Category Archives: Food

Travels in Italy, Roman Rimini

Roman Rimini Street Plan

There was no sign of the predicted storm when we woke the next morning, just blue sky and a flat calm sea and we were pleased about that because today we planned to explore the centre of the city of Rimini.

The hotel breakfast room was practically deserted today. I swear that I am not making this up but for the previous three days it had been busy with delegates attending a Bathroom and Sanitary Ware Conference somewhere close by but now that the lid had been closed on that there were only a handful of remaining guests.

We walked again along the seafront promenade, because we liked the seafront promenade and then reaching the marina turned inland and walked towards the city centre. Today we were going to investigate what was once, two thousand years ago, an important City in the Roman Empire.

Rimini, then called Ariminum, was a major junction connecting central and northern Italy by the Via Aemilia and was seen as a buffer against invaders from Celts from the north and also as a springboard for conquering the Padana Plain, what we know as the Po Valley and the entire area of Northern Italy up to the foothills of the Alps.

When I first arrived in Rimini, just two days before, I imagined it to be no more than a beach holiday resort, I had no idea that it had such a wealth of ancient history and the city has a Roman structure, partly modified by following medieval alterations of course but still retaining the clear town planning footprint of Ancient Rome.

Roman Bridge Rimini

We came first to the Bridge of Tiberius which was an important crossing of the River Marecchia and was a key communications link between the north and south of the peninsula. It is a bridge of five arches built two thousand years ago and it still carries traffic, two thousand years old and still in daily use today. Amazing! It doesn’t cross the River Marecchia anymore because the course of the river has changed in two thousand years but now crosses the dead end of the Porto Canal.

By happy chance it was not destroyed by the retreating German army during the Battle of Rimini in 1944 and is said to have resisted all attempts at destruction, including the ignition failure of explosive charges.

Inside the centre of the city and the old Roman town we visited a museum that had an interesting display with information about the Roman period and back on the streets we came across a statue of Julius Caesar which sort of commemorates an important moment in the history of Rome when he ‘crossed the Rubicon’ in 49 A.D. and began a civil war which led to the overthrow of the Republican Senate and the establishment of the Empire. By all accounts he made his call to arms right here in Rimini.

Roman Juliys Ceasar Rimini

‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is a term we use now meaning the point of no-return. Caesar himself is said to have remarked that ‘the die is cast’.

Most of Ancient Rome has gone now of course, there is no Theatre and there are no Villas, this is not Pompeii or Herculaneum because there has been continuous settlement here for two thousand years with all of the changes and alterations that you might expect over that time. At the eastern end of the old city however is the Arch of Augustus which has survived pretty much intact and to the south there is another gate archway which suffered damage in World war Two but despite this is just about clinging on to archaeological survival. Also to the east are the remains of what was once the amphitheatre, much of it dismantled and reused in later building programmes but enough of it left to be instantly recognisable.

Roman Arch Rimini

We stayed a while in the city, there was a busy street market which Kim couldn’t resist, a medieval castle that was closed and a Cathedral that we visited but was nothing special. We came across an indoor market and inside found a little café bar so we stayed for a while for a beer and an Aperol Spritz and the people there were very hospitable.

When we left the market we were surprised and disappointed to find that the blue sky had gone and the rain that had been promised was making a belated appearance so we had to make our way briskly back to the hotel dodging the showers on the way. Amazing how a day can change so quickly and early morning sunshine was now replaced by afternoon grey skies. I bought an umbrella on the way back as a precaution.

The rain swept in which meant that we spent the rest of the day in the hotel room even though I was able to sit on the balcony and watch the storm clouds sweep in from the east. Later it thankfully stopped raining and we made our way to our favourite Rimini restaurant for a meal of pasta and risotto. We didn’t need the umbrella so that was an unnecessary expense. The food was good and as we ate we crossed our fingers and hoped that the downturn in the weather was only temporary.  We had walked eleven and a half miles today.

Roman Ampitheatre Rimini

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Travels in Italy, Borgo San Giuliano in Rimini

 

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Travels in Italy, A Walk Around Rimini

I was pleasantly surprised by Rimini, I was expecting a ghastly Mediterranean holiday resort but found history, charm, elegance and a busy fishing port.

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Travels in Italy, Bologna to Rimini

Rimini Postcard

I had bought with me to Italy high expectations of Bologna but I am sorry to say that on balance I was disappointed and was happy to leave.

