Palazzo Ducale


Construction began in 1634 on this massive palace, a baroque masterpiece that absolutely dominates the northeast end of Modena's historic centre. Today, it houses the Accademia Militare di Modena, Italy's most prestigious military academy, but the former seat of the princely House of Este is open for one-hour guided tours on weekends – check the schedule and book via the tourist office at least a week prior.

There's a whole lotta wow packed inside, including a fascinating military museum (learn where Ferrari's prancing horse logo came from). The wow factor peaks in the Noble Apartment, where you'll find two of Modena's best moments. The majestic Salone d'Onore (Salon of Honor), with its grandiose frescoed ceiling by Marcantonio Franceschini, tells the story of Bradamante being crowned by Jupiter on Olympus – imagine it illuminated by 927 candles as it was in the 17th century! Equally impressive is smaller Salottino d'Oro (Golden Study), whose gold-laminated wooden walls are removable in segments; indeed, they only survive today because they were deconstructed and hidden from both Napoleonic and Nazi troops.

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