“Are you here for the beach?” the hotel proprietor asked as he showed us to our room; he looked surprised when we said, no, we were actually there for sightseeing. But his question was not unreasonable. Rimini is the beach capital of Europe and we had already observed mile upon mile of sandy beach packed with rows of coloured deckchairs as we flew into the airport.For us it was just a quick late summer break, a few days with a budget airline and a cheapish (but excellent) hotel. We had planned it as a base for getting to other places in the region but were pleasantly surprised to find that Rimini is more than just a tourist trap: it has a rich history with an old city centre and Roman remains. It also has several excellent restaurants. And train and bus links make it an ideal base for exploring this part of Italy.
The Old Town of Rimini
Rimini has a long history, having been settled by the Etruscans and the Romans, and then having a number of rulers, including Byzantium and Venice, throughout the succeeding centuries. It finally joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Much of the historic old town is the legacy of the Malatesta family, who ruled the city from the 13th to the 15th century. The cathedral (the Tempio Malatestiano) was originally built as a Franciscan church but later converted by the notorious Sigismondo Malatesta into a shrine for his mistress. Although the building was never finally completed it is worth seeing for the work of the Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti and the many fine artworks in the interior.
Nearby is the Castel Sismondo which was built as a residence for Sigismondo in 1437 and later became a prison that remained in use until the twentieth century. Today the castle is used for art exhibitions.
There are two main squares in the old town. Piazza Tre Martiri, on the site of the old Roman forum, has a 16th century clocktower, and Piazza Cavour has two magnificent palazzi and the nineteenth century Teatro Amintore Galli.
Roman remains in Rimini
Borgo San Giuliano
Days out from Rimini
Buses run regularly to the independent city-state of San Marino, or (in the summer months only) to the hill town of San Leo with its impressive fortress and 12th century cathedral. Trains run up and down the coast to Ravenna, where you can see Byzantine mosaics, the smart beach resort of Pesaro and the port of Ancona. Or you can travel further afield to Venice or Bologna. If you have a car be sure to visit Urbino, a mediaeval hilltown with a fine Renaissance palace. Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to sample the authentic local cuisine of Rimini and the surrounding area!
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