A day spent in Rimini 🇮🇹

I had heard of Rimini, with it’s long beaches, glamorous restaurants, cocktail bars and nightclubs with names such as Hobo’s and Coconut’s and it has to be said, it didn’t appeal much. But we had to pass through on our way too and from San Marino, and with a direct bus from Rimini Station straight through to Bologna Airport available and a full day at our disposal before the flight home, we stored our bags at the train station and headed off to explore.

Handy for us, there was a tourist office inside the main station, so we grabbed a tourist map, planned a walking route around all the main historic sites and set off.

My previously held impressions of Rimini soon started to change as we approached the first stop on our hastily devised itinerary and arrived at the Malatesta Temple. Also known as the unfinished Cathedral, it was being built for the ruler of the time Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta but as his popularity began to wane, he started losing a lot of his conquered territory and died before it was fully completed.

Originally it was a gothic church dedicated to St Francis in the 13th century, but by the mid 1400’s it started to be remodelled into a Renaissance mausoleum for Sigismondo’s mistress. I loved the geometric patterns over the front door, which when opened revealed a big central nave lined with huge arches, and an alter complete with a gothic crucifix. There are seven chapels along the right side, all decorated with detailed frescos and statues, although not everyone was a fan of the interior back then, with some of Sigismondo’s enemies proclaiming that the church was ‘full of pagan gods and profane things‘.

Within minutes of leaving the temple we found ourselves right in the heart of the action in the main square, known as Piazza Tre Martiri. This grand square has a fascinating history, the name ‘three martyrs’ is in memory of three civilians who were hung by the Nazi’s during the II World War. The square has been in use though since the Middle Ages, even once holding court for Julius Caesar as he gave a speech, which is commemorated by a bronze statue erected in honour of this famous Roman dictator.

Continuing to explore the square, there is a beautiful but small octagonal temple dedicated to St Anthony of Padua situated in front of the colourful Paolotti Church that you really must go inside to see, the decor inside is pretty unusual.

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The other big draw in the piazza is the Torre dell’Orologio, or historical clock tower, look closely, its design incorporates signs of the zodiac, the months of the year as well as phases of the moon.

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We had a good explore around pretty much every inch of the square, including investigating the many cafes and shops situated beneath the porticos, noting potential places to return to eat lunch later.

We continued on to the furthest point west on the tourist map, to see the ancient gate in the old walls of the city, known as the Arch of Augustus. Built in 27BC, so when I say ancient, I really mean ancient! It is such an important symbol of the city, it’s featured on the coat of arms and is one of the oldest Roman gates that still stands today. It’s a huge striking monument with lots of interesting details, including references to Neptune, Apollo and Jupiter, but it’s a solitary figure, stood alone, surrounded by this modern city on all sides, a proud reminder of Rimini’s past.

Wandering back into the heart of the city, we explored little alleyways, window shopped, spotted a cute mini postal van, perfect for manoeuvring the tiny side streets, then paused for lunch, reinvigorating ourselves with a strong coffee, in the way only the Italians can deliver.

After lunch we headed east, towards the Marecchia River, to another important landmark of Rimini, but not before we poked our heads inside the The Church of Santa Maria in CorteA 14th century church, quite plain from the outside, but inside its full of large gilded columns, beautiful fresco’s and ornate statues, we were glad we peeped inside.

The River Marecchia starts over in Tuscany, flowing its way north east, until it arrives at Rimini and enters the Adriatic Sea, the famous arched pedestrian bridge that crosses the river in the heart of Rimini has been an indispensable part of the landscape for over 2000 years. The Bridge of Tiberius is a stone bridge that has survived even World War II and is an important symbol showcasing the incredible engineering skills of the Romans, and like the Arch of Augustus, it’s featured on the Rimini coat of arms.

As we followed the river to its mouth out into the Adriatic, a large camera stopped us in our tracks, on closer inspection, we found we had accidentally arrived at  Federico Fellini Park. One of Italy’s most famous sons, he was born in Rimini in 1920 and became one of the worlds most famous film directors, winning four best language Oscars.  As well as the camera statue dedicated to the film maker, there is the curious fountain of the four sea horses, a popular meeting point on the way to the beach.

