The once faded resort of Rimini is now the hottest place to party with the beautiful people of Italy
You know you’re staying at the right place when Joaquin Cortes swaggers into the lobby of your hotel to pick up his room key, even if his bodyguard is eyeballing you for staring.
The hotel in question is the Grand in Rimini, once used as a setting by the revered Italian film-maker Federico Fellini, and sometime haunt of the super-rich, kings, queens, presidents, rock stars and... Sting. Given a complete overhaul a couple of years ago, it’s the essence of 1930s Euro-grandeur, and the young Fellini got much of his inspiration by peeping through the hedges at the blue-blooded doings beyond.
Like the hotel, Rimini itself has undergone something of a revamp. Since the 1970s, it’s been a cosy bucket-and-spade resort for European families, but is currently being hailed as Italy's answer to Ibiza. While it might not yet have the ice-cool cachet of Ibiza Town, and the abundance of amusement arcades and souvenir shops along the seafront makes it feel – on arrival, at least – a bit like Blackpool, Rimini is becoming increasingly popular with young, glamorous Italians, who head here for the hundreds of bars, clubs and beach parties.
If further celebrity endorsement were needed, George Clooney regularly hits town to hang with the local Ducati/Harley biking fraternity, while Jay Kay of Jamiroquai moors his yacht in the sparkling new marina just outside the centre.
Parading is a time-honoured Italian art, and there’s no better way to do this in Rimini than on the 15-mile-long beach. It’s packed with bodies of every shape and size, so no need to worry if yours is less than perfect. However, most sport a very un-Blackpool-like tan, so it’s probably best to pay a visit to the spray-tanning booth before you arrive.
On summer nights, the beach comes alive, as various bagni (literally “baths” but in this case, “beach bars”) vie with each other to throw the best party in town. Entrance is free and you can dance until the early hours to house, disco and, curiously, Men at Work.
In the old part of town, there are dozens of bars and restaurants in the Pescaria, an old converted fish market set among Rimini’s cobbled streets and 14th-century Renaissance buildings. Clubbing Rimini-style means getting seriously glammed up, and the accommodating age range (I saw one woman who must have waved 60 goodbye) means you won’t feel like the oldest swinger in town, even if you really should know better. Renowned DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Little Louis Vega and Dave Morales have all played here, while the expensive decor and rooftop pool makes it feel ever so slightly decadent — like something out of The Stud.
WHERE TO STAY
The Grand Hotel
Take afternoon tea in the sumptuous gardens, laze by the pool or put your name down for one of the Sunday-night summer parties on the hotel’s private beach.
Riviera Golf Resort
A super-cool minimalist hotel a 10-minute drive from Rimini in San Giovanni in Marignano. From the outside, it looks like a giant greenhouse but is, in fact, a collection of 32 individually designed rooms and suites, where just about everything is remote-controlled and you can watch plasma TV from the bath at the end of your bed. There’s an 82-metre pool, a spa with treatment rooms, a poolside bar, a restaurant and a party on the last Friday of every month. There’s also a nine-hole golf course, but who needs golf?
This brainchild of designer du jour Ron Arad is situated in Rimini’s old town and, with its pod-shaped bathrooms and glass walls, is as hip as you like. The equally trendy bar NoMi is right next door.
WHERE TO SHOP
Via Dante and Via Ceccarini in Riccione, an up-and-coming coastal suburb about 10 minutes from Rimini, house all the designer names you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t. Pick up brand names at tax-free prices from the shopping malls in and around San Marino, Europe’s smallest republic, about a 30-minute drive from Rimini.
WHERE TO EAT
Sit and gaze out to sea on the sleek, circular deck at Molo 22 in the new boating marina, while you sip crisp Italian white wine and work your way through a seven-course seafood feast.
Pascia, Villa delle Rose and Byblos are all set in the hills above Riccione, so you’ll need a car to get to them. If you’re worried about who’s going to stay sober, drinking and driving is more or less a given, although not something we would recommend, of course. All stay open until 6am.
If you get tired of the beach and fancy a trip out of town, Verruchio is a lovely old hill town about an hour’s drive inland from Rimini. There are breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and a 13th-century fortress, the Rocca del Sasso, where you can see exhibits from down the ages, including a couple of gruesome-looking chastity belts.
Ryanair flies to Bologna Forli from Stansted. There is a public bus service from the airport to Rimini, which takes about 50 minutes.