Bologna: A Day trip to Modena

Emilia-Romagna offers a feast of possibilities to the gourmet. While based in Bologna it was hard to resist the opportunity to wander further afield for within easy reach lies Modena – famed for its balsamic vinegar – and Parma with its prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; Ferrara with a range of special salamis, and many other foodie destinations. However, when I saw Massimo Bottura at his famed restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Modena, on BBC’s Masterchef last year, I promised myself that one day I would go there. So, after I’d booked my trip to Bologna, I booked a table at Osteria Francescana. Knowing I was arriving quite late on Tuesday I tried to get a table for lunch on Thursday but that wasn’t possible. However, they told me they had a table for Wednesday lunchtime so that was it. I had to go then even if it meant leaving Bologna on my first full day and before I’d explored it and go to Modena instead. The lunch was such a special experience in itself that I’ll write a separate blog post at the weekend once I’m home.

Meanwhile the day began with more ordinary fare and breakfast in the hotel’s conservatory.

There was fresh fruit, yogurts, juices and a selection of hams and cheeses and different breads. There were pastries and cakes. I didn’t want to eat too much with the lunch I had planned and settled for something modest and a cup of cappuccino. It was sunny and a lovely morning to look out into the pretty garden over breakfast.

The hotel suggested I might want to take a bus or taxi to the train station as it was a 35 minutes walk. But I’m a big walker on holidays so that didn’t seem far to me as I set off early and had plenty of time. The train to Modena takes only 20 minutes. It was nice to see a little more of Bologna as I made my way through the historic centre and Piazza Maggiore.

The weather was looking a bit greyer by this time, the Duomo was covered in scaffolding, but it was still impressive and the piazza a surprisingly huge space. Walking further on I was excited to find an entire shop devoted to Bialetti coffee makers. This little – or sometimes larger – percolator-style coffee maker is said to be found in every Italian home. I have two: a single and one that will make three espressos. I’ll definitely be going back tomorrow to check this shop out.

I saw shops with their windows full of tortellini and mortadella, but tomorrow will be given over to my real exploration of the food here.

The journey to Modena may have been only 20 minutes but the train was delayed by 40 minutes! By the time I arrived coffee was needed – it was still only 11.00 am so a couple of hours before lunch. I stopped at a typical bar (in main photo at top) for a stand-up coffee, Italian style.

A salumeria was next door.

Walking through Piazza Grande I found another Duomo in scaffolding!

There was still plenty of it to see and admire though. Modena is delightful. Quite small and with lots of covered walkways like Bologna. I love all those ochre colours ranging from burnt gold to rusty orange-red that speak of Italy.

Like Bologna, much of its appeal is in the sense of it being a town where people live rather than a tourist destination. Fortunately the weather was kind and it was quite sunny as I walked round before lunch. The promised rain came while I was eating. When I emerged from the osteria, a couple of hours after entering, I could see it had been raining heavily. The sun was out again but the marble flooring along the walkways were lethally slippery so I had to take great care!

Back in Bologna I just managed to get to the hotel before a huge thunderstorm broke. It was as well I’d eaten a large lunch because I might not be able to get out again! By 8pm the storm had calmed and I decided to risk going in search of a snack of some kind. I asked for advice on where to go from the guy on reception. They’re so helpful here and on a map he showed me some places to look at. I ended up going into Osteria Sotto Sopra, not far away, which I’d noticed yesterday and thought welcoming. It’s more of a bar-cafe; all very simple.


I chose a dish of paccheri pasta (large tubes) with a courgette and mint sauce which was delicious and just right. But first they brought a complimentary bruschetta – still warm and topped with fresh chopped tomato.


Again, it had rained while I was eating but had stopped when I came out of the restaurant. It was quite late and rather than risk wandering and possibly getting soaked if it rained some more, I head back to the hotel after a full and very enjoyable day.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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