This story is part of our 'Romantic Travel Stories' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our travel writing competition.
It didn’t start well, romantically speaking. A pre-dawn start, an ill-set sat-nav and a dash through departures with seconds to spare... With tempers frayed, we boarded our low-cost flight hardly speaking, conscious that our "romantic" weekend in Rimini was just two hours away.
Soon, a red-faced "Ooooh" assured me that the blame was entirely his, as my beau had set the sat-nav at pedestrian speed for our drive to Stansted. Bless.
So I was one up when we arrived in Rimini on the Italian Riviera, where generations of Italian glitterati have spent summers bathing, relaxing and engaging in all manner of Fellini-esque activities. We were staying at The Grand Hotel Rimini, a lavish five-star hotel whose frontage has graced the promenade for a century. White rococo swirls above wrought iron balconies overlooked broad terraces, and lush gardens allowed fluttering views across to the Adriatic. Inside, marble floors and columns melted seamlessly with gilt furniture and verdant floral displays.
On seeing our suite, I knew I would feel like a queen this weekend. A magnificent four-poster bed (albeit in, er, peach) was the centrepiece of vast room adorned with antiques and chandeliers. Best of all was the balcony with beach and town views. Just big enough for two, we rarely strayed from this spot on the first night.
On day two, we decided to get to know our new friend, Rimini. As we photographed the marina bobbing with tiny, well-worn fishing boats, we wandered up to the Ponte Tiberio Bridge, stopping to take in the Roman fortifications, impressive Arch of Augustus from 27 BC and picturesque crumbling houses reminiscent of Juliet. Piazza Cavour was the perfect place to sip coffee and watch locals negotiating the ancient slabs of marble. Once used to prepare fish, they are now used by market traders to display their wares. Back at the hotel, off-season guests were few – the echoing tap of shoes on the original parquet floors the only occasional sound. We didn’t want to sit in the restaurant as the only dinner patrons so decided on an alfresco nibble on our favourite balcony instead.
As we ambled down Via Regina Elena, where many restaurants and shops vie for attention, we found a large supermarket. Sixty Euros later and we were ready to eat. Local chianti, artisan bread, cured meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, prosecco and orange juice spilled over as we smuggled our haul into the hotel.
Wrapped in white towelling robes, we watched the sun set as we gorged ourselves on our makeshift picnic. This was what we had come for. Time seemed sluggish, with no interruption to our happiness bubble, and a decision on who ate the last piece of prosciutto was our only priority.
The decaying amphitheatre stood forlorn, inviting us to imagine scenes of battles long forgotten. The piazzas were empty and the beaches cold, but Rimini had given us time for romance. And still I was one up...