Cars and cucina – perhaps Francescana and Ferrari – are the two things that bring most visitors to this city in Italy’s ‘food bowl’, Emilia-Romagna. The startlingly white Romanesque cathedral, with its 90-metre-high belltower, is impressive – and the passion and design skill of Enzo Ferrari, as explained through the museum dedicated to him in his family home, are inspiring. But I’m here for the cucina and that’s what determines my top 5 Modena city guide.
Stay Hotel Canal Grande
While this old palazzo looks slightly shabby-chic from the front, its charming terrace overlooking a shady flower-filled garden, comfy rooms, and friendly staff, make it an ideal base. Best of all it’s 5-10 minutes’ walk from all the main sights, including Osteria Francescana and the small Albinelli Market and central piazza.
Fine Dining Osteria Francescana
Book well ahead to nab one of the 12 tables for the 9-course tasting menu, which ranges from an almost-classic tortellini in parmesan cream to the very modernist ‘Caesar salad in bloom’ pre-dessert. If you aren’t quick enough, the casual, less expensive Franceschetta 58 is a delicious alternative.
Trattoria Trattoria Bianca
Popular with Modena locals after traditional dishes – salumi comes with excellent gnocchi fritti, beef tartare is theatrically prepared tableside, and cappello del prete (boiled salumi similar to cotechino) is served with cheesy potato puree. Service is warm and the rooms buzz with people enjoying food, wine and each other’s company.
Balsamic Vinegar Acetaia di Giorgio
This is the only remaining acetaia (vinegar producer) within the city area, rather than in the surrounding countryside (see Pedroni below). The fourth-generation of the Barbieri family welcomes guests into the family home, built in 1870, for a tour and tasting of the precious barrels stored in the attic rooms.
Out of Town Osteria Rubbiara
About 30 minutes’ drive from the city, Italo Pedroni and his family make traditional and commercial balsamic vinegar (PDO & IGT) and nocino, local green walnut liqueur. Ricotta tortellini with butter and balsamic in their casual osteria, with a glass of pale pink Lambrusco, was one of my most memorable meals ever.
If you get the chance: plan well ahead to get a table at tiny (24 seat) Hosteria Giusti at the back of an ancient provedore near the Ducal Palace … by all accounts it’s worth it (we weren’t quick enough so will have to wait until next time to find out first hand).
Also the Enzo Ferrari Museum, in what was the Ferrari family home, is a pleasant 17-minute stroll from Hotel Canale Grande through the Botanic Gardens. It gives an inspirational insight into the man who created the Ferrari legend as well as showcasing some very beautiful cars, classic and modern.