Today, Rimini is well known as one of the most famous seaside resorts in Europe. However, the ancient heart of Rimini, or rather the Roman town of Ariminum, has been beating for more than 2,000 years.
Founded by the ancient Romans in 268 BC at the mouth of the wide Marecchia valley, in less than two centuries, the city became one of the most important towns in the Empire, and it was equipped with all the infrastructure required to hold such a position. Bridges, monuments, sumptuously decorated residences and paved roads enriched the social and urban fabric of this beautiful city on the Adriatic coast.
The signs of this glorious past are still evident today: a visual tale that unfolds as visitors take an evocative journey through the city.
The appearance of the present-day historic city centre coincides with that of its foundation. A grid-like arrangement of intersecting streets laid out at right angles to one another delineates the city centre, starting from its two main axes, the Cardo Maximus (today Via Garibaldi – Via IV Novembre) and the great Decumanus (the present day Corso d’Augusto).
At both ends, triumphal monuments were erected: on one side, the famous Arch of Augustus, the oldest and best preserved of its kind in of all of northern Italy (27 BC); On the other, over the waters of the ancient course of the Marecchia River, the majestic Bridge of Tiberius (begun by Augustus in 14 AD and completed by Tiberius in 21 AD), the starting point of both the ancient Via Emilia and the Via Popilia.
In the city centre, in what is now Piazza Tre Martiri, the memory of the Forum can be seen, which was the heart of the public and economic life of the city in the ancient Roman period. The archaeological discoveries from that time are visible in sections that have not been covered by modern paving. These ruins show how, during the Age of Augustus, this area was completely paved and decorated with honorary monuments, statues and inscriptions in memory of the emperors and benefactors of the community.
However, the public monuments of Rimini’s Roman past were not limited to streets, bridges and arches (mention must be made of the Montanara Gate, still visible at the end of the Cardo Maximus). In the vicinity of the ancient coastline, during the period of Emperor Hadrian (second century AD) stood a great amphitheater, large enough to contain over 12,000 spectators – only the Colosseum in Rome was larger at the time. Rediscovered at the end of the nineteenth century, today two arches of the exterior portico and part of the arena and cavea still remain.
Yet, we must return to the heart of the city centre to discover the real gem of Rimini’s Roman past. Here, among the trees of Piazza Ferrari, a vast archaeological area unfolds, which has been turned into a museum that is open to the public. Inside, a system of transparent walkways, suspended above the ancient structures, shows an ancient Roman domus, which has been given the name Domus del Chirurgo, the Surgeon’s House, because of the extravagant and complete surgical kit found during its excavation.
An incredible artefact that is now kept in the adjoining Rimini City Museum, which tells the story – together with the innovative, multimedia Visitor Centre – of the history of Rimini, from its origins to the present day.