Giardini Ducale (Modena)
Where Dukes Once Dallied
Created in 1598 for the garden-mad Este dukes, the Giardini Ducale were once much more grand and extensive. As with the other great Este gardens, in Ferrara and Sassuolo, so much has been lost over the centuries, it's hard to even guess at the original design.
The gardens were given to the people of Modena in 1739 by Francesco III. Today, they include the Orto Botanico (Viale Caduti in Guerra 127), created in 1758 for the study of medicinal plants and still in use by the University, and the adjacent Giardini Pubblici, a public park.
Centrepiece of the park is the charming Palazzina Vigarani (or Palazzina dei Giardini) built in 1634 as a 'casino' for summer balls and shows by the great stage designer Gaspare Vigarani. The Palazzina fell out of favour over the centuries; by the 1920's the comune was using it for a tool shed. Restoration came too late to save most of the interior decoration, but now the Palazzina is part of the Galleria Civica di Modena, which now uses it for exhibitions of contemporary art; a prestigious annual photography show is held here.
Hours Giardini Pubblici, summer 6.30am-11.30pm; winter 7am-8.30pm. Orto Botanico: Apr-July and Sept, Mon-Fri 9am-1pm
+39 059 205 6011(Orto Botanico)