After a final futile search for the lost credit card we made our final packing adjustments and closed the door on the apartment where we had lived for three days.  Odd that, that you can live in a place for three days or three years or three decades and then close the door and just leave.  All you leave behind are memories, or perhaps a misplaced credit card.

We walked to the railway station of course and found it curiously calm.  We purchased our tickets and with forty unexpected minutes to spare found a café in the sunshine for a coffee before returning to the station in good time for our train which rather unusually turned up just a few minutes late.

I didn’t look back as we left Bologna (the sixth most visited city in Italy) and just a few miles out of the city the scenery improved and happily became more picturesque.  To the south were the blue misty Apennine Mountains shrouded still in early morning fog and to the north the fertile plain of the Po Valley, in late September the rich colours of harvest and autumn, umber, terracotta and gold.  The train picked up speed and began to hum and predictably Kim fell asleep.

An hour so later we arrived in Rimini and stepped out of the railway station into streets bathed in a glorious golden glow of late morning sun, we ignored the line of taxis of course and set out to walk the mile or so to our hotel on the beach-front strip.

I have to say that didn’t have high expectations of the Hotel Diplomat Palace on account of how cheap it was at only €40 a night bed and breakfast but the lobby was well-appointed and the reception desk was efficient and welcoming and we were allocated our room on the fifth floor. What a result that turned out to be as we had a top floor room with an uninterrupted sea view looking out over the beach and we congratulated ourselves on our very good fortune.

The beach was a surprise I have to say. Rimini is a popular holiday resort and hundreds of thousands of people visit every year and when they do the beach looks like this…

rimini

But when they go home and the sun-beds and umbrellas have gone then it looks like this…

Rimini Beach

In late September the holiday visitor season was over, everything on the beach was being dismantled and stored safely away until the following year and the view from our balcony provided a panoramic scene of ten miles of sandy beach stretching in both directions to the north and the south.

With the accommodation approved we returned to the streets to take a walk along the promenade and to assess suitable dining options for later.  We actually walked further than we originally intended until we reached the swanky marina and could walk no further north so we turned inland and continued to walk to the city centre along the Porto Canale through the fishing port area of Rimini.  From here approximately one hundred boats operate daily and although it was well into the afternoon there was still some busy trading activity taking place.

Rimini Fishing Wife and daughter

Eventually the Porto Canale came to a dead-end so this is where we agreed that we should find a route back to the hotel but we had unexpectedly found ourselves in the trendy district of Borgo San Giuliano, originally a poor fishermen’s settlement but now a charming neighbourhood of small cobbled streets, trendy piazzas, and colourful street murals. This is now one of the most picturesque places in the city and one of Rimini’s most popular areas, with narrow streets and squares, colourful small houses and many frescoes representing characters and locations of Federico Fellini’s films.

The neighbourhood is closely linked to the famous Rimini filmmaker who despite being born and raised on the opposite side of the city is said had a special affection for the Borgo.  In 1994, the Festa del Borgo was officially dedicated to him and many of the most striking murals lining the walls of the buildings depict scenes and characters from his films.

Rimini Borgo Street 2.jpg

The district was once a lot bigger but it a lot of it was demolished during the frenzy of the Fascist redevelopment period of the 1930s and it suffered more damage in World-War-Two.  On account of that it didn’t take a great deal of time to walk around and soon we were plotting a route home with only an inadequate tourist map to assist us.

After several interpretations we eventually arrived back at the coast somewhere close to the Rimini Grand Hotel, an elegant building of shining white stucco and Art Nouveau decoration.  This wasn’t where we were staying of course but I checked later and although it looks like a hotel for the travelling elite it was surprisingly inexpensive. Fellini liked the Grand Hotel and he kept a suite there permanently reserved for himself.

We made our way back to the much more modest Diplomat Palace, sat on the balcony for a while and then went to the beach and had a swim in the sea and collected some driftwood to take back home to reboot the boat building hobby.

Later we dined at a simple restaurant and declared ourselves satisfied that we had changed our plans and arrived a day early.  We liked Rimini.  We had walked seven miles today.

Rimini Grand Hotel.jpg

 

 

Travels in Italy, Bologna to Ferrara

Ferrara Palace

Our original travel plans included several train journeys from Bologna to the nearby cities of Parma, Modena and Ferrara but after eight days we were tiring of railway stations and the pushing and the shoving and the shoving and the pushing and the graffiti scarred trains so we hastily changed our plans.

