My kids have been asking to see the Italian car museums, so we hopped in the car and spent some time exploring the area. We used Modena as our base and although it’s tiny, it had enough to keep the little ones interested for a few days.
Modena, one of Italy’s foodie towns, is a perfect place to slow down and just enjoy being in Italy. Unlike powerhouses like Venice or Florence, it doesn’t have a long checklist of things to see or do. The beauty of Modena is sampling area foods (like parmigiano Reggiano) and soaking up the scene (especially from a café table overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Piazza Grande / the Modena Cathedral / the Ghirlandina Tower).
I know what you’re thinking – how can I slow down with kids? You can spend your days out exploring, and then head back to Modena for an evening stroll and dinner. You’ll want to spend at least a half day exploring the town and seeing what makes Modena special.
If your kids are up to it, do a balsamic vinegar tasting (suggestion below) – after all, Modena is the home of aceto balsamico – balsamic vinegar!
Traveling with your kids in the area? Check out our post on Visiting Emilia-Romagna with Kids!
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Where is Modena?
Modena is a small city in northern Italy located in the southern part of the Po Valley. It’s in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region between the cities of Parma and Bologna.
How to Pronounce Modena
Modena is pronounced MOH-deh-nah.
Listen to it here:
Good To Know: Modena is often mispronounced because in Italian, the penultimate syllable is stressed.
Why Visit Modena with Kids?
We recommend a visit to Modena with kids for families who want:
- A good base near the area’s car museums
- A small, manageable city
- Affordable hotels and apartments
- Access to flat, established cycling routes
- Excellent cuisine for kids and adults
Skip Modena if you’re looking for gorgeous playground and green areas for kids or a large metropolis full of famous museums and monuments.
Things to Do in Modena with Kids
Modena’s atmospheric market is a colorful, lively spot and kids will delight in seeing the foods on display, sampling some of them, and practicing Italian while making purchases.
You can take a seat and eat in the market or purchase picnic supplies for lunch.
Enzo Ferrari Museum
One of the Ferrari museums is on the northern edge of town and just a 5–10-minute walk from the Modena train station. The Enzo Ferrari Museum looks at his history and is located on the property where he was born. The building that displays the Ferraris is futuristic, light, and airy, and you can get check out the cars through history. Kids will love seeing the vehicles, sitting in a Ferrari, and choosing their favorite car from the wall of printed cars.
Good To Know: If you’re visiting Modena with car fans, check to see if there are any car shows going on during your visit, like the Modena Motor Gallery.
Balsamic Vinegar Tasting
Balsamic vinegar tastings aren’t exactly kid friendly. Many (like the one at the Acetaia Comunale in Piazza Grande) are mostly explanations of the process, which is very interesting, but not for little ones.
We recommend the banco (stall) at the Albinelli market (on the right close to the entrance). It’s a small space, but you can do a quick tasting of the different types of aceto balsamico. My four-year-old and one-year-old each tried the different kinds of vinegar and loved the balsamic vinegar cookies. You can also ask questions and learn the basics of vinegar and the process.
Climb the Ghirlandina Tower
Kids love climbing towers! Climb the 200 stone steps (with anti-slip strips) to the top of the tower for views of Piazza Grande and Modena. You can park your stroller inside at the base of the tower and climb up with a carrier or backpack.
My four-year-old loved it and we let our 1-year-old out of the carrier at the top and he loved checking out the views. The windows up top are all caged so it’s safe for little ones.
Older kids can read about the Room of the Stolen Bucket, and you can talk about the time capsule you see in the scientific instrument room.
Good To Know: This is a relatively easy tower to climb (not many stairs, plenty of space on way up and down, a couple of places to rest near the beginning) compared to other taller ones in Italy. If you’ve got a little one that wants to try a tower climb, this is a good one to start with.
When you get back down to the base, point out the stone animals and faces on the walls of the tower.
Check out the Duomo
Kids will want to check out the Duomo on all sides, including the huge stone lions, the Biblical reliefs, the rose window, and the angel on top.
There’s often music playing in the front, and adults can enjoy aperitivo while little ones chase the birds or listen to the music.
We loved this area all times of the day. It’s beautiful, lively, and a great spot to sit and relax (if your kids allow you to do that!).
Good To Know: Little ones will want to stop by the small toy shop on Corso Duomo.
