Now getting into the contemporary centre of Rimini, close to Augustus’ Arch and along the small shopping streets of the old town, we can discover more of the medieval vibes of the city. As a starter, not so far from Piazza Tre Martiri, one of the most important squares, there is a magnificent piece of Catholic architecture.
Tempio Malatestiano ('Malatestian Temple'), which has mainly Romanesque characteristics has never been entirely finished and was named after a powerful local family supporting the constructions: the Malatesta.(If you have some knowledge of Italian, you are correct: the name means ‘Bad Head’. It was the sobriquet of the ancestor of the house.).
The building was first meant to be a cathedral, then Sigismondo Pandolfo, one member of the family decided to turn it into a personal mausoleum.
This is the reason why nowadays it is not called a church (chiesa), but a temple, because there are so many elements related to the Malatesta family and different myths, that the pope himself named it as a pagan temple (tempio) and he even excommunicated Sigismondo who was a potential and strong rival for him in Rimini.
The church (temple) is indeed full of fascinating ornaments, such as shells (conchiglia) or another popular local motif, the elephants, which is not so rare in the European art either: remember the elephant in front of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome or The Elephant of the Bastille in Paris.
Although the second monument does not exist anymore, many readers might remember it due to the famous work of Victor Hugo, Les Misérebles.
There are also dozens of amazing pictures at the two sides of the building where the smaller altars are meant to be, while the most famous is probably the crucifixion above the main altar, just in front of the main hall, which is an alleged work of the well-known Renaissance artist Giotto.
Another medieaval spot is Piazza Cavour, which is although named after the legendary prime minister who worked on uniting the modern Italy, rather creates the atmosphere of the old days back from the times when Rimini and Romagna were territories of the Papal State, just like many cities on the North of Italy.
You can even see the statue of Pope Paul V in the middle, with the obligatory attributes of the papacy: the hat (tiara) and the crossed keys referring to St. Peter, the first pope who was entrusted by Jesus to guard the keys of Heaven.
In the same square, which is full of brilliant arcades and columns you can admire palaces like Palazzo dell'Arengo or Palazzo del Podestà, but since a square is usually a market (the Italian word, piazza is even transferred to Hungarian: piac means market), there was an important fish market nearby called Vecchia Pescheria (‘Old Fish Market’) which must have been something similar to La Boquería in Barcelona.
I could not see it, but notices it afterwards that there is also a garden on the other side of the palaces dedicated to Paolo and Francesca, the famous and tragical lovers from Dante’s Divine Comedy, who, in spite of their true love, suffer in hell as a punishment for their adultery.
Of course, I realized later: she was called Francesca da Rimini - and most probably, as my high school memories came back, that was the first time I heard the name of the enchanting city. Just to make it more interesting, guess the family name of Paolo. Yes, you are right. It is also Malatesta, just like the local landlords’ one!
I would also like to mention another medieval monument, Castel Sismondo, which is a typical and elegant medieval castle, and had been built by Sigismondo Malatesta as well.
The castle was also used in the 19th century by the Carabinieri (aka gendarmes: legal armed forces in Italy even today, like the police or the army), and finally it became a museum dedicated to Federico Fellini, the famous director from the 20th century, who is also thenamesake of Rimini airport, since he was born here in this city.
There is also a park named after him close to the beach, which has a mesmerizing fontain with four horses facing the four opposite directions, and there is also a huge photomachine there as a monument of cinematography and Fellini. Literally a perfect object(ive) to have a picture with.
However, use the word camera in Italian wisely: since the word originally comes from the Latin term camera obscura (‘dark room’), camera still refers to a room in modern Italian almost equally with stanza - just think about the word cameriere (‘waiter’) in Italian or Hungarian word kamra which means a storage room for food.
By the way, Hungarian word kamara ('chamber') in politics and administration also has the same origin, but there are also other false friends: cantina, namely, means cellar in Italian, while in English or Hungarian canteen and kantin is a place to eat, for example for workers or students. It is less confusing to use the word mensa, which is also a Latin word but used equally in all of these languages for dining halls.
Before moving on our next destination, I should not forget about recommending the beach of Rimini (spiaggia), where there is a long sandy coast full of sunbeds with umbrellas for a relatively cheap price in order to enjoy the sunshine and the waves for the whole day.
It was a bit similar for me to the playas of Valencia, but in my opinion the organization and the facilities were way better (services of shower and toilet were also included in the price for instance).
However, some ‘obligatory’ people were not missing from the beach, just like the small stores full of souvenirs, beach assesoriers and basic food along the long avenue by the coast or the beach sellers offering drinks or a massage, just like I experienced in Spain (although I missed a bit those special ones selling the huge kerchiefs).
The water might get deep quickly, but it is mostly safe and obvious where to swim and where not to, while the temperature was also pleasent when I tried to swim in the sea. In general I am not the type of person who can spend a whole day just being in the beach without any kind of sightseeing, but Rimini beach was an exception, and I did not feel that i was wasting time, but only that I was resting.
The night life also takes place near the beach, since the coast of Rimini is as much modern and touristic as historical its city centre is.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants as it should be, particularly close to Piazzale Kennedy (where there’s a great view spot as well) and you might hear some live music too if you are lucky enough. What is more, there is also a big wheel (La Ruota Panoramica) close to the beach.
If you pass by the wheel, you will end up in a peninsula surrounded by a long breakwater, where you can have one of the most breathtaking sights on Adria - an excellent choice to enjoy the sunset for instance.
Unfortunately it is not visible from the coast, but somewhere in the middle of the sea, still within the official territory of Rimini there is an artifitial platform standing in the water, which is quite popular for extreme tourists. What is that?
No wonder some people are interested in it, because this platform used to be the short-living microstate of the Republic of Rose Island founded by Italian engineer Giorgio Rosa in the late ‘60s.
Although the provocative attempt was terminated by the Italian authorities, it is such an interesting fun fact in the region like the Principality of Sealand by the shores of England - with the difference that Rose Island was ceased to exist.
Last interesting information on this topic: guess what the official language of the country was! No, not Italian, it would be too easy this way. It was Esperanto!
If you have a look at the rocks in the front, you will see some plaquets with names there: it is a memorial installation in remembrende of the Italians who had to flee from Istria, Dalmatia, Fiume (Rijeka) and in general from the Eastern coast of Adria due to the natonalism emerging in the 20th century with phenomena like population exchange, assimilation, relocation, collective punishment, forced emmigration or even genocide (like in the case of the foibe massacres).
The plaquet tells us about the darkest era of the past century that was and still is the topic of many books and movies. It caused plenty of damage and hatred not only in the Adriatic region, but also in our Carpathian basin (Transylvania, Upland, Voivodina), in Silesia (Poland-Germany) or in Volhynia (Poland-Ukraine), where people were able to live together in piece for many centuries before political ideas interfered their everyday lives.
These were my first two chapters I wanted to share about Rimini. Next time we will travel a little bit to the North to visit a legendary and unique city of Romagna which is full of arts and history, even more than what we have seen so far. See you in Ravenna soon!