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Enjoy our Cinque Terre Walking Tours

Take a boat excursion along the
coast of the Cinque Terre


The harbour at La Spezia


A market in La Spezia


A wall mural in La Spezia
by Gabriel Kotok


Cattedrale Cristo Re in La Spezia

Welcome to La Spezia
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 94,206 (2004)
Official site:
La Spezia
Wikipedia:
La Spezia
Map:
MapQuest

What to say about La Spezia?  It is home to Italy's largest navel base and it is a major port.  Industrialized suburbs spread in all directions from the harbour, and the working class districts are rough and ready.  The center of town is a busy commercial and business center where people are in much more of a distracted hurry than just about anywhere else but Genoa on the Ligurian coast.  Moreover, the architecture of the buildings along the main streets running parallel and perpendicular to the harbour, for the most part is drab and uninspired - a  modern day replacement for the grander, older buildings that were flattened by Allied bombing during World War 2.

La Spezia, then, is not, at first glance, a "tourist town" - and does not pretend to be.    And yet...it's amiable location on the Golfo dei Poeti (Bay of Poets), and a number of important monuments, museums and buildings are very much worth seeing.  Also, you could do a lot worse finding a good base from which to explore the Cinque Terre, Portovenere, and the stretch of coast running south to Lerici and beyond.  Ferries for Corsica and Sardinia, as well as for various ports of call along the Cinque Terre also depart regularly from La Spezia (the terminals are at Porto Mercantile in the central part of the harbour).

The city sits on the litoral between the inland hills and the sea.  Its protected position and good harbour made it a prized posession of  the Etruscans who once ruled the area (7th century BC) and of the Romans who supplanted them.  Later in the Middle Ages, the town was dominated by Genoa, a powerful maritime Republic, and the Genoese were the first to fortify the city and the areas north and south.  Their castles and forts dot the coast and inland hills around the city.

La Spezia's role as a major naval base - and the reason for the Allied's destructive interest during the Second World War was initiated by Napoleon during his brief reign over northern Italy in the 19th century.  The base - known as the Arsenale - occupies a vast stretch of land to at the western end of the city.  The base is not publicly accessible, but just outside its main gates is the Museo Tecnico Navale where those with an interest in maritime history and maritime wars can become pleasantly lost in the exhibits.

Not far, also in the city's western reaches, a short way from Piazza Chiodo, there are lovely public gardens.

At the eastern end, opposite the Porto Mercantile is the City's Cathedral - Cattedrale Cristo Re - built in the 1970s.  Featuring a large, white cylindrical tower above a large rectangular base, the Cathedral sits behind a large campo - Piazza Europa, which gives it the space in which its massiveness against its hilly backdrop can be appreciated...but at the expense of the kind of charm more ancient cathedrals in other Italian cities can claim.  But...the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta on the Piazza Beverini (on Via Prione) has that more traditional aspect, and a vivacious,  terracotta work by Andrea della Robbia.

From the Duomo, you could find your way down to the harbour and enjoy a stroll along the promenade that runs parallel to Viale Mazzini, or you could head toward the back of the Duomo  to Piazza Cavour, which is one of the main gathering places of the city.  A hundred or so meters to the east is La Spezia's most important civic enterprise, the Museo Amedeo Lia - an art gallery and museum that was opened in 1996 after a private collector, the gallery's namesake, Amedeo Lia, donated over 1000 works to the city.

The gallery is housed in a 17th century Franciscan convent that has been superbly renovated. The gallery's collection includes the most important medieval and Renaissance art in all of Luguria Region.  There are works here by Titian, Bellini, Pontormo and others, all of which are highly prized, but the supreme object is a terracotta Addolorata - Madonna grieving - by Benedetto da Maiano.

La Spezia does not want for good hotels, restaurants, cafes, trattorias and other attractions...places and things that you will discover when you begin your explorations.  So, despite the commercial, industrial and military aspects of the city, which conceal or dominate its more subtle and refined attributes, La Spezia is definetly worth a visit.  As always, we recommend coming in the off-season period, when you may not have the whole city to yourself, but when you will most certainly have more elbow room.

Added by Vian Andrews, January 2nd, 2007

Liguria Region
Cinque Terre

4406′N 0949′E

Distances

Lerici - 11 km;
Vernazza - 25 km;
Monterosso Al Mare - 33 km;
Levanto - 48 km;
Lucca - 79 km;
Pisa - 85 km;
Livorno - 97 km;
Genoa - 106 km;
Florence - 147 km;
Rome - 422 km

Directory

Tourist Office
Viale Mazzini 47
Mon-Sat -9:30AM -1PM; 3:30PM-7:30PM; Sun 9:30AM-1:30PM
0187-770-900
Hotels
Hotel Astoria
Jolly Hotel
Restaurants
Da Giulio - Via San Agostino 29 - good pizza
Da Luciano - Via Colombo 27 - good menu, reasonable prices
Il Caffe - Piazza Ramiro Gnocchio - sandwiches and salads - good prices
La Posta - Via Don Minzoni 24 - harbour - sea food - earthy.
Da Dino- Via Da Passano 19 (harbour) - more sea food!
Museums
Museo Amedeo Lia
Museo Tecnico Navale


Coat of Arms, La Spezia