comune (municipality) on the south side of the Po valley,
in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.
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An ancient town, it is the
seat of an archbishop, but is now best known as "the capital of engines",
since the factories of the famous Italian sports car makers Ferrari, De
Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are located here and all, except
Lamborghini, have headquarters in the city or nearby.
Lamborghini is headquartered
not far away in a small village (Sant'Agata Bolognese) in the adjacent
Province of Bologna.
The University of Modena,
founded in 1175 and expanded by Francesco II d'Este in 1686, has traditional
strengths in Economics, Medicine and Law. Italian officers are trained
at the Italian Military Academy, located in Modena, and partly housed in
the Baroque ducal palace. The Biblioteca Estense houses historical volumes
and 3,000 manuscripts.
Modena is well known in culinary
circles for its production of balsamic vinegar.
Famous Modenesi include Mary
of Modena, the Queen consort of England; operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti
(1935-2007) and soprano Mirella Freni, born in Modena itself; the Catholic
Priest and Senior Exorcist of Vatican Fr. Gabriele Amorth; and the rock
singer Vasco Rossi who was born in Zocca, one of the 47 comuni in the Province
The Cathedral and the
The Cathedral of Modena
and the annexed campanile are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begun under
the direction of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany with its first stone laid
June 6, 1099 and its crypt ready for the city's patron, Saint Geminianus,
and consecrated only six years later, the Duomo of Modena was finished
in 1184. The building of a great cathedral in this flood-prone ravaged
former center of Arianism was an act of urban renewal in itself, and an
expression of the flood of piety that motivated the contemporary First
Crusade. Unusually, the master builder's name, Lanfranco, was celebrated
in his own day: the city's chronicler expressed the popular confidence
in the master-mason from Como, Lanfranco: by God's mercy the man was found
(inventus est vir). The sculptor Wiligelmus who directed the mason's yard
was praised in the plaque that commemorated the founding. The program of
the sculpture is not lost in a welter of detail: the wild dangerous universe
of the exterior is mediated by the Biblical figures of the portals leading
to the Christian world of the interior. In Wiligelmus' sculpure at Modena,
the human body takes on a renewed physicality it had lost in the schematic
symbolic figures of previous centuries. At the east end, three apses reflect
the division of the body of the cathedral into nave and wide aisles with
their bold, solid masses. Modena's Duomo inspired campaigns of cathedral
and abbey building in emulation through the valley of the Po.
The Gothic campanile
(1224-1319) is called Torre della Ghirlandina from the bronze garland surrounding
The Ducal Palace
The Ducal Palace, begun by
Francesco I d'Este in 1634 and finished by Francis V, was the seat of the
Este court from the 17-19th century. The palace occupies the site of the
former Este Castle, once located in the periphery of the city. Although
generally credited to Bartolomeo Avanzini, it has been suggested that advice
and guidance in the design process had been sought from the contemporary
luminaries, Cortona, Bernini, and Borromini.
The Palace currently houses
the Accademia Militare di Modena, the Military Museum and a precious Library.
The Palace has a Baroque
façade from which the Honour Court, where the military ceremonies
are held, and the Honour Staircase can be accessed. The Central Hall has
a frescoed ceiling with the 17th century Incoronation of Bradamante by
Marco Antonio Franceschini. The Salottino d'Oro ("Golden Hall"), covered
with gilted removable panels, was used by Duke Francis III as his main
cabinet of work.
Facing the Piazza Grande
(a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Town Hall of Modena was put together
in the 17th-18th centuries from several pre-existing edifices built from
1046 as municipal offices.
It is characterized by a
Clock Tower (Torre dell'Orologio, late 15th century), once paired with
another tower (Torre Civica) demolished after an earthquake in 1671. In
the interior, noteworthy is the Sala del Fuoco ("Fire Hall"), with a painted
frieze by Niccolò dell'Abate (1546) portraying famous characters
from Ancient Rome against a typical Emilia background. The Camerino dei
Confirmati ("Chamber of the Confirmed") houses one of the symbols of the
city, the Secchia Rapita, a bucket kept in memory of the victorious Battle
of Zappolino (1325) against Bologna. This relic inspired the poem of the
same title by Alessandro Tassoni. Another relic from the Middle Ages in
Modena is the Preda Ringadora, a rectangular marble stone next to the palace
porch, used as a speakers' platform, and the statue called La Bonissima
("The Very Good"): the latter, portraying a female figure, was erected
in the square in 1268 and later installed over the porch.
The Palace Museum, on the
St. Augustine square, is an example of civil architecture from the Este
period, built as a Hostel for the Poor together with the nearby Hospital
in the late 18th century. Today it houses the main museums of Modena:
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Estense Gallery, with works
by Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Guido Reni, Correggio, Cosmé Tura
and the Carracci brothers. The most famous works are the two portraits
of Francis I d'Este, a sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and a canvas by
Estense Library, one of the
most important libraries in Italy.
Museum of Mediaeval and Modern
Municipal Museum of Risorgimento.
Este Headstones Museum.
Graziosi Chalks Gallery.
Archaeological and Ethnological