Ritzy Russians take the Adriatic up marktet

ANDREW GUMBEL

Rimini

All of a sudden, there is a new brand of classy tourist at the Grand Hotel in Rimini. You recognise them a mile off, dressed from head to toe in designer outfits and jewellery. At the bureau de change they pull out $1,000 bills as though they were small change. Frequently they complain that their luxury suites are not luxurious enough, or that they are not satisfied with the rented limousine or motorboat.

They may act like spoiled film stars or fat-cat industrialists, but they are not. This new breed of holidaymakers raising the tone on Italy's distinctly tacky Adriatic coastline is the new aristocracy of Europe - the nouveaux riches of Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Nobody quite knows where their money comes from, but they show no shyness about spending it. The jewellers and boutique-owners of Rimini cannot believe their good fortune as family after family of Russians come away with Armani suits, Rolex watches and the like. Russian newspapers are on sale in nearly every newsagent.

"They are very good customers and we are delighted to have them," says Claudio Botton, director of the five-star Grand Hotel, one of the few oases of gilded elegance on a beachfront overwhelmed by hordes of package holiday-makers. The Russians are helping him stave off recession by paying up to pounds 220 a night for a room.

Ask the Russians where they get the money, and generally you will get an evasive answer. "I'm in business," said one 40-ish man travelling with his wife and son. What kind of business? "Foreign trade, import-export." What kind of trade? "Various things." You quickly understand this line of questioning won't get you very far.

Russian racketeers first came to the area two or three years ago, spending no time at all at the beach but stocking up instead on designer clothes, hi-fis, televisions and jewellery to sell on at a profit back home. By 1994 there was a direct charter flight leaving Moscow for Rimini every day.

This year the Russians have started taking holidays too, leading the wave of East Europeans heading west for their summer break. They are now the prime users of Rimini airport, overtaking the British.

The last time that Russians were rich and mobile enough to dally in Italy was at the turn of the century, although then they chose to come for the winter.

One suspects that in those days they raised fewer eyebrows. A few days ago there was a minor scandal on the beach when one Russian woman nonchalantly lowered her swimming costume to urinate before continuing on her way. "They may be super-rich, but they don't act like it," complained the beach attendant.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower