Saturday, May 21, 2005

Day 5: Rimini

The weather continues warm and sunny and after breakfast, we begin our search for a laundromat....the hotel manager has told us that there is one in the next piazza down from the hotel (frequently directions that one gets in Italy are not specific and don't include addresses). We see nothing on the main street but finally see a sign for a lavanderia with a picture of a washing machine so we head for the address. Getting there is difficult because the traffic is quite heavy this morning (the Viale Tripoli is one of the few streets that crosses the railroad tracks) and also due to the seemingly erratic pattern of one way streets. We finally pull up in front of the lavanderia and find that it is closed up sign with the opening hours, no telephone we suspend our laundromat search and head for the "centro storico" of Rimini.

We arrive and find the last space in the parking lot near the Rimini market....the streets are jammed with shoppers, motorbikes, bicycles and buses as well as a family of "gypsies" who are working the parking lot. We take a detour through the large and very busy market on our way to our first stop at the Tempietto Malatesta, now the Rimini Duomo. Rimini's centro was heavily bombed during World War II....but today, the center seems attractive and very clean. The Tempietto was built by the Malatesta family, rulers of Rimini in the 15th century....they brought in leading architects and artists from all over Italy to make over an old church into a gleaming marble-covered classical building filled with rich carvings, bas relief and statuary inside. The tempietto, even though it is now the cathedral of Rimini, has very little religious content in its decoration. There is a lot of celebration of the Malatesta family, a lovely fresco by Piero della Francesa of Sigismondo Malatesta with his patron saint, and allusions to arts, sciences and philosophy. One of the few traditional Christian references is the crucifix attributed to Giotto in the front of the Tempietto.

We have to leave the Tempietto because a mass is beginning and we return later to finish our visit. We sit in the main square--the Piazza Tre Martiri--which was an important location in the Fellini film Amarcord (even though it was recreated on a soundstage at Cinecitta in Rome). It is a wide, almost car free zone (we actually drove through it the day before while looking for our hotel), with benches, outdoor cafes, shops, an interesting clock tower and even a small chapel. The next square, Piazza Cavour, is much more medieval--the old municipal palazzi and the theater have been rebuilt after having been heavily damaged during the war. There is a market filling the piazza which also has a statue of Pope Paul V in the center and a 15th century fountain. While most of the stalls are selling clothing and leather goods, we stop to watch the man pitching one of the amazing kitchen implements you see in infomercials in the middle of the night on television. Here in Rimini, the infomercial is live and the pitchmen artfully slices and dices all manner of vegetables, while at the same time selling the devices and collecting the ten euros from customers without missing a beat.

As part of the Fellini pilgrimage, I walk into the Cineteca Rimini housed in the public library. It is a film library and screening room holding films by Fellini, by other Riminese directors and also films that are set in Rimini. I look at the posters and reference materials, declining the offer of the man at the desk who asks if I want to watch a film.

We stop at the tourist information office near the station to inquire about the existence of a laundromat and we are told that there is indeed an Onda Blu (the laundromat chain) right in the area where we were looking. We take another run to try and find it...and strike out. Half the people we ask didn't know about it and the other half direct us to a spot just off the main piazza. Finally, a waitress in the restaurant right on the corner tells us that it had been there but had closed a month or two ago. So we end this part of the search for the elusive laundromat.

We walk out on the beach to have lunch and sit at a table at one of the beachfront restaurants and have sandwiches--actually the local specialty called "piadina", which is a tortilla like flat bread. Our piadine are filled with prosciutto, stracchino cheese and arugula....and are very good. We enjoy watching the people on the beach while we eat. After lunch, we eat our gelato sitting on a bench near the beach.....Diana has melone and crema and I have strawberry and lemon--what a life.

Now that we are experienced Rimini drivers, our trip back to the train station to pick our friend Ulf is a piece of cake. Before we pick him up, we go into the tourist office to report what we have learned about the closed laundromat. A friend of the staff person tells us that she is also unhappy that the place closed but that a new one has opened up closer to the station. They mark the spot on the map; we will try to find it later.

We have a nice reunion (we haven't seen him for about five years) and head off to visit the hill town of San Leo in Le Marche. Once out of the Rimini city limits and past the suburban sprawl, the countryside becomes beautifully green. We can see a number of towns on the tops of the mountains in the distance and even one foreign country, the Republic of San Marino. The approach to San Leo is steep and dramatic; the castle fortress dominates the landscape and is set on the edge of one the sheerest precipices we have seen. The town itself is picture postcard perfect.....stone buildings, a pretty piazza, old churches, and spectacular views in all directions. The fortress hovers over the town on the top of a tree covered hill. We sit in a cafe on the piazza, talk and watch the passing scene. I make the short but strenuous climb up to the fortress, but am unwilling to pay the Euro 8 admission charge for the armor display, so I don't get inside.

Before leaving town, we go to the belvedere with more fabulous views of the Le Marche scenery and then drive back to Rimini. In Rimini, we take Ulf on a short tour of the city and then sit in the main square drinking prosecco, talking and enjoying the scene. We drive him back to the train and begin searching for the other laundromat. After covering just about every street in the neighborhood we admit defeat. We will try again in Ravenna, our next stop.

By now it is after 8 pm and we discuss dinner plans. One of the possible trattorie--Il 4 Moschiettieri (4 Musketeers) is in our vicinity so we set out to find it. Not only do we find it right away, but there is a legal parking space right across the street. This is too good to be true. As I am closing the rear door of the hatchback, I somehow manage to get my head in the way of its downward path, causing a pretty good gash on my forehead. The restaurant owner has witnessed the whole incident and comes out with some towels to help me stop the bleeding. Other than a lot of blood, a headache and some embarassment, there is no harm done. The owner gives us some ice and some bandaids and in a short while we are ordering dinner.

Dinner is fine....Diana again has a delicious plate of melon and prosciutto followed by a mixed grill of fish, all of which are tasty and well prepared. I have the mixed plate of "salume" which is excellent and a just okay plate of spaghetti with clams. The house wine is very pleasant and, in spite of my wounded head, we make it through the meal. The drive back to the hotel is uneventful. Tomorrow we are off to Ravenna.


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