Since July 30, 1843 Rimini has been indissolubly linked, in the imagination of many generations and in its very city structure, to seaside tourism. From that day, when the first "Beach" opened to the public, the life of the city changed, and with it, its urban architecture. Along the 15 km of waterfront a new style is shown off: completely different from the one that characterises its historical center or the other inland cities. A style that can still be appreciated today with a walk to discover the seaside architecture of Rimini.
This itinerary can only start from the most iconic of Rimini's monuments, which represents the seaside style and history of Rimini. The Grand Hotel was designed by architect Paolito Somazzi. It was inaugurated in July 1908 and immediately became a symbol of the city. The structure is characterised by the grafting of modern motifs, inspired by the Viennese secession, in a project purely focused on Italian Liberty.
The façade, with its curvy and continuous lines, features an abundance of both natural and anthropomorphic elements and it is intentionally turned away from the sea. In fact, the hotel wanted to be a meeting place for the city; thus, its rich façade faced the square that the hotel bordered together with the Kursaal, the beating heart of wellness and social life in Rimini, where the rooms dedicated to thalassotherapy were next to those dedicated to dancing.
The Grand Hotel is still the backdrop for many of Rimini's important events that take place in the park right in front of it, dedicated to Federico Fellini. The name of the Rimini-born movie director is deeply linked to that of the hotel, which was considered a second home of sorts by Fellini who had his own room at the hotel and even a personal menu at the restaurant. In order to celebrate its famous guest, the Grand Hotel di Rimini, which was declared a national monument in 1994, allows visitors to tour its interior in a museum area featuring video and photographic material. Visitors can learn about its history and that of its most illustrious guests.
The itinerary continues along the sea heading south, walking across the new Rimini Sea Park up to its core: the Belvedere in Piazzale Kennedy. Here, in 1933, one of the most famous buildings of the city was inaugurated. It is one of the few examples of seaside architecture still intact in Italy: the Neptune or, as the people of Rimini like to call it, the Rotonda.
Its circular shape, which today still sits into the sand a short distance from the sea, gives the idea of a platform that has emerged from the Adriatic Sea, and with its defining Deco style, it has seen generations of tourists meet on its charming 360 degrees terrace overlooking the coast, becoming a beloved meeting place over the years.
Since 1940, the Nettuno has established itself not only as a seaside establishment but also as a dance hall, a stage for fashion shows, exhibitions, film and photographic set, and a must see for tourists and a meeting spot for the paparazzi of the jet-set. The last restyling of the Rotonda by the sea was supervised by Architect Massimo Morandi, in 2010.
The "Colonie" are the most symbolic and recognizable example of Rimini's seaside architecture, both for their structural characteristics and their historical value. At the beginning of the last century, these buildings were built with the purpose of hosting children and adolescents hailing from all over Italy, at the Riviera by the beach, during the summer months. Those in charge of organising these long summer camps by the sea were the Italian municipalities and the large industrial companies that wanted to reward their employees' children.
The buildings, built a few meters from the beach along the 15 km of coastline, hosted generations of Italian children. Over the years, some of these “colonie” have been repurposed, recovering and renovating them as needed, while others, among the largest and most iconic, still appear as they were built, waiting to find a new use.
The third leg of the itinerary explores Rimini's two most famous colonies: the Colonia Bolognese and the Colonia Novarese.
The former was built between 1931 and 1932 based on a project by Ildebrando Tabarroni. The architecture was quite outdated, inspired by an antiquated hospital architecture with defined separation between the rooms. The complex consists of four pavilions arranged perpendicular to the beach, which housed the dormitories and refectories in the basement, interspersed with three smaller buildings used as offices, services and staff rooms all connected by a corridor 169 meters long.
The refined, though obsolete, style of the building is further emphasised by its proximity to the latter, the Novarese, built between 1933 and 1934, based on a project by Peverelli. The building, which recalls the shape of a ship, is inspired by new architectural rules that were becoming popular across the country. It was adapted to better represent sea and navigation, becoming more suitable to its seaside context and function. Consisting of a single isolated building constructed parallel to the beach, it shows two symmetrical wings, which rise to four levels plus a terrace, held together by a central staircase-tower. Unlike the Bolognese building, externally covered in brick with the intention of concealing the load-bearing structure, the Novarese is entirely built in exposed reinforced concrete.
The former “colonie”, awaiting renovation, are now the focus of a recovery campaign carried out by some city-based associations, such as the "Palloncino Rosso” that wants to promote their reuse by turning them into a stage for exhibitions and cultural events and that often organises guided tours. These tours are the only opportunity to access the “colonie” that are generally visible only from a distance.