So far Northern Italy had been something of a disappointment and it occurred to us also at this time that Parma, Modena and Ferrara might all be rather similar, the same even as Bologna in fact (they are all very close by) so we agreed that we would visit only one and we chose Ferrara because at only thirty miles to the north it was the nearest.

As it turned out the railway station was surprisingly quiet today and train travel was quite straightforward and the journey to nearby Ferrara took just about fifty minutes.  I didn’t however like the gipsy beggars who kept getting on and off and leaving slips of paper explaining how poor they were, how many children they had and how they had no money.  I ignored them of course and held on tightly to my wallet.

Stepping out of the railway station into this UNESCO World Heritage city it immediately felt different, the air was fresher, the grass looked greener, there wasn’t a tourist bus in sight and most importantly there were no beggars and no graffiti.  It was all rather a nice surprise.  We walked to the centre and then found a pavement table in the sunshine and simply sat and enjoyed it.  It was all delightfully tranquil, not like Bologna at all.

Ferrara Palace and Moat

Historically Ferrara was the domain of the powerful Este family, in power and prestige rivals to the Medici of Florence who endowed the city with its signature building – a huge castle complete with moat positioned right in the city centre and we sat beneath its towering red brick walls, finished our drinks and set off to walk the streets.

The Este’s managed the city through the transition from medieval to renaissance and planned and built a city that seamlessly passes from one age to another and back again and we soon found ourselves in a perfectly preserved historical city that has probably remained effortlessly unchanged for hundreds of years.

It was most noticeable that the streets were quiet, almost deserted.  Ferrara is less than a hundred miles away from Venice you see and everyone who visits this part of Italy goes to La Serenissima, a sort of sponge which drains the tourists away from places like this.  Ferrara welcomes less than a quarter of a million visitors each year, Venice is a tourist sweatshop that endures thirty million, almost double the resident population.

I like Venice, who doesn’t like Venice? everyone likes Venice, but I don’t like staying there, it is just too busy and expensive.  I blame the cruise ships most of all, I hate the cruise ships and the swarm of visitors that they deliver.  The last time I visited Venice I stayed in nearby Padova which was a really good way of seeing Venice without staying there.

Ferrara Cathedral

In Ferrara we walked first to the main square and the Cathedral, a formidable Romanesque building with a dazzling façade of shining pink and white marble which provides a stunning contrast to most of the city that is largely built of terracotta brick.  We headed towards the entrance but it was closed today on account of interior construction work.  It seems the Cathedral was damaged in an earthquake in 2012 and the repair work is ongoing.  I sighed, looked at Kim and watched the blush of disappointment spread slowly across her face.

Ferrara Street

So we turned our backs on the Cathedral and wandered off into the network of streets and alleys that leaked away from the main square into a medieval labyrinth of shadows and secrets, shafts of sunlight spearing through the occasional gaps in the buildings, a criss-cross of tiny jumbled streets, packed with churches, cloisters, old palaces and houses.  Eventually we came to the city walls which remain complete and encircle the old centre.  We walked for a while next to the red bricks until we were in the Renaissance part of the city where all is space and dignity with parks, palazzi and grand houses.

It was a gentle walk but Ferrara is only quite small so soon we were back at the castle so with things still to do in Bologna we made our way back to the railway station.

If I had been disappointed with Milan and Bologna in Ferrara I was beginning to fall in love with Italy again.  On the train back to Bologna I reflected on a good day and wondered now if we had been a bit hasty in our decision not to visit Parma and Modena.  Kim fell asleep, she always falls asleep on a train journey.

Half way back it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a statue of Garibaldi.

We had seen Girolamo Savonarola who was born in Ferrara in 1452 and was the famous medieval Dominican priest and leader of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and hostility to the Renaissance.  Even Christians have fundamentalists!

Ferrara was certainly different!

Ferrara Savanarola

Travels in Italy, A Walk around Lake Como

 

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Travels in Italy, Looking Back

Travels in Italy

Not surprisingly Italy is the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it has fifty-three, seven more than Spain which has the second most sites in Europe.  I have visited half of the sites in Spain but when I reviewed the Italy list I was disappointed to find that I have been to less than a quarter.

This time in Italy I was planning to add a few more, Milan (The Last Supper), Modena and Ferrara.

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