RIMINI, long the archetypal seaside resort, still makes its primary living as a traditional family destination, to which some Italians return year after year. But there is also a newer, more upmarket side to Rimini, as represented by boutique hotels, high-end restaurants and chi-chi clubs. Given Rimini was almost entirely destroyed in the last war, it's surprising to find that the town has a much-ignored old centre that is worth at least a morning of your time. But it's the beach, the crowds and the wild nights that you really come for: Rimini is still the country's best place to party.
The resort is best avoided in August, unless you have a penchant for teeming crowds. Out of season, however, it's a pleasant enough town, though bear in mind that many hotels, restaurants and shops are closed and the atmosphere along the seafront is almost eerily quiet.
Rimini, "the city of hospitality", "the beach of Europe", "the bathers' Riviera", the "Ostend of Italy": these are some of the names by which this sunny summer town of longstanding holiday traditions is known. It was on July 30, 1843 that two young Rimini aristocrats, Tintori and Baldini, opened the first "Stabilimento dei Bagni". When describing the origins of "taking the waters", Carlo Tonino wrote in 1895 in his Historical Compendium, "Seaside bathing had already become very fashionable and Rimini, because of its location and its fine, high quality sand, was frequented during the summer months by a large number of visitors from nearby and distant cities".
Since then, the Riviera has changed greatly and there are now more than 5,000 hotels, 1,000 restaurants, 150 discotheques, 1,200 bars, 50 museums and 300 sports centers along its 40 kilometers. In addition there are 16 amusement parks – the jewel in the Rivera's crown – which in all gives the highest density of places of entertainment in Italy. Of the theme parks, those deserving of a visit are Italy in Miniature , the original Italian theme park, and the splash park Acquafan in Riccione, a favorite holiday destination for the young.
These figures clearly make Rimini the capital of sunny beach holidays and all-night raving but they also tend to present the city with a stereotype image whereas, in reality, Rimini is much more complex and a city for all seasons. The Riviera has far more to offer than its beaches and night clubs and can be appreciated for its history that began over 2,000 years ago in 268 BCE when it was founded by the Romans and continued under the Byzantines, the Ostrogoths and the Lombards. But it is the medieval and Renaissance heritage of the Malatesta family that is most visible.
A superficial exploration of the city center (closed to private traffic during the day) is not enough to discover the Ariminum of the Romans, the city of the Malatesta's or the 19th-century Rimini of the patriots and first social conflicts but one is able to get a rapid idea of the site's long history by visiting Roman structures like Tiberius' Bridge , Augustus' Arch and the Roman Amphitheatre ; or the hidden historical corners such as the Giardino degli Aromi , the House of the Surgeon or the open spaces like Piazza Tre Martiri or the Portico of the Poveracce in Piazza Cavour , and in the narrow alleys of Borgo San Giuliano . These places have been left on one side by time and the rebuilding frenzy, and some have not even been touched since the devastating 396 bombing raids Rimini suffered during World War Two that destroyed 82% of the city. This was the greatest damage suffered by an Italian city of over 50,000 inhabitants. Postwar reconstruction and continuous restoration have produced today's Rimini–partly a rough copy of the destroyed city and partly an accumulation of new districts – a city of 150,000 inhabitants. It is contradictory, ambiguous, ephemeral, neither old nor new, neither ancient nor modern, with a transient image that has still not been clearly defined. We might say it is a cosmopolitan city founded on an eclectic set of individual components: a place of fishermen, farmers, craftsmen as well as of the tourist industry and the entertainment business.
It is a city famous for its industrial and commercial trade fairs and for prestigious international conferences organized throughout the year, such as the Meeting and the Giornate Internazionali di Studio Pio Manzù . Rimini has its newspapers, cultural magazines, antique and rare book shops in addition, of course, to its large shopping centers. A short trip inland to Covignano Hill will show you that as well as a view of the huge stretch of the coast from the western end of the city to Gabicce promontory, and even the last hills of Romagna and the border with the Marche.
Inland there are medieval suburbs of great splendor with forts, castles, parish churches, rural monasteries and tiny unspoiled country villages that attest a traditional culture still rich with memories of the past, traditional crafts, cooking, folklore and summer festivals where the smells of piadine and red Sangiovese wine are in the air. Visit, for example, Montebello , a tiny but graceful and romantic village, Palio del Daino di Mondaino or the charming Ottocento Festival di Saludecio .
