Rimini: much more than a beach holiday

by Trevor.Claringbold

Rimini may be well known as Italy’s major ‘sun, sea and fun’ destination, but there is another side to this popular and historic city that is too often missed by visitors

For most British holidaymakers, Rimini is well known as a beach resort on Italy’s warm Adriatic coast. It was one of the first major destinations of the package holiday boom back in the 1970s, and has more hotels than any other Italian resort. With miles of clean sandy beaches, and a reputation as a great place to party, it’s still as popular today.
But I like a different Rimini; the one with a beautiful old town, centuries of history, and excellent food and wine. Ever since my first visit I have been fascinated with the amazing diversity of history and culture packed into a relatively small area.
Rimini was an important Roman city, and the impressive stone Bridge of Tiberius marked the start of one of the most famous of the Empire’s roads. The Via Emilia runs almost completely straight, right across Italy to Milan. What amazes me more is that the bridge is not only still standing, but is still being used by modern-day traffic, almost 2,000 years after it was built. On the opposite side of town is the huge Roman gate of Augustus, which is even older. 
If such a thing is not a contradiction in terms, a ‘new’ Roman site has also recently been revealed. Hidden for centuries, the remains of a Roman surgeon's house were discovered underneath the remains of a later building. The breathtaking mosaic floors are still largely intact, and it’s easy to see how grand this establishment would have been in those days. I was impressed by the new, and very well designed, light and airy building that now covers and protects the vast site.
The nearby museum has many of the finds from the site, including a full set of the surgeon’s tools. I always try and chat to the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and they recently explained that they think the surgeon was formerly with the army… as he only had instruments to operate on men!
Elsewhere in the old town, there are a wealth of medieval and renaissance buildings, the best known of which is the Malatestiano Temple. Although it is unquestionably beautiful, I also enjoy visiting because it’s the perfect reminder that not all is as perfect as it seems. For several centuries after its creation it was not recognised as a cathedral by the Pope, as the lavish interior paid more homage to the Malatesta family than it did to God.
Despite Rimini having more than 1,200 hotels, it’s surprisingly difficult to locate one anywhere in the pretty old town streets. However the distances aren’t great, and it's not a long walk from the central seafront area. If I had the choice, and a deep pocket, then the luxury Grand Hotel would be my first choice. But since I have to remain at least a little realistic, then the affordably lavish Gradisca is my preference. Just a few minutes from the beach, it’s elegant, whilst remaining friendly and welcoming.
And of course the more I can save on the hotel, the more I can indulge in the other great pastimes of Rimini – eating and drinking. The Emilia Romagna district is renowned for its fine wines and excellent cuisine, and Rimini has the best of both worlds. Its coastal location provides the excuse for exquisite seafood, whilst also being close enough to the mountains to class the superb produce from there as local. One useful tip regarding many Italian establishments, be they restaurants, bars, or hotels: more than in any other country, don’t judge a book by the cover. Italians put far more effort into what’s inside the building than they do into its outward appearance. I’ve eaten in restaurants with fading paintwork and broken shutters on the outside, which then produce the most amazing first-class cuisine inside.
Many restaurants in Rimini – including my favourite, Osteria I Teatini, will also offer you locally produced wines such as the luscious white Trebianco or the succulent red Sangiovese. The latter I enjoy with one of the traditional grilled meat dishes.
After you’ve worked your way through the menu, walk it off with a gentle amble around the old town district. This, if I’m honest, is my greatest pleasure in Rimini. The network of narrow streets offers all manner of interesting sights, and the frequent open squares are generally surrounded by even more fascinating historic buildings just crying out to be explored. Even at quiet times of the year, the whole area has an atmosphere and vibrancy that I just want to soak up for as long as possible. Rimini is a great place to visit, whether for the beach or the city. But it would be a shame to come so close, and not experience all it has to offer.


With more than 30 years experience as a writer and broadcaster, including 14 years with the BBC, Trevor's main passions are travel and history. He has travelled widely, including to the most remote parts of Africa to report on the work of aid charities. He is also an accomplished photographer, and edits a number of websites. He lives on the Kent coast, with his wife and daughter. Favourite places: it's always difficult to choose a favourite place, having visited so many wonderful destinations. Essentially, I like those places that are well off the beaten track, such as the beautiful Isle of Valaam in the north of Russia, or following the smaller roads through the European mountains. However, top of my list is always Africa. The people are wonderful, the scenery is breathtaking, and, as anyone who has ever travelled there will tell you, Africa just gets under your skin forever!