Autumn mists, medieval villages and the prospect of ghosts galore combine to make Riveria di Rimini the perfect place for an atmospheric Halloween break.
So, who might have left their spiritual stamp on this region? There’s the tail of ruler condemned to hell for eternity; the ghost of an albino child whose cries have, it is reported, been captured by TV film crews; Francesca di Rimini – who was immortalised in Dante’s The Divine Comedy – and a convicted occultist.
These ghostly (or ghastly?) stories bring to life the centuries-old historic sites which still thrive in the region. Enter the town of Rimini through the Arch of Augustus, which dates back to 27 BC and head through the town to the 13th Century Malatesta Temple. The tarot may help unravel some of the temple’s strange symbolism, specially commissioned by the City’s ruler, Sigismondo Malatesta, who was excommunicated by the Pope for his debauchery and heresy and condemned to hell for all eternity. (Oops!)
Continuing your trip through Rimini’s town centre, you will spot skeletons sleeping in the mosaic floors of the 2nd century”Surgeon’s House”. History buffs can check out the collection of over 150 medical instruments recovered from the site at the museum next door. For those who prefer their culture to be a little more modern; pay tribute to five-times Academy Award winning film director Federico Fellini, whose home town and inspiration for many of his films was Rimini.
He now rests in the Rimini Cemetery, having passed away on Halloween (31st October) 1995. Finally, complete your tour of the town by passing over the Tiberius Bridge, dating from 20 AD, which marks the end of the main town.
Out of season prices to Rimini are great value and you can have the atmospheric streets and squares almost to yourself. Tuck in to hearty pastas, topped with local truffles; or recapture the taste of summer with cheeses, charcuterie and olive oil, all washed down with local Sangovesie wine.
Beyond the town, the ghosts of the past haunt the hills and fortresses: The Legend of Azzurina – In 1375, the castle at Montebello was inhabited by Ugolinuccio Malatesta, his wife, and their daughter Guendalina.
The child was an albino, which at the time was believed to be a sign of the devil, so the girl’s mother tried to die her hair to protect her. The strange blue effect that the vegetable dye gave her hair; together with her pale blue eyes, earned her the nickname Azzurrina (little blue girl). Azzurrina was inside the castle, playing with a ball made out of rags which she rolled along the corridors and stair cases. When it fell down into the underground ice stores where the food was kept, the little girl ran after her ball: suddenly two guards heard the sound of running, a cry and the little girl disappeared forever. The guards, hearing her cry, ran down the steps but found no trace of her. She had disappeared into thin air and was never found again.
The events were recorded in a seventeenth century chronicle kept in the ancient library of the castle. The legend says that every five years, at the summer solstice, her slight figure holding a red rag ball in her hands appears among the castle walls. Light footsteps, sighs and cries are heard and a voice saying “Dad, dad, I’m here”.
Tourist can hear echoes of her crying and laughter in recordings made by television companies using ultra-sensitive microphones both in 1990 and 1995, captured in the empty castle with locked doors. Apparently…
Francesa di Rimini – Dante spent time in the village of San Leo which was once, according to popular belief, the mightiest and most powerful stronghold in Europe. He mentions it by name in The Divine Comedy; in which Purgatory is depicted as a precipitous mountain, much like the imposing rocky mass, with sheer drops on which San Leo stands. The village’s central square is named the Piazza Dante Alighieri.
Dante’s The Divine Comedy immortalised Francesca di Rimini and her lover Paolo, both murdered by her husband – Paolo’s brother – Giovanni. Dante places the adulterous lovers in the first circle of hell.
Count Cagliostro – also known as Giuseppe Balsamo was a self-styled magician, fortune teller and alchemist. He sold elixir which he claimed to halt, or even reverse, the ageing process and claimed that he was thousands of years old.
He was accused of founding a new Masonic lobby (heresy according to the Holy Roman Inquisition) and sentenced to life imprisonment inside the maximum security prison of San Leo. Fearful of his ‘powers’, he was forbidden to communicate with anyone – even his guards. He died in his cell at the age of 52. Give or take a few thousand years, of course…
Legend has it that his ghost can be seen standing by the road that leads up to the fortress every time there is a full moon. The Fortress itself, still houses a number of grisly instruments of torture; remnants from its time as a prison.
To ensue your car will not be nervous over Halloween, make certain they stay at a APH car park!