Authentic maritime traditions are the beating heart of coastal towns and cities. They boast museums and other sites that narrate ancient stories of the sea, of nets drying in the sun and of patient fishermen spending hours gazing out to sea as they tend their fishing rods.
Walking around here is both relaxing and romantic; the views are magnificent and you can lose yourself in the spectacle of the sky and the boats reflected in the sea at all times.
Here is an itinerary to help visitors discover seafaring villages along the Riviera of Rimini, starting in Cattolica and moving back up the coast as far as Bellaria Igea Marina.
We start our itinerary in Bellaria Igea Marina, in the northernmost part of the province of Rimini.
In this small harbour, an old fishing village, there is quite a large fleet of fishing boats that leave before dawn for their usual fishing trips. In the early morning, when the boats return to the quayside of the small harbour, visitors can buy fresh fish from the stalls near the jetty.
Like Rimini, Bellaria also has an old fish market: built in 1924, fish was sold here until the 1980s. Now, in the summer, it is a popular meeting place and hosts exhibitions and kids’ barter markets.
However, our stop here is for the museum - “Noi. Museo della Storia e della Memoria di Bellaria Igea Marina” (Us. Bellaria Igea Marina Museum of History and Memory) - which boasts areas dedicated to seafaring, narrating local traditions through historical objects.
Following the Adriatica state road south, about 10 km away is Rimini, the second stop on our itinerary.
Rimini harbour is one of the most popular places with locals: for a walk on a Sunday morning, with breakfast on the wharf, it is a must-visit in any season. The “palata”, as it is known, is where Federico Fellini imagined the night-time apparition of the Rex transatlantic ship in his film Amarcord and where, in 1972, when working on the Valerio Zurlini film Indian Summer (La prima notte di quiete), Alain Delon walked in the fog.
It is a place full of meaning and full of life, where fishermen set sail from the quayside on their boats and return followed by flocks of seagulls. Here - as well as at dawn – it is possible to see fishing boats returning to shore in the early hours of the afternoon too and watch them land their catch, which is then loaded onto lorries and taken away to be sold.
It is a side of Rimini that has little to do with its nightspots and discos, an unexpected Rimini that beats in the heart of the port, at the foot of the skyscraper that, standing at 102 metres tall, is a key feature of the city’s skyline.
Moving towards the old town, at 15/21, Via Castelfidardo, just a short distance from the Malatesta Temple, is Rimini’s covered market, the largest fish market in Emilia-Romagna with 60 stalls dedicated to anyone looking to buy fresh fish, which is available here every morning: cuttlefish, periwinkles, clams, oily fish, mackerel, red mullet, mantis shrimps and much more. If you love local food, this is somewhere you should visit for its sounds and flavours of authentic Rimini life.
The last stop in Rimini, the Old Fish Market in Piazza Cavour is a picturesque and distinctive place. Fishermen and fishmongers once met here and it was on these Istrian stone slabs that women sold fish. This area and adjacent Piazzetta San Gregorio, have now become the centre of nightlife, boasting lots of bars, wine cellars and other popular places for young people to meet, especially on Friday evenings.
The itinerary ends in Cattolica, in the southernmost part of the province of Rimini. A small seaside town, rich in ancient traditions linked to fishing, it stands in a natural bay at the foot of Mount San Bartolo, on the border between the regions of Romagna and the Marche.
Cattolica has always been a safe harbour since the time of the Romans and the city of Ariminum, and today is one of the liveliest in Romagna. The real attraction are the boats and the seafaring people. For the fishermen, almost all of whom are local, the day ends at dawn, when they land their catch on the quayside and in the very early hours of the morning, visitors can see them returning to harbour and watch the ancient trades and traditions, such as the untangling and cleaning of the nets: white fish, oily fish and clams are the main catch.
In the town’s harbour area, the wet basin is elegant and pleasant and the marina a real tourist attraction. From here, visitors can enjoy a splendid sunset over the entire Riviera as far as Rimini and, even in the winter months, it is a great place for a nice walk or cycle ride.
In summer, motorboats offer special excursions for fishing enthusiasts; just book in advance at any tourist information office.
We recommend ending the day dedicated to the maritime traditions of the Riviera of Rimini with a delicious local flatbread known as piada, filled with sardines, radicchio and onion: one of the emblems of Romagna and the very epitome of street food.
Local custom dictates that the sardines (called “saraghine” here) should be lightly coated in breadcrumbs, seasoned with chopped parsley and garlic and grilled. Meanwhile, the onion should be sauteed in oil and vinegar and mixed with freshly-picked red radicchio. The result is a perfect blend of the saltiness of the oily fish, the bitterness of the radicchio and the tartness of the onion, wrapped in a delicious and legendary piadina!