RIMINI, Italy’s largest and most varied beach resort, has long been a traditional summer magnet for families and many Italians return year after year. But there is also an upmarket side to the town, with its boutique hotels, high-end restaurants and chichi clubs. And with that comes a less savoury aspect: Rimini is known throughout Italy for its fast living and chancy nightlife, and there’s a thriving hetero- and transsexual prostitution scene alongside the town’s more wholesome attractions.

The resort is best avoided in August, unless you have a penchant for teeming crowds. Out of season, it’s pleasant enough, though bear in mind that many hotels, restaurants and shops are closed and the atmosphere along the seafront is almost eerily quiet.

Given that so much of Rimini was destroyed in the last war, it’s surprising to find that the town has a much-ignored old centre that is worth at least a morning of your time. Located inland, past the station, it is an often unseen part of Rimini, made up of old stone buildings clustered around the beautiful twin squares of Piazza Tre Martiri and Piazza Cavour, and bordered by the port-canal and town ramparts. Unlike the touristy side of town, this quiet, refined community stays in business throughout the winter, albeit in a low-key, backwater sort of way. But it’s the beach, the crowds and the wild nights that you really come for: Rimini is still the country’s best place to party.

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