From the park, it was only short walk east to the beach, it was pretty quiet and we had most of it to ourselves, but it was February, out of season and I’m sure on a hot summers day it would have been a different story. But as I’m not a fan of a busy seafront, it was perfect, we continued down the promenade, taking care not to get too wet or sandy before our flight and made it to the waters edge. It was either too misty or probably just too far in distance to see across the sea to Croatia, where a year earlier we had dipped our toes in the same water over in Dubrovnik, there is something about gazing out across an ocean that just ignites that urge to travel even more isn’t there?

Already making plans to return to both Italy and Croatia, full of fresh travel ideas, we headed back through the Arch of Augustus to an ice cream parlour that had caught our attention earlier in the day, due to the wide selection of diary free options. It did not disappoint, and we gleefully finished our Italian adventure devouring our gelato, perfetto!

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EATS – Due to our short time in Rimini, we only managed one main meal, and that was at Caffe La Dolce Vita a decent inexpensive cafe selling pizza and pasta a short walk from Piazza Tre Martiri. There were lots of seaside restaurants, many closed during our visit as it was out of season, but around the main square there was still a lot of choice and with its coastal location, a lot of the restaurants specialising in Seafood, so if that’s your thing, you’re in for a treat.

COFFEE AND CAKE – Again we only had time for one sweet treat and coffee, but we chose wisely and that was at Cuor di Cioccolato.

TOP TIP – You can store luggage at Rimini train station for €5 a day. We caught the Rimini to Bologna Airport shuttle bus for €20 each, taking 90 minutes. This route doesn’t appear to be running at the moment, but that could be a Covid thing. There are other options if you are flying in via Bologna, such as a train back to Bologna city centre. Rimini also has its own airport with transport options available to the city.

ALWAYS BE POLITE – Prego – ‘You’re Welcome‘  Mi Scusi – Excuse Me


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Quick stop in Bologna 🇮🇹

The plan was to get to San Marino, the 5th smallest country in the world, and landlocked inside Italy. The closest Italian city is Rimini, but with no direct flights from where we live, mum and I decided to fly to Bologna instead, a further 68 miles up the coast.

Neither myself or mum had been to the World Heritage city of Bologna before, so we decided to stay for 1 night, before travelling south onward to San Marino.

We landed early morning, giving ourselves one and a bit days to explore the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region, known as the Fat, Red, and the Learn’d City, because of it’s rich food, red roof tiles and is home to the oldest university in the western world.

After dumping our bags at our hotel, the centrally located and friendly Hotel II Canale, we set off to explore and almost immediately found ourselves walking underneath the famed porticos, that define this city. There is nowhere else on earth that has as many of these extravagant porches as Bologna, they were built to extend living spaces, in part because of the large number of students attending the university, as well as the increase in people that moved into Bologna from the surrounding countryside. They originally were made of wood, until 1568 when it was announced they were to all be rebuilt in stone and brick, therefore ensuring they are still standing strong today.

We wandered aimlessly through as many of the portico’s that we came across, but there are lots of guided tours available if you want to immerse yourself in the history further. Just make sure you don’t miss the longest one (Portico di San Luca), the tightest one (Portico Via Senza Nome) and the most painted one (Portico Via Zamboni).

Next we ventured inside the Bologna Cathedral,  this grande Baroque style building dedicated to Saint Peter was finished in the 17th century, and features some well preserved fresco’s, a cedar wood crucifix and ‘La Nonna’ an incredibly heavy bell atop the bell tower, which you can climb if you have the stamina (we didn’t“).

As we wandered towards the unmistakable two towers of Bologna, we spotted an inviting cafe and went in for lunch and had the most delicious coffee, we had truly arrived.

