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Railroad tracks divide Rimini's famous
beachfront resort, on Italy's east coast, from its
ancient city center. We arrived in 15C sunshine, a
perfect day for walking to our hotel at the sea, even
though bus #10 would have whisked us there from the train
station. The bus was a great time saver during our stay
for trips between the hotel and the old town center.
We turned right on exiting the
train station and then right again on Viale Principe
Amedeo. This avenue is lined with glorious villas and
green areas which made for an invigorating walk.
At the end of the street is the
heart of seaside Rimini, Parco Fellini and the Grand
Hotel. This is where the first bathing establishment was
set up in 1843. The hotel was the first significant
accommodation enterprise on the coast and become the
symbol of a new type of tourism.
We continued to the right along
Viale Amerigo Vespucci, the boulevard that runs parallel
to the beach promenade. This smart avenue is lined with a
multitude of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and
boutiques, some of which were closed for the winter
The Hotel Trieste
was a few blocks down at Viale Trieste 4. We were warmly
welcomed and within minutes we were ready to begin
exploring. Everything about the hotel is low key and
modest from the size of the rooms to the furnishings.
There is complimentary internet access in the lobby. The
buffet breakfast was beautifully presented and maintained
and the huge glass of freshly squeezed orange juice every
morning was a real treat.
The beach is long and deep and it
is easy to see why it is so famous. Colorful bathing
establishments dot the sand and we were told that in the
summer it's not unusual for there to be 18 rows of
umbrellas covering every inch of space. This Marina
Centro area is a beehive of activity in season with
trendy bars, clubs and restaurants catering to young
merrymakers as well as families. Marina di Rimini, next
to the port, can accommodate up to 680 boats.
We are not really beach people and
once we captured the big picture we were off to the real
Rimini, the old town center. We hurried over to Piazza
Cavour and Piazza Malatesta for market day. The area is
huge and so is the market, easily the largest in all of
Emilia Romagna. We got to see the entire population of
Rimini and all the surrounding towns. The values must
have been extraordinary judging by all the money changing
hands and the amount of stuff everyone was carrying.
Piazza Cavour, the principle square,
is home to the Arengo and Podesta Palaces. The 1204
Arengo was the hall of justice and municipal assembly.
The Podesta now houses the municipal residence. In the
center of the square is the Pigan (pine cone) fountain
whose waterspouts can be mesmerizing.
Running off Cavour
is the Vecchia Pescheria, a long narrow brick canopy over
stone tables, which were used for displaying the daily
catch. Behind the old fish market is Piazzetta Gregorio
da Rimini, a tiny square with pubs and bars, a hub of
social life in the city.
The formidable Malatesta Fortress
from the 15th century in the piazza of the same name
became a Papal Fortress in the 17th century and then a
prison until 1967. Today it is a venue for cultural
Our interest in visiting Rimini was
sparked by an old friend, Daniele, who had worked at La
Paloma, our favorite gelateria in Toronto, before he
returned home to Rimini to open a tavola calda.
We had a wonderful reunion and it
was a joy to see the realization of Danieles dream.
He and his partner, Marco, are rightly proud of Saporito,
via Michele Rosa 17, Tel. 0541 29546, directly across the
street from the Mercato del Pesce (fish market). Saporito
is usually open early morning until about 15:00. They're
willing to go beyond the usual hot table format to
accommodate special requests. There is seating on several
levels as well as an outdoor patio, weather permitting.
What to choose when everything
looked so delicious including the spaghetti and clams
several gentlemen were demolishing! We couldnt pass
on the fantastic lasagna as our primi, traditional meat
version for Linda and mozzarella with proscuitto for me,
and with the fish market across the way, the lightly
breaded, grilled, crunchy shrimp and sweet tender
calamari were fresh and fabulous. The prices are
extremely reasonable for this quality, quantity and
preparation. Daniele, Marco and Iris, Marco's sister, the
magician in the kitchen, are sweet, friendly people who
deserve the success they are enjoying.
Not too far away at the end of
Corso D' Augusto is the grand Arco d'Augusto (Arch of
Augustus) built in 27 B.C. to honor Octavian Augustus.
The arch was once part of the city walls, which were
destroyed by Mussolini in 1936 although some remains of
the walls are still visible.
This is one of the most people-friendly
old centers you can imagine with lots of narrow
pedestrian streets and squares. Corso d'Augusto runs
across the center of the city from Arco d' Augusto
through the wide open Piazza Tre Martiri to Ponte di
Tiberio (Tiberius Bridge). There is excellent shopping
along this route and on the side streets, including via
Gambalunga which runs between the two pedestrian squares,
Cavour and Ferrari. In the 16th century, markets and
tournaments were held in the Grand Square, now Piazza Tre
Martiri, where an attractive clock tower from that era
We took Via G. Garibaldi, another
busy shopping street with many attractive food and
fashion stores, to Via Sigismondo 79 where we were told
we would find dreamy gelato at Sigismondo Gelateria. It
was a very good tip, ideal flavors and texture.
