Modena has intrigued me for a while, after all it is the home of balsamic vinegar, with ham, lambrusco and other tasty items also produced locally. And with it being about 30 minutes from Bologna by train it seemed like a good day-trip option for us. Buying train tickets from the machines in Bologna was pretty straightforward but the machines weren’t working in Modena, so we had to wait in line to talk to a person. You can buy roundtrip tickets at the start of the journey but you have to know the exact train you want to return on and we wanted to keep things flexible. It was ~$9.50pp RT.
It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Modena station to the center. Along the way we stopped at the Baroque Ducal palace for photos.
And around the corner we had a nice view of Torre Ghirlandina.
The tower was open, so we paid our 3 euros, and then went up the 200 steps. Along the way we learned about a bucket the town had taken (in 1325) from Bologna as a war trophy…
The windows at the top were heavily caged, but there were some small openings that allowed for unobstructed views of the city below.
Next we checked out the Duomo di Modena, which featured massive brick columns supporting a soaring roof. Around the church we saw lots of carvings, and the terracotta nativity set was a highlight.
Next we checked out Chiesa di San Bartolomeo, which was very quiet and featured an impressively painted ceiling. This church is only open in the morning on certain days, so we are glad we got an opportunity to have a look.
We were just across the street from the Mercato Albinelli, which was staring to get busy with a lunch crowd. The massive porchetta looked amazing, and we were surprised by (and a little jealous of) the large amount of ready made options.
Killing some time before lunch we walked down the famous Collegio Portico, but our attempts to find street art were mostly thwarted.
Next up was lunch at Ristorante da Danilo. Thankfully, Leandra had made a reservation as they were turning some folks away. We were seated under the enclosed outdoor tent and split a half bottle of F.lli Bellei Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (medium dry, nice dark fruit and jammy, light spritz). I went for the pumpkin tortellini in butter, which were lightly sweetened. The parmesan cheese helped balance things, but balsamic would have been nice too – we were surprised that it wasn’t on the table. Leandra decided to try the famous Verde lasagna, which was fairly mild overall. Quite surprisingly, the bread was terrible, probably the only time in Italy we could say that. Staff were rather busy and not too welcoming, and paying was more difficult than it needed to be too. I wouldn’t recommend Danilo, and certainly wouldn’t return.
We didn’t want to order dessert at the restaurant so we returned to the market to try some cannoli I had spied earlier. The baker almost talked us into two, but we decided to save some room for a gelato, and just split the one pistachio and chocolate. The filling was light and delicate, quite nice. We enjoyed it with a view of the Duomo.
After narrowing down the options, Leandra chose a balsamic vinegar tasting at Acetaia Malpighi. Lorenzo was an amazing guide, showering us with information. For example, the white vinegar is made from Trebbiano, while all the others are blend of Trebbiano and Lambrusco. Each spring they transfer a small set amount from larger to smaller barrel, replacing missing liquid with newer each year. Also, the consortium determines all bottling, and vinegar must be in a 100ml circular bottle for the DOC label. For the IGP label, a small amount of vinegar is added to the grape must – 5% for IGP condimenti, and 10% for the standard IGP (which must be 250ml minimum). All of that we learned through a tasting:
- White vinegar – surprisingly sweet, still some acid
- 12 DOC – med thick, less oak, a little acid
- 25 DOC – thick! Lots of oak, not much acid
- 6 yr IGP condimenti- sweet! A little acid, pairs with veggies
- 8 yr IGP condimenti- less fruit, but not as much oak.
- 8 yr IGP (Non condimenti) – good bit of vinegar kick, some sweetness too.
- 20 yr IGP (Non condimenti) – less vinegar than 8y, but more than condimenti (and this is the sweetest In this line)
We ended up coming home with a 250mL bottle of the Aceto Balsamico Di Modena IGP Gold and a 200mL of the Saporoso 6 year.
Our feet needed a break, so we headed over to Bar Manà Modena for a Gavioli Lambrusco and Zaccagnini Moltepuciano and some people watching. Then on the way to the train station we stopped for gelato at GIOELIA Cremeria where I got chocolate, chocolate cherry, and Nutella. Excellent and super creamy!
We are glad we checked out Modena, but I think Bologna is a more interesting city for us. Hopefully we can check out some of the wineries and other producers in the countryside on a future trip.