The Perfect Modena Day Trip Itinerary

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by Michael Rozenblit

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If there was one city that we absolutely fell in love with during our time in Italy, it was undoubtedly Modena. A charming town full of grand piazzas, quaint streets and a culinary scene that will certainly leave you a few pounds heavier once you inevitably depart. Despite Modena being postcard-perfect, visitors were surprisingly few with those exploring being limited to tourists on a short Modena day trip, probably combined with other nearby destinations.

We ended up spending three days in the city, gorging ourselves on the delicacies of Emilia-Romagna, taking long aimless strolls through the town and exploring the nearby attractions. And while we wholeheartedly recommend travellers do the same and spend a few days falling in love with this gorgeous town, it’s also possible to see the best of this city even if you only have one day in Modena.

Getting To & Around Modena

Modena is easily reachable from other nearby towns in Emilia Romagna. Most travellers exploring the region tend to base themselves in Bologna – another fantastic city that deserves a few days being explored. For a Bologna to Modena day trip, trains take approximately thirty minutes and cost around €4-6 one way.

Make sure to take the regional trains rather than the Intercity trains as they are three times cheaper and usually only take about five to ten minutes longer. To get to Modena from other towns, you can check the schedules here.

Modena train station is about a ten to fifteen-minute walk from the centre of town.

Once in the city, it’s very easy to get around the centre of Modena on foot and most attractions are quite accessible between each other. If you end up going to visit an acetaia or to Maranello for the Ferrari Museum, there is also a good bus system that is easily navigable should you need it.

Beautiful Modena 
Beautiful Modena 

Modena Day Trip Itinerary

Visit Mercato Albinelli – Modena’s Central Market

Modena is a foodie’s paradise and there’s absolutely no better way to start your day trip to Modena than by visiting Mercato Albinelli (Albinelli Market) – Modena’s central food market and a place where many locals do their grocery shopping.

At the market, you will find everything your stomach could possibly desire including fresh fruit and vegetables, hundreds of varieties of pasta, and deli meats and cheeses.

Spend some time exploring the market before choosing a few of your favourite stalls and buying some fresh bread, meat and cheese to enjoy for breakfast. For €6 we bought enough bread, meat and cheese for the two of us for breakfast as well as having some leftovers for snacking throughout the day.

The market is open every day except Sunday.

Fresh pasta at Mercato Albinelli
Fresh pasta at Mercato Albinelli

Get lost and explore Modena

The charm of Modena will become apparent as you spend your morning strolling through the gorgeous town. In Modena, all roads will inevitably lead to Piazza Grande – with the striking 12th-century cathedral capturing visitors with its impressive architecture.

You can enter the cathedral (the Duomo di Modena) for free and also climb the adjacent Ghirlandina Tower fora small if you want to build a bit of an appetite for lunch. For us, the real joy of this area was simply sitting on one of the benches in Piazza Grande and watching the world go by.

From Piazza Grande, take one of the numerous alleyways to Ducal Palace on the other side of Modena overlooking Piazza Roma.

This is one of the largest Baroque palaces in Italy and aside from its spectacular architecture, it has a lovely courtyard that is another popular hangout area for locals and tourists.

Apart from visiting these sites, take your time to walk down random alleyways or hop into a cafe for an espresso to truly start appreciating the beauty of this town.

Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower in modena
Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower

Indulge in a gastronomic lunch

Modena could easily lay claim to being not only the culinary capital of Italy but also the world. It boasts what is considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world – Osteria Francescana – which requires bookings months in advance.

If you’re willing to plan in advance but can’t justify the hundreds of euros per person tasting menu of Osteria Francescana, then a fantastic option is to visit Hosteria Giusti.

Made famous by the Netflix series Master of None, Hosteria Giusti is set at the back of a local deli, has four tables and is only open for lunch five days per week, making it difficult to get a table but incredibly worth it.

Each dish served was incredible including gnocco fritto, tortellini en brodo and guinea fowl drizzled with local balsamic vinegar. Three courses and wine will set you back about €50-60 per person and you need to book a table about two to three months in advance.

Tortellini en brodo from Hosteria Giusti
Tortellini en brodo from Hosteria Giusti

If planning ahead isn’t your strong suit but you still want a delicious meal then I highly recommend visiting Ristorante da Danilo. They serve traditional home-cooked food and have incredibly friendly waiters that will explain every last menu item.

While bookings are advised here, they are very accommodating, particularly if you arrive early during the lunch period. The tortelloni in balsamico and lasagna verde are highly recommended!