Play in Piazza Grande
Kids will also enjoy playing in Piazza Grande (careful with little ones on the big round stones) and looking up at the tower they climbed.
Good To Know: There are clean public toilets in Piazza XX Settembre, just steps from Piazza Grande.
Go to the Playground
Honestly, we were disappointed in Modena’s green areas for kids, and so were the local parents we spoke to. The best place near the center is Parco Sandro Pertini. It has a small, fenced (low) playground with padded ground. There are swings (no baby swing), bouncy toys, a couple of games, small toys to climb on, and a balance beam. The main climbing structure is being replaced.
It’s shaded and there are plenty of benches. Our kids spent most of the time chasing the birds around the park.
You can also visit Parco Ducale Estense and look at the fountains, fish and turtles.
Sample the Local Foods
This region (Emilia Romagna) is one of the best in Italy for food, so let the little ones experience it too!
Sample parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and aceto balsamico. Try stuffed pastas like tortellini and ravioli. Your kids may want to taste mortadella, tagliatelle al ragù, or bensone.
Explore the Small Streets and Porticoes
Modena is an excellent city to explore on foot, and kids love the small lanes, walking under the porticoes, and finding new piazzas.
See a Soccer Game
Modena’s calcio stadium is just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo, and it’s small and easy to manage with children. Kids young and old will enjoy going to a soccer game and if you’re not ready to tackle a Serie A game yet, a day or evening spent watching Modena’s Serie B squad is an excellent choice.
Go Cycling on Modena’s Paths
This part of Italy is flat(!), which means it’s perfect for cycling with kids. You can cycle in and around Modena (best for older kids who are confident cyclists), or ride on one of the area’s bike routes, like the Modena-Vignola trail or Modena-Mirandola-Finale Emilia trail (both on old rail lines). Rent bikes from a local shop and enjoy the very flat, well-marked routes on paths or country roads.
Things to Do Near Modena with Kids
Museo Ferrari Maranello
Ferrari’s ‘other’ museum is in nearby Maranello (15 km from Modena), and it shares its location with the Ferrari factory. A hit with anyone who’s passionate about cars (and even those who aren’t). It showcases many Ferraris through the ages, trophies of champions, engines, history of the brand. We loved this museum!
Museo Automobili Lamborghini
The Lamborghini Museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese (20 km from Modena) is small but packs a punch with its colorful and varied Lamborghinis, unique digital displays, and life-size LEGO Lamborghini. We loved sitting outside and watching and hearing the Lamborghinis being tested on the road in front of the museum.
Just outside Bologna, the Ducati Motorcycle Museum (35 km from Modena) houses Ducatis through the ages, as well as racing mementos. It’s well-displayed and fun for the entire family to visit.
Autodromo Riccardo Paletti
Kids and adults race cars and motorcycles at the Varano Autodromo (95 km from Modena). Check the schedule to see if there are any events or practices while you’re in the area.
Helpful Tip: Bring noise-protection headphones for kids and earplugs for adults.
Tour a Parmigiano Cheese Factory
If you can’t make it to nearby Parma for a visit to a caseificio (cheese factory), head just outside of town (8 km from Modena) to 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia Parmigiano. This parmigiano factory that gives tours and has tastings.
We love eating parmigiano in the area – it’s even better than the parmigiano we eat in our home just a couple of hours away!
Read more about Visiting Parma with Kids!
Labirinto della Masone (Mason’s Labyrinth)
Just outside Parma, you can find your way through the world’s largest bamboo labyrinth. Our kids loved finding their way through the labyrinth (75 km from Modena) and older kids will want to check out the skull paintings in the owner’s art collection on the property.
Read more about Visiting Mason’s Labyrinth!
What to Eat in Modena with Kids
At first glance, Modena isn’t kid-friendly. After all, it’s famously home to the Michelin 3-star restaurant Osteria Francescana. It’s also home to one-star L’Erba del Re, well-known Hosteria Giusti and other excellent ‘foodie finds.’
However, the great thing is there are so many amazing restaurants. And they aren’t all ‘fancy,’ so check out the menu, and if it looks good, try it! The area has plenty of kid-friendly food – ours love tortellini, tigelle, and torta fritta. You’ll even find plenty of ‘gourmet burgers’ on menus in town.
Helpful Tip: If you need a highchair, ask as soon as you enter the restaurant. We found highchairs to be rare in Modena.
