The graceful city of Modena is famously known as the home to many elegant and fine luxuries in the world, but it's also the food connoisseur's hotspot where a mere taste of its culture already says a lot about the city. Architectural and cultural landmarks from history weaving into the lush trees and greenery make Modena a fantasy-like place where both rural and urban, old and new worlds collide. Lomographer Mirko Pradelli a.k.a. oltrelautostrada shares his own experience in his hometown and gives a preview of life in Modena.
Modena is a small city with a population of less than 200k. But it is a condensation of high quality, what the people of Modena do, they do well: it is the land of powerful engines (Ferrari, Maserati, and Pagani were born and are based here, Lamborghini and Ducati are a few tens of kilometers from here), of superfine food (Osteria Francescana, a restaurant of the very Modenese chef Massimo Bottura located in the historic center, is considered by many the #1 restaurant in the world), of great music (just think of Luciano Pavarotti and all the great world stars that his festival, the Pavarotti and friends, have brought here). It is on a human scale, full of parks and green areas: we do not have the sea, we do not have the Alps, but here you can live well. It is pleasant to take a walk in the historical center, on foot or by bicycle, to go shopping, to go to bookstores and to stop with friends for a drink. It's a simple city, but full of positive energy.
The pandemic has obviously changed our habits, but I think the city has responded well to the emergency. Citizens have mostly behaved responsibly and institutions have done what they could to govern the situation as best they could.
The center of it all is certainly Piazza Grande, with the Duomo and the bell tower, the Ghirlandina. The square and the cathedral are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and therefore those who photograph the city cannot fail to pass by here. Climbing up the Tower (pandemic permitting) offers a high view of the whole city, for those who like to have a wide view. It is also beautiful to pass through Piazza Roma, overlooked by the Ducal Palace, now the seat of the Military Academy, and take advantage of the mirrors of water recently created there that offer perfect reflections, especially at certain times of the day. All the historical center, on the other hand, offers interesting glimpses, even to take some shots of street photography. For those who love contemporary architecture, I would also recommend a detour to the cemetery of San Cataldo: designed by the great Italian architect Aldo Rossi, partially unfinished, it has very interesting geometries. And at lunch or dinner, you must taste our specialties: tortellini, tortelloni, the various meats (perhaps the most famous specialties, especially when paired with our famous balsamic vinegar: you absolutely must taste some, maybe aged 30-40 years. It's expensive, but it's worth it.); or, if you have little time, gnocco e tigelle.
I remember when, as a teenager, with friends, we used to spend Saturday afternoons in the old town walking around, people watching, chatting, and joking. It was fun. The city has changed over the years, but I would say it has gotten better.
The Albinelli food market: it is located in the historic center and is very popular, for many residents it is a daily appointment and the products are excellent. But also the parks. As I was saying, there are many, the largest being Enzo Ferrari Park and Amendola Park, both very popular. I also love two complexes built in the 70s and 80s: Direzionale 70 and Modena Due. Some people find them decadent, for me they are interesting.
Lately, I've been finding it very fun and challenging to experiment with analog e photography: new cameras found here and there, multiple exposures, special films. Lomography is a great help in this, offering interesting products. The pandemic has had many effects, mostly negative of course: it has locked us in our homes, it has driven us away. It has forced me to focus more on what is happening inside the home, to document the effect of all this on my family. But it also gave us a different and unprecedented view of our cities, suddenly deserted, as it was never possible to see them. I will continue to investigate the city with my cameras and films, trying to discover new places and new points of view.
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