Set between Bologna and Rimini, Cesena was designated European City of Sport for 2014. Home of recent Serie A side AC Cesena and the headquarters for upscale fitness equipment manufacturer Technogym, this provincial hub of Emilia-Romagna is represented by teams for basketball, baseball, rugby and cricket, and has a long-established cycling culture.
Football came to Cesena in the early 20th century. Local enthusiasts led by the pioneering Aldo Proli founded a team named after the tragic World War I poet, Cesena-born Renato Serra.
Based at the Barléda pitch on the banks of the Savio in Martorano north of town, Unione Sportiva Renato Serra played a number of friendlies before the club joined the Emilia-Romagna regional league.
In 1922, a proper sports ground was opened in Casali, the hippodrome, with tracks for running, horses and motorcycles. US Renato Serra moved there five years later.
Playing teams from Parma, Reggiana and Piacenza, US Renato Serra moved up a flight in 1933-34 but the club didn’t survive the call-ups to Abyssinia and run-up to war.
An ex-director and ex-player from the club helped form a new one, Associazione Calcio Cesena, in 1940.
It took three decades for AC Cesena to reach the top flight, a stint that included a one-round campaign in the UEFA Cup in 1976-77.
The most recent promotion, via the play-offs in 2014, was achieved despite the club’s near financial collapse. A fan-led movement helped save the club – though not from relegation in May 2015.
With the recent closure of Forlì, the nearest airports to Cesena are at Rimini 39km (24 miles) and Bologna 97km (60 miles) away.
Federico Fellini airport is 8km (5 miles) south-east of Rimini. The No.9 bus (€1.20) runs every 15min-1hr to Rimini train station (25min journey time). Radio Taxi Rimini (+39 0541 50020) charges €21 to Rimini station, €80 to Cesena. The fastest train to Cesena costs €8 and takes under 20min.
Bologna’s Marconi Airport is 6km (3.7miles) north-west of town, connected by BLQ shuttle (€6, every 12mins, journey time 20mins) to Bologna Centrale train station. The Marconi Express monorail should be in place by 2016, providing a direct 7.5min journey to town. A taxi (+039 051 372727) to town should cost a minimum of €10, depending on time of day.
The quickest train from Bologna to Cesena takes 45min and costs around €9 online.
Cesena is served by Start Romagna buses. A single ticket is €1.30 (€2 on board), a day ticket €3, sold at the biglietteria opposite the train station at piazzale Karl Marx 135.
For Radio Taxi Cesena, call +39 0547 610 710.
Also near the station, the family-run and friendly Albergo Florian is a more basic, cheaper option with a similarly simple restaurant attached.
The Armonie B&B is tasteful, central and affordable – though with only three rooms, a single, double and triple. In similar vein, the Mondo Antico Alloggio in Città is close to the city’s main sights.
For big international matches, locals gather in the main square, the piazza del Popolo.
Close to the Teatro Bonci, El Panino Loco is a snack bar with football as its focus and AC Cesena at heart – booze available if required. Also central, the Roxy Bar (via Mura Valzania 18) is more rough and ready but takes its TV football seriously.
You’ll also find live matches screened at the Caffè Barriera, with a full offering of first and second courses.
Near the Cathedral, on the corner of viale Carducci and via Montanari, the Carducci Bar is another venue for calcio gawping.