daytrip to Modena ~ part 1 (2008 trip)

Sunday, July 6th
My plan for Sunday was to travel to Modena. Why would I take a train the day after a long travel day? For a tower of course. The tower in Modena (Torre della Ghirlandina) is only open on Sundays for climbing.

After a wonderful breakfast at Hotel San Porta San Mamolo (they put on quite a spread with pastries, special cakes, cereal, yogurt, bread, ham, cheese, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit as well as any type of coffee and I suppose tea you would like), I headed to the train station. The main piazza in Bologna was so peaceful after my 10 minute walk to the centro. The walk the rest of the way to the train station was a bit longer – about 20 minutes.

I saw this cool old porta (part of a wall with an entry way) as I was near the train station. I decided to walk through it. Ewwww, it smelled of urine (the area near the train station is not a great area) and while somehow not paying attention, I tripped on one of the stones and fell on my hands and one of my knees. Ewwww!!! All I could think of was the yucky urine that I was now probably touching! I got out my little bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted it all over my red hands. I then noticed that one of my toes was bleeding. More hand sanitizer on my toe and then a bandaid.

I used one of the automatic machines at the train station to by my regional ticket. I thought I would miss the train, but for once the train running late was good for me and I just made the train after validating my ticket. The train was full. The last stop was Torino for this train. I am not sure if more people than normal were taking the train because of the planned strike for Monday, or if this was normal for a Sunday in July.

After arriving in Modena and checking out my photocopy of a map I got from one of the Cadogan guides, I was on my way. Right away, I was confused since it seemed to me that I should be going one way, but there was a sign pointing a different way. I stopped and asked a very nice older man for directions. He confirmed that I should be going the way I planned to go. Perhaps the sign was for cars?

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it was a lot less crowded than Bologna. On my way to the centro, I stopped at a bar to use the bathroom. This was my first “floor” bathroom of my trip (I believe the correct name is Turkish bathroom). The woman at the bar was very nice. I had an espresso before leaving and then continued on my way with the tower as my goal.

As I continued my walk, I took lots of photos of the buildings. When I reached the centro where the Duomo and the tower were located, I noticed that the tower was blocked off. I peeked in the Duomo which was next to the tower, but there was a mass going on. It was packed with people. I imagined what it was like when the funeral for Luciano Pavarotti was held there. I saw an open doorway next to the Duomo and thought perhaps that was where I could buy my ticket to climb the tower. I entered the little room and asked the woman if I could climb the tower. She told me that the tower was closed for restoration and the place I was in was where I could buy a ticket for i Musei del Duomo (Duomo museums). I checked out the hours for this museum and said I would be back after I found the tower entrance (since I read that the tower was still open during the restoration period on the Modena website and hoped this was still true).

I walked around the Duomo some more and finally found the entrance to the tower. The ticket cost only 1 euro. What a deal! I started the climb. In a room near the bottom of the tower is the duplicate of the famous bucket.

The tower is supposed to be one of the taller towers in Italy which is open for climbing. However, I was only able to climb up to the Stanza dei Torresani (tower keeper’s room). Both the belfry and the spiral staircase was closed off and the views as I suspected were hidden by the covering placed on the tower during the restoration. I guess I will just have to return once again once the restoration is completed and the entire tower is open for climbing.

Although a little disappointed about the tower, the town of Modena was well worth the visit. In the entrance of the tower is a bell. I did not completely understand the woman’s explanation about this bell, but I believe it was up in the bellfry area previously. As I was about to leave, she told me that there was one more little room below. It was nice and cool in this room (the temperature outside was 35 which I believe is 95 degrees fahrenheit).

The next place I visited was the Palazzo Communale (town hall). This is where the original bucket is kept. I was allowed to walk through a few rooms which were all quite beautiful with wooden furniture and painted ceilings. I also saw the bucket.

I peeked into the Duomo once again. Another mass was happening so I headed back to the little room where I bought a ticket to the Musei del Duomo. The cost was 3 euros and was well worth the price. This was an amazing place to visit! I started off in this outside garden area. I could hear the music from the Duomo while in the garden.

The first of the two museums was the Laidery Museum. This museum had various carvings and sculptures made out of marble or stone. The second museum was called the Cathedral Museum. To reach this museum, you need to go up this beautiful staircase. I tried to take some photos of the staircase but I am not sure if they will show how beautiful it was. No photos were allowed inside the museum. This museum had many rooms. The first few rooms had lots of silver objects, including candlesticks, vases and lamps. The next room held some vestments which were embroidered (the things the priest wears when he gets dressed up fancy). There were also some tapestries as well as other things I am not forgetting about.

