There was a small horde of six year olds in the first carriage I boarded at Ravenna station – the buggers are stalking me – so without making eye contact, I calmly walked further along the train.
Leaving Ravenna so soon?
Just a day trip. In my opinion, Ravenna is too small for much more than a weekend but it’s a fabulous base for visiting other nearby towns too and the rail fares are extremely reasonable.
My walk to the station was highly educational. The town is could definitely be described as capitalising on its connection to Dante. There are QR plaques embedded in the walls along the streets so you can read “The Divine Comedy” as you walk. I covered four summaries today, all out of order. If that’s not to your taste there are always Dante teatowels and other memorabilia – not quite tat. I get the impression that Ravenna doesn’t want to trivialise the memory of Dante and therefore risk forfeiting its right to keep his bones.
There’s clearly real kudos in being able to continue to win the “Nur nur ne nur-nur” rivalry with Florence.
It wasn’t only me who was over 20 minutes early for the train. It seems very much to be the done thing in Italy. In other places while travelling, I often found myself to be alone on platforms until suddenly there would be a surge of people joining me five minutes before the train arrived.
The landscape around the railway line continued to be flat and green, but passing the occasional lagoon. As the train approached the sea, it stopped at numerous small towns with only glimpses of blue water visible through the narrow streets of paintes houses.
The conductor had her work cut out today with a couple of people refusing to wear a mask – despite having one in their hands. Exasperatedly and on discovering their shared language was English, she told them very clearly and very loudly: “I don’t know what the rules are where you are from, but here: we wear the masks on public transport.
“If you don’t want to, that’s fine but you get off at the next stop and find a car. In private transport do what you want. In public, you think of other people.”
They put their masks on.
I was ready to cheer the conductor. She was fabulous.
The train arrived in Rimini. Originally founded in 268 BC, the city served as a vital communications outpost between the North and South of the country, and its location on the Adriatic Sea made it an important stronghold. It was a busy seaport throughout the Roman era and quite a lot of the structures from this period survive, including the Arch of Augustus – the oldest Roman Triumphal Arch in Northern Italy.
In the 19th century, Rimini was one of the most active cities on the revolutionary front, hosting many of the movements seeking to achieve achiItalian unification. In the course of World War II, the city was the scene of numerous clashes and bombings (making it even more remarkable that so much of its heritage survives), but also of a fierce resistance that earned it the honour of a gold medal for civic valour.
After a wander around the city centre, I headed for Borgo San Giuliano, just across another Roman feature, the Tiberius Bridge (built 2020 AD and still in regular use) came into existence about a thousand years ago. With access to the river but nowhere near anything else it was an impoverished fishing village. Long associated with poverty, prostitution and crime, its fortunes did not begin to improve until 1979.
It largely began with the Festa del Borgo San Giuliano, a large street fair with music, theatre, food, and fireworks. The first one was held in 1979, again in 1980, and then every two years since. The festival brought attention and a sense of pride. The second aspect of the festival was the street art that came with it… the murals painted on the houses.
With each festival, there was a new theme and artists decorated the neighbourhood with the murals and they stayed there until the next festival two years later, when a new series of murals was painted. Until in 1994, when the theme was the films of Frederico Fellini (born in Rimini and fond of the neighbourhood) and many of these remain.
The festival and the artwork have brought investment to the village and does not yet appear to have priced the locals out of the area, so often a risk with gentrification.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen street art as a means to regenerate the economy of a community – Tam Thanh (the first mural village in Vietnam) and Funchal (Madeira) both stand out as very colourful examples.
Rimini is also famous for its beach… now do bear in mind that I am not a fan of beach holidays… I love being by the sea but I’m not one for sun bathing. The sand here is pale gold and the beach stretches for miles… not that you can see much of it for the sun loungers and umbrellas. The beach front is very developed: hotels do not quite cover every square inch; there is space between the buildings and while the decked and flower bedded beach promenade is beautifully done, it’s just not my thing.
I contented myself with pictures from the walk from Borgo past the fishing marina to the harbour.
I headed back to Borgo. Frederico Fellini, as mentioned, was born in Rimini and spent his first 19 years in here.
The city, or at least his memories and impression it, had a starring role in several of his films – Amarcord (“I Remember”) and I Vitelloni (“The Layabouts”) in for example and appears, virtually, in scenes in many others. I say virtually because he didn’t do any filming here, but lovingly reconstructed his home town at the Cinecittà studios in Rome, and found surrogate stretches of beach just outside the capital.
I wonder how much benefit he could have brought to Rimini and Borgo in particular if he had filmed here.