Day 24: To Modena

We caught the 10:09 vaporetto heading to the train and bus station.

I had almost an hour to wait for my train and passed some of the time with a small gelato from Grom, a Florence gelateria but which has outlets around Italy. It was before noon and while I try not to drink before noon, I’ve never had a rule about gelato before noon.

I managed to strong arm my luggage into the overhead rack; avoided any issues changing trains in Bologna Centrale and arrived in Modena.

Modena is city of around 200,000 on the south side of the Po Valley, probably best known for production of Italian sports cars and balsamic vinegar, and the birthplace of Luciano Pavarotti. Modena is in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Its origins are unknown but probably because of the fertile ground has been continuously occupied since at least the Iron Age. By 1336, the Este family were in power. The city remained an independent city state until Italian unification.

The Ducal Palace, initiated by Francesco I d’Este in 1634 and completed by Francis V, was the seat of the Este court from the 17th to 19th century. 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 library. It’s not currently open as it undergoes renovation.

The Cathedral of Modena, called Santa Maria Assunta or the Duomo, and the annexed campanile are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begun under the direction of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany in 1099 and its crypt holds the city’s patron, Saint Geminianus The Duomo of Modena was finished in 1184.

It is famous as a Romanesque building although the exterior has had some “Gothification”. Unusually, the master builder’s name, Lanfranco, was celebrated in his own day. The sculptor Wiligelmus who directed the mason’s yard was praised in the plaque that commemorated the founding.

The program of the sculpture: the wild dangerous universe of the exterior is mediated by the Biblical figures of the portals leading to the Christian world of the interior. 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.

Pavarotti’s funeral was in the Duomo. While I was there, someone was demonstrating the organ to a school group.

The Gothic campanile (1224–1319) is called Torre della Ghirlandina from the bronze garland surrounding the weathercock.

In the Piazza Grande a small shop, Giusti, sells Modena balsamic vinegar, considered the best balsamic vinegar or balsamico as it’s simply called. Giusti claim they have been making balsamico since 1605. You can go inside for a free balsamico tasting.

The bottle of aged DOP balsamico is only 100 ml but the packaging is not fitting with my minimalist travel packing.

Dinner at an informal Osteria just blocks away from celebrity chef Massimo Bottura’s restaurant called Osteria Francescana, which is not informal.

Young people were strolling the streets in the area. Some special event appeared to be happening as samples of food and wine were being offered. But the piazza by the Duomo was quiet.

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