When in Romagna, Italy do as the Romagnoli do. Go to the beach. Bring your friends, your kids, your parents, even your dog. The hotels in hotels near Rimini, in Italy’s Romagna region, accommodate all tastes. While most guests come for the sun and the sand, “taste” is also important: they want good food. The hotel’s kitchen is more important in many ways than the amenities in the room, since people are often at the beach all day, and the singles are out prowling the discos at night, but everyone is at a table morning and evening.
Check out these hotels in or near Rimini
In Rimini proper there are 1,130 hotels to choose from, including 800 dog-friendly ones. They range from B & Bs to five stars (including the iconic Grand Hotel showcased by native son Federico Fellini in many of his films). Keep in mind that 70 percent of these establishments are owned by companies or absent proprietors. The opposite is true of Bellaria-Igea Marina, a seaside community eight miles north of Rimini. Its 360 hotels (230 of which accept pets) are 70 percent family owned and run; you feel a personal vibe that isn’t possible in a corporate atmosphere.
#lovingromagna recently invited me to experience the family friendliness of four three-star hotels in Bellaria- Igea, including meals in all four hostelries. Almost two-thirds of the hotels in this middle class community are similarly starred. All four are members of a consortium called the Piccoli Alberghi di Qualità (small hotels of quality), and are the only members located in Bellaria-Igea Marina. As such, they have certain commonalities: family owned and operated, great emphasis on food, free WiFi (not always in the room), no swimming pool, maximum of 50 or so rooms. The rooms themselves are clean with all the essentials, not spacious or amenity-rich.
Hotel Eliseo is the home of Nonna Violante and her cooking lessons. It is the only one of the four with a direct beachfront view and is set back from the road by a beautiful garden. Customers include the children of former clients who come with their children. The family grapevine is a major source of business, and the atmosphere is decidedly familial.
Dinner is a major event. Antipasto and salad are available buffet-style but the meal itself is served by staff. One evening the antipasto consisted of prosciutto, fresh vegetables and four local cheeses: pecorino stagionato, fossa, squaquerone, and scoparolo, accompanied by homemade jam accents. A passatelli enriched chicken broth was followed by tagliatelle with meat-enriched tomato sauce. For those with stamina, a mixed grill followed — bacon, sausage, osso buco, and ribs – along with stuffed vegetables (red and white onions, tomatoes, and eggplant).
Classic Italian ciambella was the dessert, a “cake” that tastes like a softer, larger cantuccio. Albana di Bertinoro substituted vin santo for dunking the ciambella. To reinforce the mood, or, more likely, to help people digest their meal, the hotel showed a local, short film about the area, including music from Amarcord.
This was a “normal” night. Every so often Eliseo offers a complete meal including wine, music, costumes, and a theme. The last night of the season was a festa Malatestiana, featuring a menu based on medieval recipes and elaborate costumes designed by a wardrobe employee of a local production of La Scala.
Hotel San Salvadore
The mood is completely different at San Salvador, the largest and liveliest of the four hotels. It is run by two handsome bachelor brothers, Federico and Stefano, who seem to remember the name of every guest by the second day. Although the hotel location offers no striking views, it is animated by its super-friendly owners and their staff. You forgot hand lotion? We will bring some to your room. You need an adaptor? Here it is. Suggestions for night life? We’ve got ‘em.
Every afternoon the front desk offers abundant refreshments — health beverages, fresh fruit, yogurt, and cookies. In the same healthy vein, the hotel has an agreement with a well-equipped local gym, pool, and tennis court; entrance free of charge. Once a week or more, a happy hour infuses the front terrace with an upbeat aura.
The dining approach is buffet only, not atmospheric, a little chaotic (although you do have an assigned table for the duration of your stay) but with surprisingly good food. The chef has been with the San Salvador for 15 years and knows what he is doing. A pizza oven, a pasta station, an extensive salad bar, and an ice cream corner ensure that every appetite is catered to, and the quality can’t be faulted. No wonder that the majority of guests at San Salvador opt for the full board plan.
The Hotel Daniel is the smallest of the four, and is located on a quiet corner off the main drag. The bathrooms have been recently modernized and the furnishings in the cozy main lobby are contemporary in feel. A small outdoor terrace includes a refreshing pool for soaking your feet after a hot day in the sun. The food focus is on wellness, in attune with modern dietary requisites.
Our meal there was organized by a wellness consultant for the hotel. We began with a turret of duchess potatoes and turnips that looked like dessert. But it was all healthy – turnips are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and potatoes add vitamin C and potassium. Pasta was spaghetti with pumpkin, bacon, and bread crumbs; pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. The meat dish was tagliata with rucola, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. Meat eaters needed no persuasion as to its benefits. Dessert was chocolate pudding with hazelnuts; its virtue was simply tasting great.
The fourth hotel in our tour was the Hotel Cannes, located in Bellaria (the other three are in Igea Marina). The difference is more than hyphenation. Igea Marina, the southern part of Bellaria-Igea Marina, is relaxed and family-oriented. Bellaria is smaller (resident population 13,000 as compared to 20,000 in Igea Marina) and more concentrated, with more cafès and night spots to liven the atmosphere. The annual Piadina Festival is located here because the centralized commercial area is more conducive to such events.
The Hotel Cannes is not beachfront but boasts a pleasant roof garden and jacuzzi. It is family-focused, with a special menu for children and a children’s assistant three times a week at the hotel and all day at its beach area. The food is a source of special pride: the owners have changed chefs only four times in 51 years of business, and prefer that the chef be from the area. Note: The bread is made on the premises.
Our menu included traditional dishes prepared in unexpected ways. Appetizers could have been a meal in themselves: langostine, marinated salmon, vol-au-vent with tomatoes. Their passatelli were not in broth, but served with speck and rucola. Their strozzapreti came with pesto and gamberi. They had polentina alla marinara, an unusual combination because polenta (cornmeal) is not normally associated with seafood.
Second courses were seppia con piselli (squid with peas), tuna sliced like tagliata, and coniglio nostrano alla Romagnola (local rabbit served Romagnola style).
The desserts were irresistible, perhaps because the hotel has its own pasticciere (pastry chef). We couldn’t decide among mascarpone cream with a croccantino (winner of a local food contest) ciocco-cocco (chocolate and coconut), and pasta frolla with hazelnut cream. So we had them all.
Where in the US or the UK can you enjoy five star meals at three star prices, with comfortable beds and proper bathrooms thrown in for good measure? Add the attractions of Romagna, cultural and historic, and you too will come away #lovingromagna as we did.