Modena: More than just Aceto Balsamico

I am smitten by Modena.

When I visited for the first time, by train with friends, it was for roughly 12 hours on a Saturday. The skies were overwhelmingly grey and mist stained the air. Yet, the burnt orange painted walls of the building still seduced my eyes at each glance. As we ventured through the bustling streets, full of families and friends grabbing late morning coffees and cornetti, we yearned to fit in. We wandered in and out of the center, from the photography museum to the markets. I discovered that Modena is in fact the birthplace of Pavarotti. There is a museum for him as well as an Opera Theater (Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti.) Having studied opera and vocal performance for quite some time, it only inclined me to seek more of Modenese history.

Of course, we lingered around the two markets we came across. It introduced us to the charming Modenesi who were enigmatic to hear that it was our first time in their city. They complimented us for our endeavors in learning and speaking Italian, which was rather uplifting since, in Firenze, I am only ever corrected, rarely complimented. I also initiated my descent deep into Emilia Romagna’s seductive world of cheese, beyond the notable Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. As I tasted more Modenese cuisine, I was sold, ready to send in my transfer papers to the local university.

Of course rationality kicked in eventually, I think.

I finally came back to Modena after 3 months. I wish that was not the case, but I was super excited nonetheless. I babbled the whole drive there. The boyfriend almost imploded from annoyance. Eh, he got over it the moment he saw the Ferraris.

This trip I arrived by car, which enabled me to see the outskirts of the city along with Modena’s industrial image. The city is widely known for its manufacturing of machinery, recognized by luxurious Modenese brands like Ferrari and Maserati. It also manufactures quality agriculture apparatuses, given the sturdy agriculture industry that Emilia Romagna possesses.

Since I was traveling with my car fanatic boyfriend, we decided to first stop at Museo Enzo Ferrari. A quick PSA; there are two Ferrari Museums in Modena: Museo Enzo Ferrari and Museo Ferrari Maranello. The former emphasizes the history of the brand while the latter focuses more on the F1. We only went to Museo Enzo Ferrari, due to time and hunger. It was pretty cool to see all the amazing vehicles designed over the years. I can also say that they make a smooth and fancy macchiato at their bar.



We finally headed into the center, which was where my true excitement began. Provided that it was a Wednesday in January, the behavior of the city was largely different from that of a Saturday in early October. The streets were arguably vacant, with a couple of groups of people popping up here and there. The incandescent burnt orange buildings reflected the gorgeously sunny day.

I want to keep it short and focus on the trattoria I knew to eat lunch at. I ate lunch there the last time. It is place that made me feel at home. Well, the Modenese home that I had growing up in some other dimension. Trattoria Aldina serves food the way I like it best. One menu of the day, recited by the waiter and not written anywhere. The list usually includes typical dishes such as tortellini in brodo, lasagna, and filetto di maialino all’aceto balsamico. The prices are honest, around 7 EUR for a primo of fresh pasta (not including the tortelloni.) The lasagna is absolutely mouthwatering. It is also does not hit your stomach like a brick, like the dish tends to do back in the States.

Do not, I repeat, skip out on their desserts. Their torta cioccolata was phenomenal. Its fudgy yet not overly dense. Rich, but not too sweet. I did not know if it was torta barozzi, a well known Modenese chocolate brownie like cake, because I have never tried it. (Another reason to return.) They called it torta cioccolata, so I assume it wasn’t. It is not in the pictures either, we ate it in maybe under a minute, so you just gotta go there and try it for yourself.


Lasagna verde and Lambrusco (well known wine from the Emilia Romagna region)
Modenese Tortelloni (con spinaci e ricotta) burro e salvia // tortelloni (much larger version of tortellini) made of spinach and ricotta in a butter and sage sauce

The place had to be an apartment prior to its establishment, with the shape of the space. It is located on the second level of a building that is right across from the Mercato Albinelli, the ultimate playground for market lovers. All local (and imported) ingredients under one, insulated roof. No frozen fingers grasping on for dear life to bags of glorious goods.

Anyways, Trattoria Aldina seems like a pretty elusive place before you get your foot in the door. (On weekends, you may find yourself waiting outside for your name to be called from the waitlist.) Once in, its like you slipped into your long lost Aunt’s massive dining room. It is only open for lunch, though.

Until I see you again Modena, here are some photos of your unmistakable beauty:




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