In the 16th century, Modena served as the capital of the Ducato degli Estensi (House of Este dynasty), and in 1997 the small area comprising the Modena cathedral, the Torre Civica (Torre della Ghirlandina) and Piazza Grande were declared UNESCO world heritage sites. Modena embodies two thousand years of history and culture, ready to be appreciated by tourists.
Palazzo Ducale, Modena
In the Ghirlandina Tower, one revels in a superb exhibit of an authentic copy of La Secchio Rapita (1622). The Stolen Bucket, written by Alessandro Tassoni, became the symbol, par excellence, of the rivalry between Modena and its neighbouring city, Bologna. This epic poem takes readers back to the war of 1325, when the citizens of Modena stormed the walls of Bologna and snatched from a public well, on via San Felice, a communal bucket that the Modanesi raised as a token of their invasion.
The Duomo and its Piazza (later renamed Piazza Grande) were founded almost a thousand years ago. The first stone of the Duomo was laid in 1099, and the Piazza, established in the 12th century, has become the beating heart of Modena. In front of the Piazza are the portals of the Palazzo Comunale.
Palazzo Comunale and Duomo, Modena
The Duomo, one of the most elegant buildings of Romanesque Europe, displays the architectural genius of Lanfranco (c. 1099-1110), whereas its sculptures are the creations of Wiligelmo, better known as Gugliemo da Modena (c. 1099-1120); on the reliefs carved on the Palazzo’s façade are his representations of religions scenes inspired by The Book of Genesis.
In addition to this triad of great historical merit recognized by UNESCO, it is essential to add the Palazzo Ducale the Ducal Palace, that has now become the headquarters of the Accademia Militare dell’Esercito (Military Academy). It houses the Estense court that was transferred from Ferrara to Modena in 1598.
Another destination point is the Palazzo dei Musei at the Largo Porta Sant’Agostino, considered the core of cultural life in Modena. Within its rooms, one discovers the Musei Civici, the Estense Gallery (home of artworks by masters apothecary shop where spices are prepared according to ancient monk recipes.
Castelvetro di Modena
One breathes in history everywhere in Modena, but also in the little neigbouring towns. There is the Circuito dei 17 Castelli (the chain of the 17 castles of Modena): a journey of sorts that encompasses a number of adjoining hamlets of the province. The trip begins with the Castello dei Pico a Mirandola (entirely dedicated to the genius of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a scholar and philosopher, part of Lorenzo il Magnifico’s court in Florence (who first espoused the idea of human freedom), and continues with Rocca Estense of San Felice on the Panaro, passing by the Palazzo dei Pio a Carpi, the Castelli di Formigine and Spilamberto, Rocca di Vignola, the Castle Levizzano di Castelvetro, and finally Rocca di Montese and the Castello di Sestola in the Apennines.
(Translation Antonio D'Alfonso)