Saturday, 8 September 2012


The Arch of Augustus

Our trip to Rimini was the final stage of our trip along the Piero della Francesca trail, which last year took us to Arezzo, San Sepolcro and Monterchi, and this year has led us to Urbino. Rimini is also a famous seaside resort, which we propose to ignore, and a very ancient city. It was founded as a Roman colony (Ariminum) in 268 in an area previously occupied by Etruscans, Umbrians, Greeks and Gauls.

I had roughed out a route based on a map I found on the Lonely Planet web site and notes from various guide books and web sites.

Having found a parking space on the outskirts, I was very pleased that the first thing we should see was the Arch of Augustus, built in 27 BC. The red brick battlements were added in the middle ages and the whole thing was restored in the late 18th century. More unexpected was the considerable length of roman (?) walls that lined the side of a park opposite the Arch.

We headed for our primary destination: the Tempio Malatestiano. This extraordinary structure began life as the red brick gothic church of San Franceso, but was remodelled on the instructions of Rimini's greatest ruler, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta as a mausoleum for him and his wife. Sigismondo chose for the task the great renaissance theorist and architect, Leon Battista Alberti, author of the celebrated treatise On painting. The brick shell was encased in marble taken from roman ruins.

The inside is a more conventional renaissance church and towards the end of the nave you find Piero's rather damaged, but still wonderful, fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta praying in front of St Sigismund.

From here we followed via Garibaldi to the Piazza Tre Martiri where we admired the elegant bell tower. It turns out the three martyrs were three young partisans from Rimini executed by the Nazis as they retreated in 1944.

 We then passed the massive romanesque church of St Agostini, with its enormously high walls and general absence of windows. Were were unable to get in, so who knows what the interior is like.

This brought us to the Piazza Cavour, the main square of the city, where unfortunately for us there was a massive street market underway. This extended into the adjoining Piazza Malatesta and the area surrounding the vast ruined vestiges of the Castle Malatesta.

We forced our way through the crowds to emerge at the edge of the old town and follow the road round to the river where we were staggered by the other great roman remain, the Bridge of Tiberius, completed in 21 AD and still in use.

We strolled across and found a lovely fish restaurant for lunch. We noticed that the menu was also available in Russian - and we had heard Russian spoken several times while we were walking around. Apparently, Italy is a favoured destination for Russia's rich elite and the Adriatic riviera is one of their preferred places, along with obvious candidates like Sardinia and Positano.

After lunch we began the return loop of our walk, passing again through Piazza Cavour. The market was almost gone and it was possible to get a clearer view of (from right to left) the Palazzo dell'Aren, the Palazzao del Podestá and the Teatro Communale. On the left side of the square is the beautiful 18th century fish market.

We followed the Corso d'Augusto to exit through the arch...

... and made a final detour to the site of the roman amphitheatre. I have read that it was enormous with an arena 77m in length. However, it was severely damaged during the Second World War and now there is nothing meaningful to see.

Distance: just under four miles.

Conditions: very hot, about 30 degrees.

Rating: four and half stars. Full of interest and surprises.

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