LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Modena

Producer of Panini stickers sets sights on Serie B

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

Home of Ferrari cars and Panini stickers, as a football destination Modena has recently served more as a convenient venue for outsiders. Used by the Italian national team, Juventus and perennial Serie A underdogs, Sassuolo, the city’s Stadio Alberto Braglia was also the short-term home of one-season wonders Carpi.

Now with local club Modena FC 2018 promoted back to Serie B in 2022, the city should be attracting the football fraternity for reasons other than visiting the Panini Museum (see below What to see) or because the neat, well-located stadium has taken in another homeless Serie A team. 

The history of both club and stadium dates back to 1912, when local sportsman Alberto Braglia was winning the last of his Olympic golds for gymnastics. The star player back then was inside forward Attilio Fresa, the first Italian to play in English football, transferred from Genoa to Reading for £17 on the eve of World War I. Fresa’s stay brief, he returned to his homeland to play for, then coach, Modena.

The only other player of note at Modena since then has been opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, who ran out for the Gialloblù in the 1950s, shortly after inside-forward Valerio Cassani led the club to a best-ever third, then fifth, place in Serie A.

Modena’s last big hurrah came at the turn of the millennium, with a charge up the league pyramid to Serie A and an upset or two once they got there – but relegation was swift. Incoming coach Hernán Crespo had the task of getting Modena back up in 2015-16 after a more than a decade away.

Sadly, he wasn’t up to it, the Argentine sacked before relegation to Serie C. The club endured one campaign in the third tier then failed to see out another. At the instigation of the city mayor, a new entity was formed, Modena FC 2018 taking advantage of a spare slot in Serie C to restart where their predecessors left off. 

Agreeing not to take part on the promotion play-offs at first, the new Modena played out an initial regular season, reached the knock-out stage without success a year later then won their Serie C division in 2022.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Modena’s nearest airport is the Guglielmo Marconi at Bologna, 40km (25 miles) away, 6km (3.75 miles) from Bologna itself. A SACA airport bus (€15 single, €25 return, every 2hrs) takes 50mins to reach Modena bus station.

Modena is also a rail hub, with regular trains taking 25mins from Bologna, 1hr 45mins-2hrs 15mins from Milan.

The city centre is walkable – no more than 10-15mins between the rail station/stadium and city centre. For longer journeys, city buses are run by Seta, €1.20 single on board. For a local taxi, call Cotami on +39 059 374 242.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Lively bars dot Modena city centre, such as the excellent Bodeguita (via Gallucci 17-19), a popular meeting place, with 50s’ music and Hacker-Pschorr beer on draught. Nearby is the main pub in town, Griffin’s on Largo Hannover, where everyone gathers outside on warm evenings.

The Caffè Giusti is a historic spot with plenty of football talk around fine local wines. The Caffè del Collegio (via San Carlo 34) holds a unique place in local football history: it was here, on 5 April 1912, that the Modena club was founded. Photographs, shirts and sundry memorabilia fill the space.

Also central, the Drink Bar (piazzale San Domenico 1) is a real locals’ spot, with old pictures of Modena on the walls and football pennants behind the bar. Nearer the stadium, Al Goblet Birroteca on via Castelmaraldo is another busy terrace bar.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and in city centre

Visit Modena has a hotel-booking service.

Near the station, the family-run Hotel Europa is an affordable, comfortable and convenient three-star while alongside the former Albergo Milano gained an upgrade in 2014 to become the four-star Best Western Premier Milano Palace.

In the same chain, the Best Western Hotel Libertà is right in the heart of town, as is the pricier-but-worth-it Hotel Cervetta 5.

What to see

The best football attractions in town

Panini’s iconic football stickers were conceived in Modena, where they are still produced, and where the Museo della Figurina in the Palazzo Santa Margherita at corso Canalgrande 103 (€6, €4 reduced, free under-18s & all-day Wed, open Wed-Fri 11am-1pm, 4pm-7pm, Sat-Sun 11am-7pm) traces their history. Their story starts in January 1945, when four brothers became proud owners of a newsstand on corso Duomo, by the cathedral. They hit upon the idea of collectable photos of footballers, sold in little envelopes. 

For the first print run, they were packaged three at a time, with a free football promised for anyone who collected 100 with an official stamp on the back. Then came the idea of an album, adhesive backs, World Cup editions…

The museum’s elegantly lit, second-floor hall holds historic cards collected by the Panini family, but the real treasure is the pull-out displays that hold the first ones printed, including the iconic BrunoBolchi original and, the holiest of holies, a complete 1970 World Cup album.

If you’re yearning to browse old stickers and albums rather than admire them from behind glass, even purchase a few, then the regular stall set up outside on piazza Grande, attached to Modena’s historic Albinelli market (Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat 7am-7pm), should provide riches aplenty.