Only one of the towers is opened to the public, and you needed to book in advance, so we had to skip that, plus at almost 500 steps to climb to reach the top, it wasn’t something either of us fancied straight after lunch. But, we had fun peering into more shop windows, watching chefs preparing pasta for the oncoming evening and explored more Porticos, finding a rare wooden one on Via Marsala.

After a peek inside the Basilica of San Domenico to view some of the artwork inside, including an early Michelangelo, on mum’s insistence we had to visit the university.

I admit, visiting a cities university isn’t top of my list when I’m on my travels, with the exception of that time I visited Princeton, but it is a must when visiting Bologna. The University of Bologna, or UNIBO is the oldest university in continuous use in the world, incredibly it is said to have opened its ancient doors in 1088, although didn’t grow large enough to technically become a bone-fide university until about 100 years later, regardless that still makes it 850 years old!

The highlight of any visit will be to see the beautiful and huge library, full of shiny wooden bookcases carefully labelled and organised into subjects such as zoology and astronomy, and any spare space of wall was covered with elaborate coats of arms of the previous instructors who have taught over the years.

Everywhere you turned there was something to investigate, another gem was the anatomical theatre, once used for medical lectures, its wooden walls adorned with famous physicians of the time, such as Hippocrates.

When we visited mum and I just turned up and were able to enter the buildings without a booking, but while researching for this blog post, it appears the situation may be currently different, possibly due to Covid, in that you had to book a slot or a guided tour prior to arrival. This is the link for the most up to date information should you fancy it.

One thing that you may not associate so much with Bologna is the canal system. Mainly hidden from view if you are just staying within the confines of the city centre, the Canal Navile provided an important job transporting goods too and from Bologna Port, from Medieval times up until the port was dismantled in 1934. But there is a place where you can spot this piece of history, and that is at Finestrella where you can open a small window situated on the Via Piella and look down on the Moline canal gently flowing beneath you. If you walk one block east to Via Giovanni Brugnoli, you get an even better view as you peer through the love-locked gate and see the canal continuing to flow, nestled between the striking orange buildings on its way to the Adriatic.

For dinner, we were spoilt for choice, each window invitingly advertising their speciality, of course in Bologna the most famous dish is ragù alla bolognese and I think that’s what mum had, but I went for a delicious veggie pasta dish and we shared a gluttonous dessert.

To work off some of the calories of our delicious dinner, we took another walk through more porticos, and soaked up the atmosphere around Piazza Maggiore, the square lit up all around the perimeter with musicians playing and cafe’s bustling.  Then it was a short walk across the Piazza Netunno to see the Fountain of Neptune all aglow and less crowded than earlier in the day, the statue casting a powerful shadow on the wall behind him.

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The next morning, we started our day with an espresso, it would have been rude not too, then we checked out of our hotel, took a last walk around the main square, and headed to the train station.

Along the way we passed a curious looking ruin, which turned out to be one of the original gates to the city, leaving me thinking there was definitely a lot more to explore here, as well as more pasta to eat, and as we boarded our train to Rimini, I made a mental note to return someday.

EATS – We were only in town to enjoy one evening meal and randomly picked Osteria della Orsa. But the town is famous for its stuffed pasta dishes such as Tortellini, its sausages, cheeses and hams as well as the renowned Ragu Bolognese, meaning you are overwhelmed with choice on where to eat. If we had more time, we would have explored some of the food markets, always a great way to eat well and on a budget.

COFFEE AND CAKE – Again, it was such a whistle stop tour, I didn’t have time to sample nowhere near as much as I wanted, but I had an incredible coffee and cake at Pappare  and they had lots of delicious plant based dishes too, I suspect I would have gone again if we’d had time. Speaking of next time, I’d love to visit Stefino in the Bolognina district to sample some of their vegan ice cream!

TOP TIP – Bologna has a superb location in Northern Italy and coupled with a great train network, you can easily travel to Milan, Modena, Palma, Florence all within 90 mins. We took the train south to Rimini taking 1hr 25 mins and costing just under €10.

ALWAYS BE POLITE – Ciao – Hello, Per Favore – Please, Grazie – Thanks