The crowd applauded in a sign of respect as pallbearers carried the casket into Modena's cathedral, where the funeral is to be held on Saturday.
Pavarotti died early Thursday at the age of 71.
CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports Pavarotti had pancreatic cancer, one of the most virulent and deadly forms of cancer, which killed him within a year of diagnosis.
While Pavarotti moved the world with what one admirer called "the last great voice" of Italian opera, his legacy extends far beyond the opera house. The tenor collaborated with classical singers and pop icons alike to bring opera to the masses and in the process, rescued the art from highbrow obscurity.
In many ways, Pavarotti fulfilled the public's imagination of what an opera star should be. He often wore a colorful scarf and a hat, be it a fedora or a beret, and while he didn't always have a beard, it was hard to imagine him without it.
His heft - as well as a restaurant on his property in Modena - underlined his gourmet appetite. But above all, his crystal-clear voice, prized for its diction, made him the most celebrated tenor since Caruso.
The world is paying tribute. Inside Modena's Piazza Grande, hundreds of people gathered for the beginning of the public viewing, which is to continue, except for a few overnight hours, until just before the funeral.
2Police on horseback stood at attention Thursday night as the first mourners shuffled up the steps into the cathedral.
Italian Premier Romano Prodi is among the many dignitaries expected at attend Saturday's funeral. The ANSA news agency says tenor Andrea Bocelli will be at the funeral and is to sing the hymn "Panis Angelicus."
But many ordinary fans - some of whom have been weeping outside Pavarotti's home and in the street next to the cathedral - are also expected to be on hand. Authorities, preparing for large crowds, are stationing giant television screens near the church and have set up additional public transportation to shuttle mourners in and out of the city center for Saturday's service.