Thousands of Italians flock to Rimini beach every year for a splash about in the sea, but considering this is also the birth place of fellow Italian film director Federico Fellini, it’s strange that so few are tempted to also have a paddle in any of the city’s fountains. Fellini is of course famed for his iconic movie La Dolce Vita where the buxom Anita Ekberg frolicked in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Although I was tempted to pay homage to Fellini in true Ekberg style during my visit to Rimini in June 2015, I had forgotten to bring a towel with me and so I decided to walk around the city with a white kitten balanced on my head instead.
Rimini’s other famous son – or rather ‘infamous’ – is the local medieval clansman and military leader Sigismondo Malatesta. Lord of Rimini during the early part of the fifteenth century, Malatesta’s legacy can still be seen across the city today with a huge castle built on top of the remains of a Roman fortress, and a rather controversial cathedral Malatesta commissioned to lay his beloved mistress to rest in. Malatesta’s unashamed extravagance and vanity – the cathedral is said to worship Malatesta as much as God – lost him favour with Rome, culminating in Pope Pius II condemning him to hell. Consequently, Malatesta lost his military influence and it is wildly believed he defaced his unfinished cathedral with pagan symbols in protest. Sadly, the cathedral was closed for lunch when I visited it, so I was unable to corroborate this age-old rumour. I also couldn’t see anything on the marble white façade that blatantly appeared un-Christian, but there is no denying that the appearance of The Malatesta Temple is far from the traditional Renaissance style one would expect a European church of its age to look like.
Rimini is also recognised as the sight where a rather unusual miracle took place: on passing through the city in his quest to spread the word of God, Saint Antony of Padua (a town west of Venice) converted a ‘non-believer’ by persuading a starved mule to bow in front of the Eucharist.
The arch featured in the scene above is Rimini’s Arch of Augustus. It is the oldest surviving Roman triumphal arch in Europe and even today looks spectacularly impressive.
Not quite so grand but just as impressive are the remains of the city’s Montanara Gate. The Roman fortress opening, also known as Saint Andrea’s Gate consisted of two sandstone arches that controlled entry into and exit from Rimini. As was the case in many Roman settlements around Italy, the growing demand for city dwellings in later centuries resulted in more modern structures being built on top of surviving Roman landmarks, and Rimini was no exception to this practice. One of the Montanara arches was incorporated into a building where a public passageway passed underneath it. The other arch disappeared behind brickwork domed never to be seen again… until the 1940s. During the Second World War, German-occupied Rimini was heavily bombed by the Allies and the area around where the Montanara Gate once stood was badly destroyed including the surviving visible arch. However, during the post-war redevelopment of the area, the arch that had been hidden from view for centuries was rediscovered, only to be hidden away again in the vaults of a local museum. In 2004, due to its historical importance – and tourist-draw potential – it was decided the arch would be reassembled near to its original Roman position. Today, people can once again walk underneath the Roman arch to enter the Old Town, albeit without any Roman militia scrutiny.
One can barely walk around Rimini without bumping into or tripping over a Roman ruin. A short walk from the main station are the remains of a Roman amphitheatre still used today for public performances.
The most durable Roman feat in Rimini is undoubtedly the Tiberius Bridge. It has survived 2000 years of weather and traffic, and dodged every bomb that fell on the city during the Second World War. It is a stunning example of Roman engineering and is the symbol of the city.
Thousands of tourists arrive in Rimini every year by air (into Federico Fellini airport just outside the city) or by train yet barely see more than the city’s transport hubs during their visit. This is because Rimini tends to be used as a ‘passing-through’ location: compared to Bologna, Rimini is the cheaper gateway into Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region with low-cost airlines regularly flying into it, and it is also the nearest city with transport links used by tourists heading off to San Marino just a few kilometres away.
For anyone wishing to spend the day in Rimini it is worth noting that there are no luggage lockers in Rimini’s main train station, but the tourist office just outside the station will happily hold luggage for a few hours and for a small fee.
All the locations and landmarks featured here are all within walking distance of the train station and each other, and access to them is free apart from Castel Sismondo. Free maps of the city are handed out at the tourist office.
Apart from eating establishments, the whole city seems to shut up for business daily between 12pm and 2pm, so it is worth having a lunch break during this time rather than trying to gain entry to a museum or church.
Federico Fellini Park and the beach is a little further away from the city to the south of the train station, but they can still be reached easily by foot. There is a regular bus service from the train station to the beach if feet become weary.
Bologna: the Manhattan Island of the Middle Ages
Iconic clifftop towers, festive guard uniforms and the other Statue of Liberty in the fifth smallest country in the world: San Marino