A Walking Tour of Fellini’s Rimini

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 17:30
A Walking Tour of Fellini’s Rimini

Rimini has it all—chic beaches, fabulous food, culture, ancient ruins, gorgeous architecture, fun-filled festivals and charming hilltop towns. One of the most famous seaside resorts in Europe, Rimini is also the birthplace of famed Italian director Federico Fellini and film buffs will enjoy exploring the director’s birthplace with special stops celebrating his life and work.

Federico Fellini hands-on_director

Walking Tour of Fellini’s Rimini

Fellini often cited Rimini as the source of his inspiration and creativity and portrayed impressions, characters and sights of his hometown through his movies. Amarcord, Fellini’s internationally renowned Oscar-winning 1975 film, is a semi-mythical homage to his childhood in Rimini. A good start for a Fellini walk is Piazza Cavour, a beautiful square, which the director recreated in Rome’s Cinecittá studios to serve as the backdrop for Amarcord.

Piazza Cavour is also prominent in his 1964 Oscar winning film  8 ½,which featured a memorable snow ball fight with a peacock perched on the piazza’s lovely 15thFontana della Pigna “Pinecone Fountain.” An inscription on the fountain mentions Leonardo da Vinci’s delight in seeing the fountain during his stay in Rimini. Just behind Piazza Cavour is the impressive Castel Sismondo (aka Malatesta Castle),which can be spotted in the background of Amarcord.

Pinecone Fountain

Built by Sigismondo Malatesta in the early 1400s as a defense for the city and show of Malatesta’s power, Fellini often visited the castle noting in his memoirs, “When no one else was around and the marble seats were fresh; bombs, bishops and medieval knights patrolled, protective and sinister, in the shadow.” 

Castel Sismondo in the morning

Stroll through the narrow alleyways of Borgo San Giuliano, a charming neighborhood Fellini loved to wonder while imagining story ideas.  Many of the colorful houses have frescos painted by local artists depicting Fellini’s life and works. There are many with scenes from his films, like Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita.

Narrow streets of Borgo San Giuliano

This part of town has a vivacious night life with hip bars and wonderful restaurants, like the totally delightful Osteria del Borgo which has been there for 30 years. Not only is the décor whimsical, with hand-painted napkins hanging from the rafters, but the food is authentic and delicious, featuring many specialties from this Romagna section of Emilia-Romagna. Start with their antipasto rustic dell’Osteria, a mix of the area’s famed filled flatbreads; pecorino and fresh fava beans and various salumi.

Fellini famously said, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta” and no Fellini itinerary is complete without talking about the town’s wonderful specialties like passatelli, a pasta shape little known outside of this region, made with a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest, breadcrumbs and egg that is pressed through a special holed metal device --ferro per I passatelli-- to form long thick strands that are cooked in broth.

Typical pasta from Rimini

Another must-try is the flatbread piada, which is thinner than piadina found in the rest of Romagna. It can be filled with anything—from prosciutto to veggies—but the most classic filling is arugula and squacquerone, a spreadable cheese so unique to the region that it has been awarded geographically protected DOP status.

Of special note when speaking about anything to do with Fellini is Rimini’s famed 5-star Grand Hotel di Rimini so beloved by the director that he drew a watercolor of it, as he recalled it back when he was a 9 year old. For Fellini it was a symbol of the forbidden and he famously joked that all things are possible at the lush Grand Hotel, “crime, kidnappings, nights of crazy love, blackmail… Summer evenings at the Grand Hotel become Istanbul, Baghdad and Hollywood…”

The exterior of the Grand Hotel in Rimini

As a successful director he stayed at the Grand Hotel often, always reserving suite 316. As he writes in his book My Rimini, “The Grand Hotel was a symbol of luxury and exotic splendor.”  The hotel has breathtaking gardens, which you can stroll through even if you aren’t a guest. But for guests there’s also a luxurious spa, pool and lovely private beach. To see more of Fellini’s drawings and water colors visit the Fellini room at the Museo della Cittá, City Museum. Most of them are quite racy and give wonderful insight into the Maestro’s wit and whimsy.

Piazza Tre Martiri in Rimini

Rimini has dozens of fabulous festivals throughout the year, but one of my favorites was actually conceived of several years ago, by famed 3-Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Fellini had long-time fascination with the circus as evidenced by his 1970 docufiction I Clowns, also known as The Clowns. Bottura imagined a Fellini-inspired circus-like celebration of artisan foods and crafts with cooking demos, street food vendors, concerts and acrobats and even came up with its name:  Al Mèni that means “hands” in the local dialect. His vision became a reality thanks to Rimini’s Mayor Andrea Gnassi and others, and now this festival held in mid-June each year is one of the most popular in the region.  

Cinema Fulgor, a beautifully restored theater in the historic center of Rimini, was where in 1926 Fellini saw his first film “Masciste all’inferno” while sitting on his father’s lap. The movie holds a very special place in Italian cinema history as it inspired Fellini to get into film-making. He wrote, “I’m sure that I remember it well because the image has remained so deeply impressed that I have tried to re-evoke it in all my films.” 

Throughout 2020 Rimini will be celebrating the 100thanniversary of Fellini’s birth with special exhibitions and events including a 3-part International Fellini Museum, Museo Internazionale Fellini.

Check the official tourism board for more information on what to see, do and eat in Rimini, featuring itineraries for exploring Rimini’s ancient Roman past, Renaissance and spectacular nearby hilltowns.