If you still have room after lunch, make sure to stop Gioelia Cremeria for possibly the best gelato you will ever eat in your life.

Tortelloni from Ristorante da Danilo
Tortelloni from Ristorante da Danilo

Go on a Balsamic Vinegar Tour

If you happen to have a bottle of balsamic vinegar in your kitchen pantry, chances are it’ll be called ‘Balsamic Vinegar of Modena’.

Don’t be fooled though, the stuff you buy in the supermarket is a poor imitation of the traditional product that you can sample in Modena. In order to have that label only part of the production (e.g. the bottling) has to occur in Modena.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for at least 12 years, can’t have any additives and must be approved by the Consortium of Balsamic Vinegar in Modena.

You can sample the traditional product all over Modena, including the central market, however, in order to get a true appreciation of the production process I highly recommend visiting a local acetaia where the glorious liquid is produced.

Barrels storing balsamico
Barrels storing balsamico

While paid tours are available from Modena, you can actually visit many of the acetaia for free on your Modena day trip. We visited Acetaia Del San Donnino which has seen famous visitors such as Mark Zuckerburg and Pierce Brosnan whose photos are proudly displayed on the wall.

During our one-hour visit, we were given a full explanation of the production process, toured the storerooms and had five tastings (including one with ice cream!). There is no hard sell to buy their products but if you’re anything like most people, you will undoubtedly want to take a bottle or two home with you!

From Modena, take Bus 2A to San Donnino and get off at the last stop. It’s then about a ten-minute walk from the bus stop to the acetaia. Tickets can be purchased on the bus directly from the driver.

Acetaia Del San Donnino
Acetaia Del San Donnino

Enjoy a relaxing aperitivo

It’ll surely come as no surprise to you that the last item on our things to do when seeing Modena in a day involves more food! Aperitivo is a pre-dinner tradition in Italy whereby you visit your favourite local bar and enjoy a drink accompanied by some delicious snacks.

While bars will start offering aperitivo from around 5-6pm, you won’t see many locals until at least 7 pm.

One of our favourite places for aperitivo in Modena and fantastic value for money is Caffetteria Giusti. Located close to Ducal Palace, this traditional bar has ample outdoor seating and €6 will get you a spritz accompanied by an amazing selection of snacks such as olives, nuts, focaccia and crisps.

If you’re after something more hip and modern, then Stile Libero is a local pub popular with a younger crowd that has a fantastic range of craft beers and other drinks which are accompanied by a range of crisps.

Aperitivo from Caffetteria Giusti
Aperitivo from Caffetteria Giusti

Want to stay longer in Modena?

Whether it’s reading more about Modena or simply compiling a never-ending list of restaurants you want to eat at in Modena, there’s a chance that researching your Modena day trip will lead you to want to add more days to your Modena itinerary!

There are plenty more things to do in Modena that can easily fill up a couple of additional days including visiting the Enzo Ferrari Museum, taking a tour of one of the local Parmigiano Reggiano dairies or even taking a day trip to a nearby town such as Parma.

Where to Stay in Modena

Room & Breakfast Canalino 21 – A good budget option for solo travellers or couples in Modena. They offer a range of private rooms including cheaper ones with shared bathroom. Breakfast is included daily.

Il Fonticolo Room & Breakfast – A boutique bed & breakfast that is a great option for couples or if travelling with children. Rooms are spacious, well decorated and breakfast is included in the price.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse available hotel rooms in Modena.

Charming streets of Modena
Charming streets of Modena

Our time in Modena was quite possibly the highlight of our trip to Northern Italy. While it’s certainly possible to enjoy the best of the town on a day trip, we highly recommend spending a few nights here if only to be able to sample some more fantastic local restaurants!

Are you planning to visit Modena? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael


  1. We are going to Modena in 18 days for a business function. We have some very good friends who live there also? We will be there 3 days, one of which the ladies will be on our own. Your recommendations sound wonderful and are something we will try. Will most likely take a taxi to the Balsamic facility. What should we expect to pay for the taxi there. Thank you.

  2. I’m a Londoner who’s lived in Modena for years. I agree with every word you wrote. Well done. Just one extra bit if info though: the cathedral and Piazza Grande are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the great article about Modena, it sounds like a magic day out.
    We are heading to Bologna for a short break in a couple of weeks and would like to visit Modena. I think the itinerary would be perfect for us.

    Cheers, Colin.


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