I still tend to get a little intimidated by the amazing markets of Europe. Markets like La Boqueria in Barcelona, which receives so much tourist traffic, is an easy market to navigate. Many of the stall owners are used to travelers traversing the narrow walkways snapping photos. It is the more traditional markets, the ones like Mercato Albinelli, the Modena food market, which still intimidate me. In this Italy food blog post, I introduce the Mercato Albinelli market in Modena, including how to visit it and make the most of your trip to Modena, Italy.
Visiting Food Markets in Italy and Europe
Anytime that I am in a foreign country and I am treading on the daily activities of locals with my camera in hand, I worry that I am creating a spectacle of their lives. I never want to interfere and I am always hesitant until I get an okay or a nod. It is not because people are defensive, on-guard or anti-tourist in any way. Instead, it is my own insecurity as a photographer and an observer of other cultures.
In the Modena market though, this was certainly not a problem. I don’t think it is because Modena is such a well-touristed city. The opposite is the case, as Modena remains a city that is truly Italian and virtually untouched by the tourism that affects cities like Rome.
I believe the Modena market is so approachable because Emilia Romagna is a region of die-hard foodies, and has been since well before the phrase foodie became popular. The region is one that focuses on local products and excels in retaining their food history. And they know it.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the historic Albinelli Mercato Modena.
Exploring the Modena Food Market
As far as markets in Europe go, the Modena market is not huge. It is a pretty compact space, but it holds so many magical stands in that petite building. Similar to the Santa Catarina market, in my opinion, the best food market in Barcelona, the architecture and lighting of the Mercato Albinelli just highlights how fresh the foods are.
The original Modena market was over a thousand years old, but it was not until 1931 that the town’s market was moved into its current space. The covered market, or Mercato Coperto Modena, is stunning, with wrought iron spirals, large columns and even a statue of a little girl with a basket of flowers at the heart of the building. The center court statue lends an air of sophistication to the market as they realized the building houses amazing pieces of artwork. And by artwork, I mean food!
Although the market had stunning displays of typical market fare, like fresh flowers and locally grown fruits and vegetables, it was the particularly Italian uniqueness that drew me in.
Along the edges are specialized stalls, with descriptive names like the Casa del Formaggio, or house of cheese.
Other stalls specialized in horse meat. Although I never tried it, I was amazed at the deep red hues of the flesh. Perhaps during my next visit.
It was mushroom season when we visited the Modena market, and I was captivated by the texture of so many mushrooms, of all different varieties.
It was also truffle season, and after going truffle hunting and having a decadent truffle dinner at nearby Amerigo, it was unique to see stands of truffles, or tartufo, offering delicacies to the locals, and I am sure to local chefs.
A corner wine stall offered bottles of the local sparkling red wine, Lambrusco, for next to nothing. Although I do recommend spending a little more on a bottle of Lambrusco to get something with a little more quality.
Prepared Food at the Mercato Albinelli Modena
And the prepared foods were freshly and beautifully displayed. This is as close as it comes to seeing Modena street food. And the food in Modena is impeccably fresh.
We were on our way out of Modena, so it was hard to pick up fresh pasta or salads, but we bought a bit of prosciutto and other cured meats, along with some Italian cheese, to take to our hotel for our last night in Italy before flying to Greece. When we attempted to buy two simple rolls from a baker, he gave them to us for free. He is probably used to old nonnas, or grandmothers, coming in to buy for their entire family, but the gesture was not lost on me.
When vendors were not busy selling to the Modenese people, preparing for their evening meals, they had no problems with me snapping photos of their food. After all, they know how good their products look and taste, and how important it is to document the food traditions of Modena, Emilia Romagna and beyond.
Modena Market Hours
The Mercato Albinelli food market in Modena operates Monday through Saturday most months of the year. The Modena market hours run from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm six days a week. They are also open on Saturday evenings, from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. It is located in a smaller square just steps from the Duomo, or main cathedral of Modena and less than a 5-minute walk from the Modena Tourist Office.
Don’t be surprised to see Chef Massimo Bottura wandering the market either. He frequents the Modena city market. Bottura is the chef at the Modena Michelin Star restaurant Osteria Francescana.
Looking for Top Things To Do in Modena Italy for Foodies?
The Albinelli Market Modena only scratches the surface of the Modena Italy food scene. Check out our recommended Italian food tours in and around Modena, including a Modena food tour.
Modena Things To Do[table id=13 /]
Planning to Visit Modena?
Where to Stay in Modena: Get hotel recommendations here.
Where to Eat in Modena: Check out our Modena restaurant recommendations, or these Modena Italy restaurant reviews. Some of the best places near the Mercato Albinelli food market include Trattoria Aldina Modena, just across the street and Bar Schiavoni Modena, just outside of the market. Also nearby is one of the best restaurants in Modena Italy, Hosteria Giusti Modena.
Learn more: Get the only guide you ever need to visit Modena, the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, from Amazon. Or, get a copy of Pellegrino Artusi’s The Art of Eating Well to learn to cook traditional Italian cuisine at home.
FAQs – Modena Italy and Modena Travel Tips
- Are there other covered markets in Emilia Romagna? The Mercato Albinelli is the best market in Emilia Romagna, and one of the top things to do in Modena, and in the region. The Bologna market is much smaller. This is really my favorite Italian food market.
- Where to buy balsamic vinegar in Modena? They may sell traditional balsamic vinegar at the Mercato Albinelli. There are many stores, though, that sell “balsamic vinegar” in the city. Learn more about the traditional balsamic vinegar here and know what to buy and what not to buy.
- Where is Modena Italy? Modena is a small city in Emilia Romagna, a region in Northern Italy. Modena is about 90 minutes by train from Milan, and about two hours drive from Milan.
Planning a Trip to Emilia Romagna?
Looking for more travel tips on Emilia Romagna, and how to eat the best food in Italy? My book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, is available on Amazon now.
We were supported during our tour by Emilia Romagna Tourism, but all of my opinions and all of my yummy sounds are of course my own. For information on the Mercato Albinelli, the Modena market, or tours, contact the Modena tourist office or Modenatur.
For more about the food in Emilia Romagna, check out our Emilia Romagna Food Travel Guide.
Pin It! Mercato Albinelli Modena Market
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.