What We Do: We buy picnic supplies at the Albinelli market or the grocery store for lunch and have dinner at a restaurant (or we cook at our apartment). Our kids love picking out our picnic supplies.
Where to Stay in Modena with Kids
If you’re planning on visiting the car museums and other nearby attractions best reached by car, stay in Modena, just outside the historic center. That way, you can walk into Modena when you want to, but you can also find parking easily each day when you come back from exploring.
We recently stayed in Verdi Due – a spacious 2-bedroom apartment with everything you’d need for a visit with a family. It’s on the 3rd floor, but there is an elevator. The only child dangers (common in Italy) – electrical sockets are not covered, and the windows do not have bars or protection (keep them closed and keep chairs away).
Getting to Modena with Kids
Driving to Modena is simple and stress-free. It’s on the A1 Autostrada between Bologna and Parma.
Parking: It’s easiest to park just outside the center and walk in. Park in blue spaces (pay or use the parking disco – check the signs) or find an unmarked space on side streets (park parallel or perpendicular – see what the other cars are doing).
We stayed just outside the center and were always able to find a spot but found the evenings a little more challenging.
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Italian Toll Roads – Driving on the Autostrada
Paying Tolls in Italy
Parking in Italy + Parking Sign Translations
Good To Know: If you’re driving to Modena on the Autostrada, you can stop at an Eataly Autogrill!
Modena is easily reached by train. The Modena train station (Stazione di Modena) is on the northern edge of the historic center. You can walk from the station to Piazza del Duomo in 15 minutes (1 kilometer).
The best airport to reach Modena is Bologna (BLQ). From the Bologna airport, you can take a shuttle bus or train to reach the center of Modena.
Alternate airports for Modena: Verona (VRN), Milan Malpensa (MXP), Milan Linate (LIN), Bergamo (BGY), Venice (VCE), or Florence (FLR).
Getting Around Modena with Kids
Walking is the easiest way to move around. The center is small enough that you can park your car and visit the entire town on foot – even for little kids.
If you have older kids who are confident cyclists, you can rent bikes in one of the small shops in town. Modena has cycling lanes and wide roads outside the center, and we observed only light traffic and calm drivers. There are some stony areas (like in Piazza Grande) that aren’t bike-friendly.
What We Do: I would let my 8-year-old ride here, but not my 4-year-old.
Older kids and adults can take advantage of Modena’s free bike share (C’entro in Bici). You just need to bring your ID and a small deposit to the tourist info office.
Modena Logistics with Kids
Strollers – Modena’s streets are very stroller friendly. The boulevards and streets outside of the historic center have wide sidewalks (that include a cycling lane). In the historic center, sometimes the sidewalks are narrower, but we found them easy to navigate. Sometimes you’re on smooth pavement under porticoes, and other times you’re rolling on large stones.
Changing Diapers – We found many toilets with changing tables, but it’s still best to bring a portable or disposable changing mat for changes ‘on the fly.’ You can find diapers and other baby supplies at pharmacies and grocery stores.
Eating – Modena is one of Italy’s top food cities, but most foodie visitors are adults without families. We didn’t see many highchairs, so you may need to keep baby in the stroller or on your lap.
Traffic in the Center – The streets aren’t car-free, but there are pedestrian areas. Taxis can still enter pedestrian areas, so always stay close to little kids.
Can you eat at Hosteria Giusti with children?
While you could eat at the four-table Hosteria Giusti with children, you may want to purchase delicious picnic supplies and have a more relaxed meal on your own.
Can you eat at Osteria Francescana with kids?
You can dine at Osteria Francescana with kids, but it’s best to only visit at lunchtime with older children who appreciate food and who can sit through the meal quietly. Keep in mind that many of the Osteria’s diners plan their vacations around a meal at Osteria Francescana.
Is the Museo della Figurina worth visiting with children?
Honestly, we feel it’s most interesting for adults who grew up with figurine and those interested in the history of them.
Should we do an acetaia tour with kids?
A visit to an acetaia can be interesting for older children who want to know about the process of making balsamic vinegar. Younger kids will most likely be bored or get antsy during the visit (usually a lot of talking).
Is Modena’s Galleria Estense a good place to visit with children?
If you’re interested in the Estense art and you have a baby, the gallery is stroller friendly and quiet, so by all means, go! If you’re traveling with young kids, there’s not much to keep their interest, so you may want to pass or let one adult visit while the other stays with a napping little one.