|If you follow Via Roma for a short way in the
direction of Largo Martiri d'Ungheria, on the left you will find Parco
Alcide Cervi in which small winding roads lead right down to the beach,
and on the right the 2nd c. AD Roman amphitheatre of which surviving solid
brick sections indicate its original dimensions; its arena was almost as
large as that of the Colosseum in Rome.
Continuing through Cervi park between the bronze statues by Arnaldo Pomodoro and the play area for children, and walking alongside the medieval 'bastions' that circled the city, you arrive at the enormous Augustus' Arch, Rimini's oldest monument which seems to have been built in 27 BC. It was constructed to provide a formal and majestic entrance to the city to the travellers arriving from the capital along the Via Flaminia, which officially ended at the arch, continuing on the other side as a city street. The Arch, and Tiberius' Bridge at the other end of the 'decumanus maximus' (the main road in a Roman town which in Rimini is now the Corso d'Augusto) were the two entrances to the city that marked the crossroads of two of the most important consular roads in the Roman empire ' the Via Flaminia and the Via Aemilia ' which both terminated here with suitable monuments. The arch is a single triumphal arch and unquestionably one of the most famous Roman monuments in northern Italy.
On the other side of the arch in Corso d'Augusto, Rimini's main shopping street, lies what used to be the forum of the Roman city. Today the site is the square Piazza Tre Martiri which was dedicated to three young Parisians killed by Nazis towards the end of WW2. The modern piazza, recently restored, was the Roman setting for the speech Julius Caesar gave to his legionaries immediately after crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC when he exhorted them to follow him to Rome; the Renaissance memorial stone on the corner of Via IV Novembre commemorates this event while the temple dedicated to St. Antony that faces onto the square commemorates his miracles of the mule and the fish.
If you follow Via IV Novembre, on the right you come to Rimini's Duomo (most important religious building), the Malatesta Temple. Its magisterial, external architecture is highlighted by the brilliant white marble lining restored for the Jubilee. Although construction of the design by Leon Battista Alberti was not completed, the genius of the architect is clearly demonstrated in the simplicity of the portal and the tympanum of the principal arcade decorated with geometrically arranged motifs, and in the classicism of the linear adaptation of the pre-existing medieval church of San Francesco on which it was based. The sumptuous Gothic interior of the building radiates splendour and magnificence with inscriptions and heraldic symbols and contrasts markedly with the simplicity of the external facade. The single nave interior has six side chapels and contains a masterpiece by Piero della Francesca in the Celle delle Reliquie entitled 'Sigismondo kneeling at the feet of St. Sigismondo'. This fresco and the panel of the Cross, painted by Giotto in the early 14th century are Rimini's most important artistic treasures.
Returning to Corso d'Augusto, you come to Piazza Cavour at the heart of modern and medieval Rimini. It was known as Piazza della Fontana until 1862, and Piazza del Comune earlier than that. The atmosphere of the past is in part retained by the Palazzo dell'Arengo and the Palazzo del Podestà, both of which have undergone several restorations in the past.
The Palazzo dell'Arengo stands between the Palazzo del Podestà and the 17th c. Palazzo Garampi. Dating from 1204, it is the oldest, most stately and the largest of the three palaces. It was the building where the Arengo, or People's Council, used to meet. It is said that justice was meted out in public below the portico and that debtors were made to cede their assets by sitting three times on the stone called the Lapis Magnum (now no longer there) saying on each occasion 'cedo bonis'. The appearance of the Palazzo del Podesà on the left of the Arengo is false, having been restored in the 1920's. The building is more recent than the Arengo by about 100 years and is used for exhibitions throughout the year.
The old fish market stands opposite the palaces and has conserved its original structure almost intact, with the long white marble counters on which clams and cockles were sold. Often used for antiques or crafts markets, this usually silent corridor leads to the elegant square, Piazzetta Gregorio da Rimini, which is still a reminder of Rimini from the past. Back in Piazza Cavour, from the crossroad of Via Sigismondo, you reach one of the city's most important churches, the church of Sant'Agostino in Via Cairoli. Its round spire bell tower, the tallest in the area at 55 metres, is the only part that has remained intact since the church was built. The rest, with the exception of the apse, has undergone various rebuilding and restoration works over the centuries. It holds several important works of art from the 14th c. schools of painting, which evoke an abstract world of enchanted silences and still gestures with a subtle use of colour. Back again in Piazza Cavour, take Via Poletti. Pass the Teatro Comunale (currently under restoration to return it to its original function as an opera house) on your way to the vast square where the Malatesta castle stands, known as Castel Sismondo, built as both a residence and military fort. Only the central nucleus survived the bombing raids of WW2, so that medallions and ancient maps are the only means of knowing its original massive and majestic structure.
Flanking the walls, you arrive at the Cathedral of Santa Colomba or, rather, what remains of what used to be the most important building in the medieval city, its bell tower.
Cross back over Piazza Cavour and head down the other half of the Corso. Exit Roman Rimini on the large, five arched bridge made from Istrian stone that crosses the river Marecchia (Ariminus to the Romans) which gave the city its name and which has formed the northern limit of the city for centuries. The bridge is named Tiberius' Bridge but was begun by Augustus and only finished by Tiberius around 20AD. The extraordinary solidity of the bridge copes with the strain imposed upon it by traffic and resists the river in flood. It is a fine example of the Romans' ability to combine functionality and aesthetics (consider, for example, the inclination of the piers arranged to cope with the current) and its characteristics stand out especially when it is compared to other bridges downstream (Ponte dei Mille and Ponte della Resistenza) which have both had to be strengthened despite being more recent.
On the other side of the river, you enter the enchanting Borgo San
Giuliano, the scene of many historical episodes and now a symbol of the
memory of Federico Fellini with its original mural decorations. Looking
west from the bridge, you can make out the largest public park in the
city,Parco Marecchia, where you can buy refreshments or eat a picnic
beside the river. The Marecchio has its source in Alpe della Luna, close
to the source of the Tiber, and runs into the Adriatic 70 km later down
the (Marecchia valley). Looking east from the bridge, you see Lake
Tiberius and the port canal as far as the lighthouse and the sea with the
skyscraper in the background. From here, descend the long flight of steps
along a narrow pedestrian street that runs alongside the port canal on the
right bank and which will lead you to the white lighthouse. Keep going
straight and you will come to Rimini port where the quay is always lined
with fishing boats and tourists admiring the marina. Turn north towards
the new dockyard from where, on a clear day, you can clearly see the
skyscraper in Cesenatico and the first factories in Ravenna. Looking
south, you see the whole of the sunny coastline that runs through
Bellariva, Marebello, Rivazzurra, Miramare and Riccione as far as the
headland of Gabicce Monte. On a particularly clear day, you can even see
the beacon of the lighthouse at Pesaro. In front of the buildings, the
extraordinary army of sunshades and deckchairs face the rising sun over
the Adriatic and have the backs to the series of gentle hills and the
Republic of San Marino.
The busy Viale Vespucci leaves from the square and runs parallel to the seafront; it turns into the Viale Regina Elena and later the Viale Regina Margherita and is one of Europe's most interesting coastal roads. It is lined on both sides with shops, hotels, bars, restaurants, discotheques and night-clubs which make it a centre of Riviera nightlife.
From Piazzale Independenza, follow the avenue Viale Principe Amedeo lined with attractive villas and gardens until you get back to the railway station where you started. Your tour will have amply shown that there is far more to Rimini than its beach and holiday facilities, and that the modern city boasts a solid cultural background.