Nearly every site worth seeing in Rimini advertises itself as part of the Fellini legacy, telling versions of the story from their standpoints. A thriving seaside resort in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, where the filmmaker spent the first nineteen years of his life, it is where the world of Fellini’s films, compressed into its most vivid form, comes together. Various city spots including the Grand Hotel, the pier, and the streets and squares make up the model after which Fellini is said to have conceptualised the settings of his films, even though he never really shot his films here, but rather in his adopted home, Rome.
Rimini—the fabled director’s birthplace, childhood stomping ground and the frequently imagined setting of his films, is now home to a one-of-a-kind, recreational museum dedicated to him. Originally set to be launched in 2020, marking a hundred years of the celebrated auteur’s birth, the museum had to wait until August 2021, thanks to the pandemic throwing a spanner in the works.
Installations all over Castel Sismondo recreate the phantasmagorical world of the filmmaker
The museum, an exuberant, live-action assemblage of sorts, stretches flamboyantly—in typical Fellini fashion—across three historical structures: the Fulgor Cinema, Castel Sismondo and Piazza Malatesta. Much like the carnivalesque and evanescent worlds conjured up by the filmmaker, the historic landmark aims to recreate a Fellini-verse of sorts for generations that missed experiencing the master while he lived and worked at the peak of his powers.
Cinema Fulgor, an opulent Art Nouveau structure that underwent five years of restoration work under Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti, before reopening to visitors in 2018, was where Fellini saw his first film with his father, and witnessed the everyday small-town tomfoolery that is so central to his films such as Amarcord (1973) and I Vitelloni (1953). Soon enough, he would become a regular at this happening city haunt, watching movies and paying for his tickets by designing caricatures on playbills as a mere boy. Fittingly, the exhibits on the upper levels of the building showcase the ways in which the city informed the filmmaker’s artistic vision (more shows are due to launch in October this year). A cinemino offers shows of Fellini features, allowing movie buffs to soak in a near-authentic experience of his work and legacy. Interestingly, Cinema Fulgor started operations in the year its most illustrious visitor was born—1920.
Close by, in Castel Sismondo—an impressive medieval fortress built during Malatesta rule—tactile multimedia installations momentarily whisk visitors away to an elaborate recap of scenes and sequences from his films. Recline on a giant Anita Ekberg replica to watch scenes from La Dolce Vita (1960), blow on a feather to reveal depictions of the filmmaker’s dreams that he assiduously recorded in his journal, or come face to face with costumes from the idiosyncratic ecclesiastical fashion show from Roma (1972). One of the exhibiting halls is dedicated to Giulietta Masina, Fellini’s wife and star of his Academy Award-winning films, La Strada (1954) and Nights of Cabiria (1957), with the hallway displaying live projections of the actor in stills from different movies.
An Anita Ekberg recliner to watch screenings of Fellini’s movies. Photo: Fellini Museum/Facebook
An open-air piazza, reimagined as the city’s cinematic downtown, links the castle and the cinema hall in a zone named the ‘Square of Dreams’ (an unmistakable throwback to The Book of Dreams, Fellini’s journal). Here, video installations, AR features, and pop-up outdoor programming conjure up the madness, melody and magnificence of Fellini’s work. A circular bench a la the closing sequence in 8½ also adorns the space, reminding visitors of the final scene of the autobiographical classic that follows the spectacular failure of a film director struggling with an ambitious magnum opus. Every half hour or so, the space is cloaked in mist sprayed from a fountain to recreate the iconic Rimini fog of the filmmaker’s films (and as recounted in his memoir La Mia Rimini).
Rimini, which features as the setting apparent in several of Fellini’s films, most notably in Amarcord and I Vitelloni, is a fairly popular summer destination for travellers to and in Italy, but understandably behind grand dames such as Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence, which occupy the top rungs of the most-visited list. However, with the Fellini Museum, which has come at a cost of €12 million (as sanctioned in 2018 by the Ministry of Culture), the charming Roman city hopes to receive a fillip as a singular destination with a blockbuster offering.
Castel Sismondo, the Malatesta fortress that houses part of the museum. Photo: milosk50/Shutterstock
Cabins at the beach. Rimini is a popular seaside resort among European travellers. Photo: Photostravellers/Shutterstock
The new Fellini Museum points towards the need to preserve and keep alive the work of singular figures whose art was infused with a love for certain places and whose oeuvres are now indelibly linked with its setting.
Martin Scorsese: From gritty ’70s crime thrillers (Taxi Driver) and movies about mobsters (Mean Streets, The Irishman) to psychological thrillers (After Hours, The King of Comedy), period sagas (The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York) and a musical drama (New York, New York)—the New York-born Scorsese has extensively profiled the life and times of the city, informing generations of viewers’ perception of it and painting a historical, ever-transforming portrait of the five boroughs.
Sergio Leone: Nobody who watches the Dollars trilogy or another Sergio Leone film for the first time realises that they weren’t actually shot in the U.S. The Father of the spaghetti western featured the Tabernas desert in Spain (a designated Landscape of Cultural Interest and Natural Bird Sanctuary) in most of his films, cutting down production cost significantly and leaving behind iconic spots such as the Sad Hill Cemetery (the site of the final shootout in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).
Agnès Varda: The French New Wave giant’s sense of place (France) has remained unmatched. La Pointe Courte is an endearing film shot in a rural, coastal setting in the country’s south; Cleo from 5 to 7 follows a woman in Paris over the course of two hours; Vagabond depicts a drifter’s travels across rural France.
Satyajit Ray: The doyen of internationally acclaimed filmmakers from India, Satyajit Ray’s career includes classics such as the Apu trilogy, Pather Panchali, Charulata, Kapurush and Mahanagar. While his films are steeped in Bengal, in his Feluda films, Ray went beyond his native land, setting speculative mysteries in locations across India.
Akira Kurosawa: The Japanese filmmaker’s samurai epics stand out in a vast body of work. Set in rich palettes and shot sumptuously across the countryside, his Japan films, including Ran, Kagemusha, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Rashomon, Ikiru and Seven Samurai, deal with grand plots, bloody battles, psychological turmoil, tradition and humanism.
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dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.
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