Cicero defined it "very flourishing" and from the very times when it became a Roman colony in 183 B.C., Modena, or better to say, Mutina, was at the core of important economic and cultural events - as well as political and structural ones - that marked not only a province of the Emilia region that - for those coming from Rome - lay beyond the inaccesible Apennines, but also marked Italy as a whole.
Modena is a city with ancient streets - the Via Emilia among all the others - and impressive squares, yet welcoming as ancient sitting rooms. The most famous square of the city is Piazza Grande. On this square, the Cathedral and its campanile - the Ghirlandina - rise imposingly. The firs stone of the cathedral was laid on 9 Gune 1099. The management of works was assigned to the architect Lanfranco, and the sculptor Wiligelmo created the marbel reliefs that ornate the cathedral and which where sculpted using the material provided by tha ancient buildings of the Roman city.
Next to the Cathedral, the bell-tower Ghirlandina stands imposingly and elegantly, completely covered with marble and already built up to the fifth floor in 1169. Arrigo Da Campione raised it in 1261 and Campionesi Masters completed it in 1319. It is 289 feet high and presents a square structure.
The Cathedral and the Ghirlandina and Piazza Grande are listed among the UNESCO World Heritage of Mankind.
From Piazza Grande to Porta Bologna
If we keep on walking eastwards under the porticos of Via Emilia, we reach on our left side Via Farini, at the end of which there's Largo San Giorgio first, and than Piazza Roma, towered by tha magnificent volumes of Ducal Palace. The Ducal Palace - the court of the Este family - was building starting from 1634 under the architect Bartolomeo Avanzini's project. Its guests included - besides the dukes and their court - portfolios, archives and art collections. Nowadays it hosts the Military Academy, the italian institute that trains the commissioned officers of the Army.
From Piazza Grande to Porta Sant'Agostino
Going back to Piazza Grande, we reach once again Via Emilia and - proceeding westwards - we arrive to Largo Porta Sant'Agostino and the impressive building of the Museums' Palace, which comprises the following collections: The Este Library, with printed books, incunabula, and many illuminated codices. In particular, among the precious books we find the famous Bible of Borso d'Este, a masterpieces of Ferrarese illumination (15th century); the Cantino Map (1498-1502); and the De Sphaera (15th century), considered to be the most beautiful pictorial book of astrology of the Renaissance. The Este Library with the Exhibition of Illuminated Codices is opened Mon-Sat. 8.30am-1pm. Entrance Fee: 2.60 Euros; between 18 and 25 years of age: 1.60 Euros; free until 18 and over 65 years. Este Gallery, Este Museum, and Este Collection of Medals: it is one of the most important Italian art collections, and reflects the interests of the Este family in painting, sculpture, archaeology and minor arts. Among the most valuable works there is the torso of Francesco I d'Este by Bernini, the Portrait of Francesco I painted by Velasquez, the Madonna and Child by Correggio and the Triptych by El Greco, a small portable altarpiece. The paintings produced by artists of the Po Valley from the 14th to the 18th century are also noteworthy, most notably the works by Cosme Tura, Veronese, Tintoretto, Palma the Young, Guercino, Reni and Guardi.