If you would really like an unequaled panorama, you can climb the 739 meters above sea level in the Republic of San Marino . From the heights of its three castles and the steep drops to the valleys below, you can admire the whole of the Marecchia valley, which forms the course of the ancient river Ariminus that gave the city its name. The view from the heights on clear summer evenings highlights the continual development of the built up area that faces the sea and the heavy road and air traffic that passes through. Here and there you will see fireworks from one of the innumerable Riviera festivals and you will get the impression you are looking down on a huge entertainment park in full swing, or an Italian version of Las Vegas. Indeed, Rimini has also been called the "Las Vegas of Europe". Nicknames of this sort always have a basis of truth and are a good indication of how this ancient city is likely to develop in the future.
When talking about Rimini, the associations of entertainment, sea, holidays and discotheques are inevitable. However, this summer metropolis on the Romagnolo coast also has much to offer from a culinary viewpoint. You won't find highly elaborate dishes, but simply prepared and tasty food that uses natural ingredients that are not altered by long cooking or exotic techniques or ingredients.
The cuisine on both the coast and inland is unquestionably one of the most important characteristics of the local people's history, culture, hospitality and spirit. Based on the simple cooking of agricultural and fishing communities, it has retained the simple and wholesome flavors of the vegetable garden and fresh fish but has been imaginatively adorned to create cuisine to be proud of. It is obvious though that anyone who comes to Rimini must delight in at least one dinner or lunch of fish cooked to be fit for a God.
From Rimini's train station begins this guided tour of the city, where in Piazzale Cesare Battisti, you can make a quick stop at the Tourist Board Office and request a free map of the city.
From here, go through a small part of via Roma towards the Largo Martiri d'Ungheria, where you will find, one in front of the other on the left side, the Parco Alcide Cervi - an area which has street after street filled with restaurants and greenery, all the way up to the beach. On the right side, the Roman Ampitheatre , dating from the 2nd Century CE, remains as one of the most notable structures that shows the power of the city and how it once rivaled that of the Colosseum in Rome.
Passing through the inside of the Parco Cervi, amongst bronze statues by Arnaldo Pomodoro and play areas for children, you arrive in the midst of the former medieval gates that closed the city until the Renaissance, is the monumental Augustus Arch , the oldest monument in the city, that was constructed in 27 BCE with the purpose of presenting the city, solemly and formally to its important visitors, particuarly those who came to the city via the cia Flaminia, that actually terminated there and simply became one of the city's streets. The Augustus Arch and the Tiberius Bridge, both situated at the two extremes of the decumanus maximus, site of the current Corso d'Augusto, were the two entrances to the city, situated at opposite ends and crossing the most important streets of the Roman Empire: the via Flaminia and via Emilia. The arch is, without a doubt, a triumph of the Romans and an important monument of the central regions of Italy.
Walking forward from the Corso d'Augusto, a street filled with stores and shopping, you can easily find the forum of the Roman city, the present-day Piazza Tre Martiri , which is dedicated to three partisan, young men murdered by Nazi soliders at the end of the Second World War. The current piazza, recently restored, preserves the memory of the miracle of the mule and that of the fish of Sant'Antonio nel Tempietto, in a space dedicated to him, and also that Caesar actually maintained hold over this part of the city just after crossing the Rubicon in 49 BCE with his legionares before following then to Rome, a spot not located at the corner of via IV Novembre.
Just by following this last street and you find on the right-hand side the Duomo of Rimini, Tempio Malatestiano . The outer architecture, done in a brilliant white marble restored for the 2000 Jubilee, is a magnificent unfinished work designed by the famed Renaissance architect, Leon Battista Alberti, elements of rich decorative geometrically arranged, his classicism as broad remaking of the previous linear medieval church of
The exterior architecture, exalted by the brilliant white marble cladding recently restored in view of the Jubilee, is masterly work, although unfinished by the brilliant architect Leon Battista Alberti expressed that best, especially in portal and the tympanum with elements of rich, decorative, geometrically arranged design. His design is a remaking of the previous design of the medieval church of San Francesco. The interior of the Duomo, in its magnificent decorative Gothic decor, performs pomp, wealth and determination that the celebratory exaltation heraldic symbols contrasts greatly with the essentiality of the external facade. The interior (with a nave with six side chapels) features in Room of Relics a masterpiece by Piero della Francesca of Sigismondo kneeling at the foot of San Sigismondo. This fresco and the crucifix painted by Giotto in the early 14 Century are the most important relics of the artistic past of the city.
Returning to the Corso d'Augustus, you arrive at the central Piazza Cavour (in the heart of medieval and modern Rimini) and the Piazza della Fontana, which was known as the Piazza del Comune until 1862. Both constantly and repeatedly subject to restoration works and renovation.