I am holed up on the floor of a hot train in between carriages. There isn’t much space but I have managed to sit, curled. I can’t quite feel my legs and I am not all that bothered. I have had a great couple of days on an impromptu trip to the Emilia Romagna seaside town of Rimini, and it is cushioning me on the way home.
I had heard a lot about Rimini, little of it good. That it was a heavily touristed town and quite tacky. It is a beach town and I hate beach holidays too, although I adore the sea. When on holiday, I like to read (in the shade), mooch and wander, and explore the local food and wine scene.
But when I arrived in Bologna, locals started to tell me about the food culture in Rimini, that there were some great restaurants serving local specialities. That the centre of Rimini is an old Roman town. I had no plans for the weekend so I thought, why not? 1.5 hours on the train from Bologna and a €20 return ticket, seemed not too terrifying a gamble.
The sea air, how I miss it. It is different here to my sea air at home, all warm and gentle. Where I grew up, on the Atlantic coast in southern Ireland, the air in winter is like a constant exfoliation. It can be harsh and it is certainly direct. Here it is soft and clear, reflecting the gentle lull of the Adriatic.
I stayed at the Savoia Hotel, facing the beach. The Savoia prides itself on it’s food and local sourcing. They have two restaurants, one in the hotel and one on the beach. A seafood lunch at the beach one after arriving seemed a perfect idea.
The fish used is caught locally by day boats (there are many, as you can see in the picture). I started with peppered mussels and clams with plenty of bread to scoop up the gorgeous juices. Then a little tagliatelle with ragu – just to taste. Toothsome homemade pasta flirted with a chunky flavourful ragu. I finished with a luscious seafood spaghetti, and dived into the kitchen to watch them make it. In the evening, the Savoia send an aperitivo to your room. A glass of local sangiovese and a plate of local cheeses and salami with the treasured Rimnini piadina to scoop it all up with.
That evening, as the beach quietened, I popped down for a drink. Aperol spritz, of course, how could I not at an Italian beach bar? Then to Casina del Bosco for their famed piadina. Piadina is an Emilia Romagna bread, made with flour, sea salt and pork lard (rendered fat, as opposed to lardo), kneaded, rested and rolled before being cooked, traditionally, on a terracotta stone. These are served often as sandwiches, with fillings like Parma ham, squaquerone (a fresh curd cream cheese from Emilia Romagna).
In Rimini, the piadina is rolled very thin, seeming almost like a Mexican flour tortilla but with a different flavour and texture. Casina del Bosco serves piadina with widely varied fillings and cassoni, which are like a calzone of piadina, folded and sealed before cooking. Prices are excellent and the food is very good. It reminded me of Franco Manca in London, speedy, excellent quality and great prices too.
On Sunday, I wandered through the old Roman town centre, before walking along the canal which leads from the sea, lined with fishing trawlers, small yachts and smaller boats, before arriving at Osteria de Borg via narrow pedestrianised streets fragrant with jasmine and rose. Pasta seemed the order of the day, so I ordered some strozzapreti (priest chokers) with sausage, stridoli (a local herb), and tomatoes. The pasta was handmade (which of course it should be, but isn’t always), and the ingredients very flavourful, which is to be expected as they pride themselves on Slow Food and using ingredients affiliated with it.
I saved dessert for an organic gelateria near the hotel which I had spotted earlier, Dolce Bio. I couldn’t resist the pip-pip-pip of the fruit ice pops and granita, which were as good as they looked.
Rimini charmed me, and fed me well. And reminded me that you should really never judge anything, anyone, or place, until you experience it, or them, for yourself.
Savoia Hotel – http://www.savoiahotelrimini.com/
Casina del Bosco – http://www.casinadelbosco.it/
Osteria de Borg – http://www.osteriadeborg.it
Dolce Bio – http://en.projectosrl.it/gelateria-biologica.html