Top choice in Modena

Modena's celebrated duomo combines the austerity of the Dark Ages with throwback traditions from the Romans in a style known as Romanesque. The church stands out among Emilia-Romagna's many other ecclesiastical relics for its remarkable architectural purity. It is, by popular consensus, the finest Romanesque church in Italy, and in 1997 was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

While not as large or spectacular as other Italian churches, the cathedral – dedicated to the city's patron saint, St Geminianus – has a number of striking features. The dark, brick-walled interior is dominated by the huge Gothic rose window (a 13th-century addition), which shoots rays of light down the grand central apse. On the exterior facade, a series of vivid bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Genesis are the work of the 12th-century sculptor Wiligelmo. Interior highlights include an elaborate rood screen decorated by Anselmo da Campione and, in the crypt, Guido Mazzoni's Madonna della pappa, a group of five painted terracotta figures.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Modena attractions

1. Musei del Duomo

0.02 MILES

Tucked down an alley along the left side of the cathedral, the duomo's side-by-side museums operate like two exhibitions within the same space. Musei del…

2. Torre Ghirlandina

0.03 MILES

Rising behind the cathedral is this early-13th-century 87m tower topped with a slender Gothic spire, named after Seville's famous 'Giralda' in the early…

3. Palazzo Comunale

0.06 MILES

Behind its elegant facade, Modena's 17th-century town hall offers several historic rooms for visitors to explore; in addition to incredible frescoed…

4. Palazzo Ducale

0.23 MILES

Construction began in 1634 on this massive palace, a baroque masterpiece that absolutely dominates the northeast end of Modena's historic centre. Today,…

5. Museo Civico d'Arte

0.24 MILES

The Museo Civico d'Arte is one of two jointly administered city museums – the other beingMuseo Civico Archeologico Etnologico – inside the Palazzo dei…

6. Museo Civico Archeologico Etnologico

0.24 MILES

Housed together with the jointly administered Museo Civico d'Arte inside the Palazzo dei Musei, this small museum has well-displayed local finds from…

7. Galleria Estense

0.24 MILES

Reopened in 2015 after a three-year closure (due to earthquake damage), this delightful gallery features the Este family’s collection of northern Italian…

8. Biblioteca Estense

0.24 MILES

The Biblioteca Estense, inside the Palazzo dei Musei, holds one of Italy’s most valuable collections of books, letters and manuscripts, including the…