Modena & RubieraJanuary 8, 2017 in Italy
Italy has most definitely earned its reputation for great food. After having visited San Daniele where reputedly the best prosciutto is made, then Treviso, the place tirimasù was invented, we were now getting to see the home of balsamic vinegar; Modena. We'd chosen to do a 'City Sunday' to avoid the crowds and make parking easier. The free car park was only a short walk through a large grassed area to the old town area where there was a beautiful Romanesque Cathedral we wanted to visit. Along the way we passed a market that was shutting up. We'd already got some Modena balsamic vinegar in the van so we'd taken the decision that if we saw it for sale in Modena we'd get some, but it was no biggie of we didn't. The majority of Italian markets we've encountered so far have been focussed on clothes and this one was no different, having only one food stall (with no vinegar!)
Modena's old centre was small enough for us to explore in the afternoon and has a theme of pink and white marble running through it, from the pavements to the pillars, buildings and wall mosaics in the 12th century cathedral. Coming into the city, the surroundings felt strongly Italian. Despite the winter temperatures, buildings exuded the feeling of warmth with their rich yellow and orange walls and old wooden shutters, enhanced by curved window frames. The Sunday visit was just what we wanted as there were very few other people around and no sense of hurry to stop us soaking in a very relaxed atmosphere.
Vicky does like a good tower and the cathedral's 86m high Torre Ghirlandina was our first pot of call. Vicky used her Italian to ask the receptionist for 2 tickets and after a short exchange the receptionist asked in Italian "Are you English?" "From Great Britain?" She seemed bemused, possibly wondering why we weren't speaking English to her, but to give her her due she didn't switch to English and Vicky was able to practice her interpretation skills.
The tower had a few small rooms on the way up, the first of which had wall murals and a stary sky ceiling, from which hung a wood and metal bucket. The bucket was a replica of one stolen by the Modenese many centuries ago when they raided lands to the north. They took it as a war trophy and the original remains in the city museum to this day. The highest tower room was uncluttered and windows provided a decent view over the Italian city scape spreading out to the North, East, South and West. Unfortunately metal grills were fixed across the windows but they didn't obscure our sight too much.
Standing beside the tower, Modena Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the inside certainly stood out from all the other cathedrals we'd visited. We're afraid photos weren't allowed but the large building was filled with many smaller sections, each of them richly and grandly decorated. Gold, rich orange, yellow and blue paints adorned the walls and ceilings in domed alcoves, albeit somewhat faded over the centuries. Modena's white and pink marble theme may have begun inside this place if worship, as smooth gargoyle ended banisters made of the same, led us up stairs. We wound our way round pillars to admire marble wall mosaics, huge candelabras and silver incense burners suspended above prayer areas. Dark wood and ancient murals added to the mix and left us spellbound.
To finish off our city tour we enjoyed wandering the streets aimlessly for a while before setting off for the nearby stopover. We picked up a crate of oranges from a roadside stall along the way before arriving at a sports complex car park that was close to the Tetra Pak factory. We were happy to find the water flowing freely from the tap so topped up just in case the next source proved difficult to find. It was a peaceful night that dropped to -6°C and we enjoyed watching the small birds foraging in the leafless trees around the edge of the car park. We'd brought some seed with us from the UK, so left a little out for them before we went.Read more