Modena is a small and quiet town in in the Emilia region of Northern Italy. Currently, the comune of Modena has about 180.000 inhabitants.
There is evidence of human presence in the area dating back to the paleolithic era, and the remarkable civilization of the terramare was active here around 2.500 BC.
In the first millenium BC the Etruscans were substituted by the Boi tribe of the Gauls; Modena was founded as a Roman military camp around 222 BC (with the name of Mutina), and the all-important Via Emilia reached it around 187 BC.
The town enjoyed the usual agitated Dark Ages events; invaded by the Goths, the Huns and the Longobards, it also was a fighting point in the wars between the Papacy and the Empire. Modena was initially subjected to the powerful family of the Canossa, then it became a libero comune and lastly, after bloody internecine conflict, in 1288 the Signoria of Modena was offered to Obizzo d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara. After an initial rebellion by the modenesi peace ensued, but ever since Modena was subjected to the dominion of Ferrara and the Este family.
There were, though, some interludes under different rulers. In 1514, for example, Pope Leo X actually bought the town for 40.000 gold coins.
In 1796 the town was conquered by Napoleon; after two wars (guerre di indipendenza) the town finally joins the Reign of Italy under the Savoia dinasty in 1861. At this point, the town of Modena has 35,000 inhabitants, while the surrounding are has another 20,000.
Modena wasn't much damaged by either World War.
Its rich and complex history left it with a beautiful romanic Duomo, the Ghirlandina tower and many medieval remains. A complete visit of Modena would take one day, two if you want to visit the museums as well.
From the tourist's point of view, Modena is a bit of a hidden jewel, often ignored due to the proximity of the wonders of Bologna and Venice.
The province of Modena is a rich one, famous for industrial tile production, food, wine (like the remarkable Lambrusco of Castelvetro) and even high-tech machinery (the very famous Ferrari car maker is in Maranello, in the province of Modena).
Modena is easily accesible, due to its being on the Via Emilia: it is about a half hour away (by train or car) from Bologna, and 1 1/2 hour from Milano. Modena has no airport, but there is one in Bologna.