Rupert Parker drags himself away from the beach to offer up his insider guide to Rimini, Emilia Romagna’s coastal playground.
Rimini has a long history of tourism. From the middle of the 19th century, people were coming here to take to the waters. And, after WW2, before the rise of Spain as a British holiday destination, Rimini’s 15 km of sandy beaches were attracting visitors from all over Europe. The success of the seaside means that the city itself has been largely overlooked – a shame since it’s well worth exploring.
This was an important Roman city, famous as the birthplace of the Emperor Augustus. I start at the monumental gateway which once marked the entrance to the city and named after the local boy made good. Erected in 27 BC to celebrate the Emperor’s accomplishments, it remains one of the most significant Roman arches in Italy.
This leads to Piazza Tre Martiri, one of the city’s most picturesque squares where was the Roman forum was located. Surrounded by historic buildings, cafes, and boutiques, it’s an ideal place to soak in the local atmosphere. The square is also home to the Palazzo Garampi, which houses the Rimini City Museum. Here, you can delve into the city’s rich past through a collection of archaeological finds and art exhibitions.
The other important square is Piazza Cavour, once the home of the city’s market and now the place where locals hang out in the numerous cafes. There’s no shortage of impressive buildings including the Palazzo dell’Arengo, with its distinctive clock tower, and the Palazzo del Podestà, a testament to the medieval past.
Don’t miss the Tempio Malatestiano, the impressive Gothic cathedral built by Sigismondo Malatesta, a prominent 15th-century ruler of Rimini. The cathedral’s interior is adorned with masterpieces by renowned Italian artists, including Piero della Francesca and Giotto. The church was heavily damaged during WW2 and reconstructed using pieces salvaged from the rubble.
Another stunning example of Roman civil engineering is the 1st century Ponte di Tiberio, the bridge spanning the Marecchia River. Its robust arches and elegant Corinthian columns connect the centre to the “Art Quarter”, known for its captivating murals that adorn the facades of buildings. Small cafes with colourful umbrellas spill out onto the pavement, creating a perfect setting for locals and visitors to relax and absorb the artistic ambiance.
As well as Emperor Augustus, the city’s other famous son is the film director Frederic Fellini, born here in 1920. Two buildings and a square comprise the largest and most innovative museum in the world dedicated to his genius. The 16 rooms of the 15th century fortress, Sismondo Castle, offer a comprehensive overview of the director’s works. A combination of multi-media displays and original artefacts, it’s confusing yet exhilarating, just like the films themselves.
Outside, the Piazza Malatesta is divided into three main areas: the Water Veil, (a shallow lake), the Circus of Life, (an 8 ½ track with a large circular bench in the centre), and the Urban Woodland, reminiscent of scenes from the movie Amacord. On the other side of the Piazza is the Cinema Fulgor, where Fellini saw his first movies, now completely restored and still showing movies.
The entire building forms another museum. Above, on the first floor are digitised versions of a large range of drawings, letters and first-hand accounts with some originals on display. The second floor has movies and the Stanza delle Parole where you hear Fellini’s voice. The third floor has a magic lantern show of some of his most bewitching images.
And of course no visit to Rimini is complete without a trip to its famous coastline. The golden sands and clear waters are easily accessible by train or light rail from the city centre. Even in October the sea is warm enough for a quick dip and the huge expanses of sand are pleasantly deserted. If you want the ideal city break, with the beach as a bonus, avoid the summer and come here in early autumn or late spring.
Tell Me More About this Insider Guide To Rimini
Visit Rimini has more information about the places Rupert has highlighted in his insider guide to Rimini.
Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Rimini.
The Stansted Express is the fastest way to the airport from central London.
Hotel Select Suites & Spa makes a comfortable seaside base in nearby Riccone.
The TTG Travel Experience, italy’s premier travel trade show has been held here annually for the last 60 years.