Rimini's Old Town serves as a timeless base for exploring Italy's Emilia Romagna. From her coast to her wine and her meticulous culinary secrets, head east from Bologna and get ready to travel through time.
Here’s my guide to a wonderful weekend based in Old Town Rimini. I've added in some travel tips and a handy guide of things to do in Rimini and around if you have more time.
Disclosure - I visited Rimini as a guest of the Emilia Romagna tourist organisations. If you book or buy through these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Cheers! And enjoy Rimini Old Town!
"Talking about dreams is like talking about movies. Years can pass in a second, and you can hop from one place to another."
So said Federico Fellini, the legendary Italian director behind La Dolce Vita, amid one or two other global successes. He was talking about the cinema, but he may as well have been talking about his hometown, Rimini.
The year may be 2019 but the years pass in a second between the chrome cool design hotels, the Roman arch of Augustus, the dreamy cobbled streets of the Borgo and out to Agatha Christie-era glamour at the coast.
I was surprised to learn that to many, Rimini means mass tourism. A build ‘em high, squeeze e'm in kind of vibe.
That era, too, seems to have passed through slippery time.
Rimini today luxuriates in its past. The Amintore Galli Theatre, damaged after World War Two, reopened this year, in a cascade of deep red velvet and resplendent chandeliers.
The year 2020 sees a new Fellini museum opening, one that plans to shine a spotlight on one of the leading arts of the 20th century and the stars that lived on screen.
But things go back further than that.
Right the way back to 27 BC and the stone arch of Augustus, and before that, the actual footsteps of Caesar.
Symbols of Jupiter, Neptune and Apollo. The peeling pretty paint of the Borgo...
Yet take to the water at night and it seems as though nothing changes. The real stars have seen it all.
Ah, the Borgo. The ugly duckling story in Italian city form. Once considered a poor neighbourhood outside Rimini proper, today the Borgo (or San Giuliano) probably impresses visitors the most.
It's here that those narrow passageways ooze with a charm that newer buildings can't hope to match. Where street art mimics heritage and beauty rather than the more usual death and destruction. Where Fellini lives on through paintings and dreams and where cafes and tavernas welcome the hungry.
If you're short on time, then skip Rimini Old Town proper and cross the bridge to the Borgo. You can thank me later ;-)
The glinting lights of Cinema Fulgor provide an absolute highlight of Rimini's Old Town. Twas here that young Fellini spent all this time and money in his youth, soaking up the silent dreams of movie magic. It's ornate Art Nouveau structure makes it enjoyable enough but it's melding together the historical nuggets that turns it into Italian gold.
You can also watch films here, lest I forget!
Oddly squat and on the edge of town, sits Castel Sismondo, although only the central nucleus remains. The original moat has been filled in but it's still interesting to walk beneath the stone arches of the Malatesta family work that began in 1437. Today, exhibitions take place inside, one of my favourite ways to combine the old and new.
Marie Antoinette meets La Dolce Vita in the resplendent Galli theatre, just re-opened after a 75 year hibernation following bomb damage in WWII.
Originally built in between 1843 and 1857, it's every bit as majestic as a grand opera house should be: scarlet carpets, glittering chandeliers, sweeping curves.
If you can't catch a performance, try to pay a visit, comforting yourself with coffee and cake in the ground floor foyer.
Rimini Old Town Inside Tip: the Teatro Amintore Galli foyer is a great place to look back over Piazza Cavour and snap photos or stop for an aperitivo.
With a devilishly nefarious sounding name, the Tempio Malatestiano stands as the unfinished cathedral church of Old Town Rimini. It's officially named after St Francis but the brilliant name Malatestiano refers to Malatesta, the man who commissioned the building. He hired Leon Battista Alberti in 1450 and the rest, as they say, was history.
It's a cool, calm white building, muted in comparison to the deep midnight blue of the mosaic churhes and UNESCO WOrld Heritage sites in Ravenna.
Look out for the naked bottoms in juicy, wiggle formation. Pope Pius II, described by good old wikipedia as Malatesta's "deadliest enemy" is on record for saying this about the building: "it is full of pagan gods and profane things."
Check out the booty call section and see if you agree.
Easily misread as the piazza of three martinis, a more melancholy story underpins this scenic spot. The "place of the three marytrs," thanks to the execution of three citizens at the hands of the Nazis in the 20th century.
Further back than that, around 2000 years or so, Julius Caesar himself stood in this square to address the crowds. You can set yourself a mini treasure hunt amid the cafes, cobbles and quaintness to find the statue that marks the spot.
The closest big city is Bologna, accessible by direct flights from across Europe and well connected to Rome and Venice by train.
From Bologna, trains depart approximately every hour and take around an hour. Train fares are cheap and unless you’re putting together a road trip through Italy or arriving at a strange time of day or night, the train should suit most needs.
August is the party month here and the coast thrives between July to September. But spring and summer are mild and (more) enjoyable for exploring the cultural side of Rimini Old Town and cycling into the hills. Winters can be cool and wet. Lovely for the town itself but you're obviously taking more of a risk with any outdoor pursuits you have planned.
Rimini Old Town remains deliciously walkable, a maze of atmospheric Italian charm merged with H& M and Zara. It’s a half hour walk from the Old Town to the coast and so it’s fun to hire a bike and travel around that way instead.
In Rimini Old Town, combine a daring dash of modern design right in the heart of antiquity by staying at the Duomo Hotel. Half nightclub, half cosy hideaway, the location is fantastic for walking about but difficult for transfers and taxis.
Alternatively, stay near the sea at the iconic Grand Hotel Rimini. Complete with swimming pool, Venetian chandeliers, high ceilings and parquet floors, Fellini himself used to choose this option when he was in town. Find up to date prices and booking details here.
If it doesn’t work to sleep here, you can always enjoy a stunning lunch with canapes and aperitivos on the terrace amid the lush gardens.
Rimini Old Town makes the perfect spot for a weekend break. If you wanted to take your time exploring the coast, San Marino, Casa Artusi and Ravenna then a week would work well.
As ever, it's hard to go wrong when it comes to eating in Italy. But in Rimini, here's how to make sure you get it right!
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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