Daniele suggested we have a meal at
Ristorante Pic Nic, Via Tempio Malatestiano 30, Tel. 0541
21916. The pretty quiet street, which houses the
Malatesta Temple, got us in the mood for this haven of
rustic charm and traditional culinary specialties. On the
way to our table in the glassed in garden room (which
opens to an elegant garden for outdoor dining) we passed
the most awesome antipasto buffet imaginable. The
pressure was on. Should we bother looking at the menu?
Should we choose only from the buffet? Should we combine
menu choices and the buffet?
We settled into the comfort of our
colorful surroundings and were granted a stay of decision
making with the arrival of a house appetizer of polenta,
frittata, fried zucchini and onion strings, and fried
mashed potato accompanied by a basket of warm focaccia.
Each and every item was a savory delight.
Our waiter was a
charming seasoned pro who was absolutely no help in
decision making. His answer to our probing was simply
that everything was excellent and it was up to us. The
regular menu was a relatively short list of basic items.
The daily menu represents preparations of the freshest
market ingredients and there were many wonderful choices
but still no help from our friendly waiter.
Finally, finally we got him to
admit that the clams were fresh from the water, that this
was of course carciofi season and that the veal and
swordfish were very fresh. The deed was done.
Strozzapreti alle vongole e pomodoro verde (hand rolled
spaghetti with shelled clams and pieces of green tomato)
in clam juice, olive oil and pepperoncini and Tagliatelle
al carciofi, tossed in olive oil and a touch of butter.
Even naked the freshly-made pastas would have been a
dream, but mated they were sheer ecstasy. The portions
were very substantial.
The roasted veal and grilled
swordfish were served with roasted potatoes. The
freshness of both was unquestionable. The veal tasted
like a practiced nonna was in the cucina. A grill master
did the swordfish. Thank goodness we were served a
generous bowl of the amazing roast potatoes.
After the long, leisurely lunch, we
had decided against dolci and were waiting for our coffee
to arrive when our buddy delivered a plate of assorted
cookies and biscotti. My partner, after
a few nibbles, told me we would be remiss not to devour
every last crumb, which we did. Pic Nic, the first
recommendation of every local, deserves its great
reputation and popularity.
The Malatesta Temple (now a
Basilica) was built by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta as a
memorial tomb for his family. Constructed on the site of
the 13th century church of San Francesco, the white
marble facade is quite stunning. Giotto decorated the
Temple and one of his stunning wooden crosses hangs
behind the simple altar. Throughout the church there are
symbols of the Malatesta family and many sculptures
decorate the pillars and side chapels.
The Church of Santo Agostino was
built in the 13th century by the Agostiniani. Of
principle note are the wooden crucifix from the 14th
century Rimini school of art and 14th century frescoes
that were discovered after the 1916 earthquake.
Construction of the Tiberius Bridge
began under the Emperor Augustus in 14 A.D. and was
completed under Tiberius in 21 A.D. Built of Istria
stone with huge pillars and five arches, it crosses the
Marecchia River, connecting the city center to Borgo San
Giuliano, a picturesque and colorful old fishing village.
Borgo San Guiliano is precious with
its neat, spotless narrow streets, tiny squares, small
colorfully painted houses and murals of historical and
cultural significance. Several of the murals are
dedicated to the maestro, Federico Fellini, born in and
raised in Rimini. A wall of nicknames
commemorates the local tradition years ago.
The Malatesta were one of the most
influential families in the history of Italy. They owned
substantial lands around Rimini especially in the
Marecchia and Conca valleys. It is believed that the
family had its origins somewhere in the middle of the
Marecchia valley, specifically in Verucchio. The
Malatesta Seignory in the valley consisted of the
municipalities of Santarcangelo, Verucchio, Torriana, and
Poggio Berni. These four fortresses, together with
Montebello, were the chain of defense of Rimini and the
Santarcangelo and Verucchio were accessible by bus we
were off for a visit. Line 9 bus from the train station
was right on time at 13:06 and had us to Santarcangelo at
13:28. This town was founded in Roman times (268BC) right
after Rimini, during the construction of the Emilia Way
that passed through it. We found an adorable, impeccably
clean old town center of narrow streets and small squares
linked by short flights of stairs, beautifully maintained
homes and palaces, and quaint wine bars and restaurants.
The bus dropped us at Piazza
Marconi from which we began our journey. On Via Cesare
Battisti we found the Marchi Historic Dye-Works where you
can view the ancient craft of printing traditional motifs
(mostly in the green, blue and rust color combination) on
tablecloths, bedspreads, etc.
