From the 1950’s and 60’s, before the rise of Spain as a package holiday destination, Rimini’s 15 km of sandy beaches were attracting tourists from all over Europe. In fact, it started earlier as, from the middle of the 19th century, people started coming here to take the waters. The success of the seaside means that the city itself has been largely overlooked – a shame since it’s worth exploring.
I’m here to take part in the TTG Travel Experience, held in Rimini for 60 years. This is the key travel event in Italy and hosts a thousand foreign buyers from 62 countries over three days. It’s fascinating to wander around and see the wide scope of tourist experiences that are on offer. In particular outdoor activities are much to the fore this year, with the emphasis on slow sustainable holidays.
I manage to make some time to visit Rimini’s city centre. With ancient Roman origins, famous as the birthplace of the Emperor Augustus, there’s a well-preserved historical core. Wander the cobbled streets, through medieval architecture, and explore its expansive squares. The film director Federico Fellini was born here in 1920 and a new museum complex is dedicated to his life and art.
Rimini Historic Centre
I start at the monumental gateway, the Arch of Augustus, 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 which was once the Roman forum. 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.
Two buildings and a square comprise the largest and most innovative museum in the world dedicated to the genius of Federico Fellini and his legacy. 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 is now 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.
Rimini’s coastline stretches for miles and its soft golden sands and clear waters are easily accessible by train or light rail from the city centre. The nearest is the Grand Marina, a favourite spot for sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts. You can rent a beach umbrella, lounge chair, and take part in activities like paddle boarding and windsurfing. The Parco del Mare stretches along the seafront with playgrounds, water slides, and a wealth of activities for kids.
INFO: Visit Rimini has information about the city
The next edition of TTG Travel Experience will take place in October 2024.
GO: Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Rimini.
STAY: Hotel Select Suites & Spa makes a comfortable seaside base in nearby Riccone.