Friday, May 20, 2005

Day 4: Orvieto-Rimini

More sun this morning....maybe the good weather has returned. We say our goodbyes to the hotel staff at the Palazzo Piccolomini. The hotel has been very good (aside from the slow internet connection) and we have very much enjoyed our stay in Orvieto. Before heading off to Rimini, we make a stop at the Orvieto War Cemetery which is located about 5 km east of town. This is a smaller cemetery than at Bolsena, set in back of an active farm and reached by a rutted, dirt road. But the cemetery itself is as beautifully kept up as the others we have visited and has the bonus of a great view of the Orvieto from the backside of the cathedral.

I had intended to take the faster road between Orvieto and Todi but our detour to the cemetery puts us on the more scenic but much slower high road. But the scenery on this road is well worth the extra time....beautiful rolling meadows, high mountains in the distance and a few picturesque towns. At Todi, we pick up the limited access highway that we take past Perugia and onto Cesena in Emilia-Romagna. The first stretch...from Todi to very commercial and industrial but, as the road starts climbing into the Appennines around Sansepolcro, the mountain scenery is very striking....rugged peaks and green forests. The beautiful drive lasts until the road descends into the Po Valley as it approaches Cesena. The E45 is actually narrow and roughly paved in spots, but the views and the fact that it is toll-free make up for a lot.

Instead of stopping at one of the highway rest stops for lunch, Diana suggests that we get off at Bagno di Romagna to eat, which turns out to be both convenient and very pleasant. The town is a summer resort destination and features hot springs and baths. The "centro" is an attractive long street and the town is hemmed in by mountains. We park next to a pleasant park located along the clear flowing Savio River. In town, the weekly market is just wrapping up but we sit at a pleasant bar in the sunshine, eating good freshly prepared sandwiches. After lunch, we take a stroll along the river and get back on our way.

We reach Rimini about 2 pm....and have a bit of a problem locating ourhotel. After meandering around the center for a while and having to call the hotel for directions, we finally find the Hotel Gradisca just off the beachfront boulevard. Our visit to Rimini--the biggest beach resort in Italy--has a couple of purposes.....the first is that this is the home town of Federico Fellini and I am interested in seeing the new Fellini Museum as well as other Fellini-related sites. Secondly, we had driven through Rimini on our first trip to Italy in 1993 and had gotten completely lost trying to find the center; I hope we can succeed on this trip. In addition, it was in the middle of October and the beachfront area was deserted and seemed very forlorn; perhaps in nicer weather it will be more attractive.

In keeping with the Fellini theme, we are staying at the Hotel Gradisca,which is filled with Fellini-related materials, complete with rooms decorated in the style of Fellini characters. The halls are decorated with Fellini quotes, there is a gallery of Fellini movie posters and a history of his life lines the stairs. The hotel is steps from the beach front in an area of Rimini that is dense with hotels. Actually all of Rimini is dense with hotels....lining the boulevard across from the beach for miles and stretching back five or six blocks toward the historic center.

Our arrival at the Gradisca is not smooth.....we are first given a tiny room that is decorated in what is supposed to be flamboyant rows of large green diamonds with a very big, grotesque painting covering one wall - it's all very oppressive instead of gay. In addition, the room is located in back of the dining room area in a very unappetizing spot. I am able to get the very unsympathetic desk clerk to move us to a room on the second floor which has a more muted decor and is brighter, although it is still small and has two double beds instead of a king size bed as requested. The next problem is that the advertised high speed wireless internet access doesn't seem to work; this was one reason that I had chosen the hotel because I needed the internet to get some of my work done. After several frustrating exchanges with the same unsympathetic desk clerk (in his defense, one of the problems was his lack of English and my lack of adequate Italian), it turned out that they had been having problems with the wireless internet for several days and had been unsuccessful in getting it repaired by the Swiss company that managed it.

I am now dealing with the more sympathetic manager of the hotel...but there’s really nothing that she can do. She offers me the use of her computer if necessary and apologizes profusely and in the end, she offers to buy us dinner at the hotel as a gesture of goodwill.

We finally give up and decide to go out for a walk. We walk along the beach after crossing through one of the many beach concessions that line the beachfront. These concessions maintain cabanas, rent chairs and umbrellas, have games and playgrounds for children as well as volleyball, basketball and boccie courts, and food service. In the summer,the beach is completely packed with families using these facilities. The beach is wide and flat and the water is pretty clear. Diana takes her shoes off and dips her toes in the water. There are quite a few people on the beach, though nothing like the summer season.

We then head towards the "centro storico" and the Fellini Museum.....which ends up being a longer walk than I had figured. We walk up the main boulevard which is lined with grand mansions and shaded by trees. We stop for a rest on bench that we share with two Jehovah's Witnesses who try to interest us in their magazine. When we tell them that we don't read Italian, they give up. On the way to the Fellini Museum, we walk through a section of Rimini that appears to be center of the immigrant community....there are many Africans, Chinese, Filipinos and Indians on the streets.

The Fellini Museum is located in Fellini's home and is also the headquarters of the Fellini Foundation.....and there is a small exhibition area on the ground floor. The exhibit area is smaller than the Fellini show we had gone to Rome a couple of years ago. They are now running a show about the making of the film "Amarcord" which is set in Rimini but all the locations were recreated at the Cinecitta Studios in Rome. There are a series of photographs that show the "real" location and the recreation as well as some other materials related to the making of the film. There is also a small gift shop that sells Felliniana and postcards. The museum is fun to visit but it is definitely not something to build your trip to Rimini around.

The walk back to the hotel proves problematical. One of the factors of Rimini's traffic patterns--both in cars and walking--is the difficulty in getting across the railroad tracks. There appear to be only two or three underpasses that cars can use and there are only a few more places for pedestrians to cross the tracks. In order for us to get back to the hotel, we have to walk a long way in the wrong direction to reach the park that give us access to the beach area. So after a few false starts, we hail a taxi. He has to go several miles to get to the hotel, which was probably less than a half mile away as the crow flies from where we hailed the cab.

Our dinner at the hotel is fine....the food was pretty good--the fixed menu had marinated beef salad with corn as a starter, followed by some very good tortellini in meat sauce, veal milanese with french fries for the secondo and a nice panna cotta covered with caramel for dessert. We drank a fine bottle of valpolicella, which turned out to be from Bolla--I don't think we have had a wine from Bolla in 30 years. Bolla was the label that would-be "sophisticated" wine drinkers started off with in the 1970s.....bardolino, valpolicella and soave.

The other interesting thing about dinner in the hotel....we were the only non-Italians in the dining room. As big a tourist destination as Rimini is for western and eastern Europeans, at this time of year, based on our hotel, it is apparently mostly visited by Italians on holiday.

After dinner, we sit outside in the front of the hotel to enjoy the pleasant evening air and then take the elevator up to our Fellini-themed room. Tomorrow we are supposed to meet our Swedish friend Ulf who has arranged his trip to Italy partly to see us.


Typesetter said...

My buddy Susan, who grew up in Romagna, suggest to have dinner at Marco's, near ponte di Tiberio. Excellent fish, large first courses and pizza. ^_^ I think it's in viale Tiberio 8.

6:45 PM  

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