As I left, I noticed another staircase in the building where I bought the ticket. I went up the stairs and peeked in and found the priests getting undressed!! Whooops!! Now, when I mean undressed, I mean only that they were taking off the fancy stuff. They seem to wear many layers of clothing and I did not see any of them in their undies. I quickly exited and hoped that none of the priest noticed me.

This meant that finally all of the masses were over and tourists were allowed to visit the Duomo. The visit only lasted for 15 minutes though. I would highly recommend a trip to Modena to see the inside of this Duomo. I could have spent an hour inside. Unfortunately, the man wanting to close the church up for the day was not so friendly. The lights went off and he started shooing everyone out of the church. I took a few photos but I am not sure how they will come out since it was dark inside even with the lights on.

Everything was closed for the afternoon when I left the Duomo and because it was Sunday, many things would probably not re-open. I wandered through some of the streets taking photos. After a while, I wandered into Piazza Mazzini where I found the Jewish Temple. It was very simple but also beautiful.

As I wandered down one of the side streets of the Temple, I started thinking about lunch. I found a restaurant called da Enzo with menu displayed with many good choices. I went inside and up the stairs. The waiters were all very friendly. I ordered the tortelli di ricotta e spinaci a piacere (a sort of ravioli dish, but different shape, filled with ricotta and spinach). I asked it they could make it with burro e salvia (butter and sage). It was soooo good!! One of the things I love about the Emilia-Romagna region is the food.

After lunch, I continued to wander through the town, taking lots of photos along the way. As I headed towards a park, I found the Church of San Francesco. It looked like they were preparing the church for a wedding. There were flowers placed on the end of all of the pews. The only other thing open that I was aware of was part of the Palazzo dei Musei. It was about a 10 or 15 minute walk from the church. The Galleria Estense was the only thing open in this museum complex and it was free. Before heading to the fourth floor to visit this gallery, I wandered through an area where there were lots of statues and other relics. I was not sure if I should be in this area, but no one said anything.

When I reached the fourth floor, I was greeted by a woman and two men. They said something to each other that I did not understand when I showed them my ticket. I think the man at the bottom wrote the wrong thing on the ticket. I asked if there was something wrong with my ticket. They smiled and said it was find. I was given a free book about one of the displays in Italian and a book I could use while there in English that had info on some of the displays. This was another fantastic museum. And it was free!!! I spent quite a bit of time looking at all of the displays. Along with many paintings, there were dishes, musical instruments, and other objects.

I started writing this post last night before dinner. I was too tired to finish it and today I even took a short nap after my day out exploring Bologna. I have more to add but need to head out again ….so, I will continue my daytrip in Modena later.

a presto…

Next up – Sunday in Modena / Part 2

3 thoughts on “daytrip to Modena ~ part 1 (2008 trip)

  1. What fun to read this! You know I’m drooling over all these churches. :)
    And walking in on undressed priests might be even better than the hard hat story!
    And it sounds like you’ve finally found some amazing food – yay!


  2. Our Zia Nena and Zia Didi never miss a mass in the Cathedral. They were inside when you were looking in!
    They live a very short distance from the Cathedral and my Alessandro’s daddy lived straight across the little square from the entrance. If you stand in the doorway and look out, you are looking at the apartment where he lived.
    My father in law went to the Military Academy there.
    I took Alessandro to stay with them for two nights last October. I took him to mass – and we toured the Cathedral afterwards and I made him climb the tower and take pictures for me.
    I was there with my oldest son, Giancarlo, seven years ago. Giancarlo is named after his uncle (Nena and Didi’s brother) who died as a child when the Cathedral was bombed in the war and a wall fell on him and just missed their other sister Elena, who is my boy’s grandmother. He was 13. The same age as Giancarlo, when he was there last.
    I think I have spent about 10 weeks there overall. If I take Alessandro back at Christmas, I’ll be there again.


  3. Hi Girasoli, Modena sounds great! I would also like to someday visit there! So many places and so little time . . . . BTW I never leave for anywhere without my hand sanitizer squirt bottle. On my trips I bring a couple of them! Ya just never know!
    Oh and about walking in on the dressing room . . . an honest mistake right! :)
    I think you’re now in Coccaglio which I had not heard of before so had to google it. It’ll be interesting to hear about it when you return. Thanks again for the great read. Seems like you really enjoyed Modena a lot.


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