The Museum of the Armlet Ball Game
and of the Tamburello has a collection of gaming
apparatus documenting the history of the game of
Tamburello which is stilled played in the Sferisterio (the
open field at the foot of the 1447 boundary wall). The
game was played with a hard leather ball and a bracelet
worn by the competitors. The bracelet made contact with
the ball, which was hit against the wall until someone
failed to make contact or missed the hitting the wall.
A set of stairs led us up to Piazza
Balacchi and the Collegiata Church which dates back to
the 18th century. This is the town's main church and
contains some notable works of art. On the left side by
the entrance is a painting by Guido Cagnacci (born in
town) entitled "S. Ignatius Loyola in Ecstasy.
In the transept on the right is a crucifix of the 14th
century Rimini School and on the left an altar painting
This old town is honeycombed with
over 100 tufa caves that make up what amounts to a
subterranean town. These caves are used as wine cellars
and storage spaces and who knows what else. La Sangiovesa is a
restaurant in Piazza Simone Balacchi that has been
established in an ancient palace. We had heard that
besides serving outstanding cuisine their wine caves
could be visited. Fortunately the chef was available when
we knocked on the door and agreed to let us take a look.
Entering the dining rooms is a trip back in time. A
dramatic dining environment has been created within the
cavernous stone and brick walls and floors, wooden beams
and archways. One flight down is a wine bar and another
stone and brick stairway leads down to the enchanting
tufa caves, which are linked to other caves in the vast
A few more twists and turns and
staircases past lovely small houses brought us to the
prettiest town square, Piazza delle Monache, surrounded
by fine buildings with a medieval well in the center.
More stairs, more charming houses and more superb views,
we could see Rimini in the distance and appreciate the
sight of the Campanone Tower, the 25 meter high tower
that is the symbol of the city.
The Capuchin Convent is surrounded
by trees and shrubs and affords a splendid panoramic view
of the surrounding countryside. This Franciscan Monastery
has four permanent residents and just ten novices at a
time in residence.
Nearby is Malatesta Fortress which
today belongs to the Colonna family. The part built by
Galeotto Malatesta in 1247 no longer exists; the square
tower dating to 1386 is the most ancient part. The inner
part consists of a paved courtyard, a stone cistern and
three furnished rooms from the 16th century.
On our way to the bus we stopped in the
large Ganganelli Square to see the triumphal Arch,
erected in 1777 in honor of Pope Clement XIV. Across the
square is the Town Hall which was built in the 19th
Line 164 bus picked us up at 15:51
and we arrived in Verucchio (Piazza Malatesta) at 16:25.
This medieval town square is home to the Palazzo Del
Municipo, the 18th century Palazzo Giungi and the
neoclassical Palazzo Bedetti.
Verucchio sits on high and offers a
splendid panorama over the Marecchia Valley. By walking
around the renovated town walls you can appreciate the
view and get a sense of how defensive structures were
built during the time of the Malatestas. Between the 12th
century and 1462, the Malatesta family ruled the region
from their stronghold, the Castle of the Rock, their
fortress atop an immense rock spur above the town. Due to
many architectural changes between the 12th and 16th
centuries, it's a hodgepodge of styles, but imposing
nevertheless. There are interesting displays of weapons
and armor and a dungeon that may be visited.
There was another Malatesta
Fortress on the rocks across the way called, Del
Passerello Fortress and Gate. The Monastery of the Nuns
of Saint Claire, which was built on the remains of the
fortress, is now undergoing renovation.
The Municipal Archaeological Museum
is located in a former Monastery of the Augustinian
Fathers. The museum was opened in 1985 and features
discoveries made by systematic excavation between 1960
and 1975 which revealed hundreds of burial sites from the
period between the 9th to 7th centuries B.C. Artifacts
made with organic materials have been conserved by the
characteristics of the rock in which the tombs were cut.
There are urns containing the ashes of cremated bodies
and remains of weapons, ornaments, buckles, pottery,
wooden artifacts and even a wooden throne decorated with
The 164 line bus that was supposed
to arrive at 18:32 to connect us to the Line 160 bus at
Stazione Rosa never showed up. It was getting cold in
Piazza Malatesta here on high so we stopped a car and
asked if they were heading down to Stazione Rosa. They
were kind enough to go out of their way to take us so
that we could make the next #160 back to Rimini.
Our last treat in Rimini was at
Gelateria Arcobaleno Bio which is located in the rear of
the "skyscraper" on Viale Principe Amadeo, the
tallest building in Rimini. This tiny Rimini institution
makes gelato with only natural ingredients and the
constant line ups attest to the exceptional quality and
flavor definitely worth the wait (and the weight!).
Rimini was a total treat and
another good reason to get back to Emilia Romagna.
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