La Spezia Travel Guide for 2017: The Top Ten Attractions

Things to Do & See in One of Italy's Hidden Gems 

A Tour Guide with Travel tips by Local Experts

La Spezia is an excellent place to visit.  Here's tourist information for Italy's great port on the beautiful Gulf of the Poets. Our tour guide describes museums to educate you, bustling streets and markets to keep you busy, and food specialties to keep you fed. The attractions are listed in a rough geographical order, so you can create a vacation itinerary of places to see. La Spezia has good pedestrian-oriented signage to direct you to sights in the city. Down below there's more about the city in La Spezia in Two Paragraphs. Welcome to our port guide: What to Do in La Spezia:

La Spezia Public Gardens & Garibaldi
La Spezia Public Gardens & Garibaldi

1. The Waterfront and Public Gardens You'll understand that La Spezia and its Gulf occupy a special place on Earth when you walk along the Passeggiata Morin, especially in late afternoon. Begin at the eastern pier named Molo Italia near the Cruise Terminal. You can walk out on this wharf to see giant tugs resting and old guys fishing and young couples nuzzling. In the distance there are the giant gantries of the port and the mountains of the Apuan Alps. Walking west under the palms, you can survey the Gulf and the berths of the Maritime Consortium's Ferry Boats for Cinque Terre. Walk across a new little suspension bridge and you'll reach the new Porto Mirabello where you can appraise the private boats of the rich and the ordinary, and stop for a bright orange Aperol spritz. Beyond the mountain ridges to the west are the villages called Cinque Terre.

Across busy Viale Italia from the waterfront, La Spezia's Public Gardens are good for a stroll and for the children's playground. These extensive Gardens are a unusual asset for an Italian city. They were begun when the city's medieval walls were removed in the early 1800's and greatly enlarged with earth from the construction of the Naval Arsenal in the early 1860's. They are well known for the monumental Garibaldi equestrian statue and the large collection of botanical varieties. There are La Spezia Garden Club signboards, 'Percorso Verde', around the Gardens showing the location of different species.

Travel Tip____________________________________________________________________________
Where to Stay     
Our hotel recommendations are at the end of this article.  To see all the La Spezia hotels listed on Booking.Com, use this link: Booking.Com.La Spezia
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Cyclops Figurehead La Spezia
Cyclops Figurehead La Spezia

2. Naval Technical Museum This is the most important naval museum in Italy, and it is a favorite of ours.  No matter your interests, you'll find something to fascinate you in this old fashioned museum, such as one of the best ship figurehead collections in the world. We have a small article with photos about it to convince you. Not Just for Children or Rainy Days

Museo Tecnico Navale   1 Viale Amendola    Phone 0187 784693     Website: Museo Tecnico Navale


3. CAMeC Museum This museum has three large permanent collections of contemporary
and modern art, as well as minor collections, and temporary shows and events. There is naturally a regional orientation in addition to international works in Expressionism, Surrealism, Conceptual Art, Cinematic Art, Pop, and other bigger words we don't fully understand. One interesting collection of over 300 works is the result of the Golfo della Spezia Prize begun in 1933.

 CAMeC Center of Art Modern and Contemporary  Piazza C. Battisti, 1  Telephone 0187 734593
 CAMeC Website

Travel Tip___________________________________________________________________
Renting A Car in Italy. If you drive in urban areas at home, you can drive in Italy. Car rental prices are important, but don't rent solely on low price and stick to well known companies. We have articles to help you:            
                       Link: Independent Car Rental Reviews for Italy 
                       Link:Car Rental Tips for Italy - Pick It Up Right 
                       Link: Where to Rent a Car from Cinque Terre? Also useful for the Portofino area.
We advise getting your car from one of the companies with the fewest problems reported (Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Autovia, Budget) either direct or via a reputable car rental broker such as AutoEurope (NOT autoeuropa, ending in 'a'). The advantages of using AutoEurope are the added services without paying more - low price guarantee; 24/7 help before, during, and after the rental; easy changes and cancellation; as well as available less expensive zero excess (deductible) insurance.** If you find our efforts helpful, you can thank us by making your reservation through these links -using the links do not raise your price.
AutoEurope(US)    Auto Europe(UK) 
Avis(English)      Avis(IT)      Budget Rental (Europe in English) 
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4. The Coronation of the Virgin by Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525) in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. This monumental, glazed terra cotta artwork is an expressive masterpiece of the Renaissance.  In high tribute to its beauty, the French 'removed' it to Arles in the Napoleonic era, and the Spezzini struggled for almost a century to get it back.  It measures 10 feet high and 8 feet wide and is located in the left nave. The black-and-white striped Church is the  located in Piazza Beverini, just a few steps toward the harbor from the covered outdoor market. The Church is from 1471 but was almost totally demolished in WWII. Don't miss the altars made from many varieties of precious marble.
Church of Maria Assunta  Piazza Beverini off Via Cavour La Spezia

La Pia, La Spezia. Farinata, Focaccia, Torta Verdura, Pizza
La Pia, La Spezia. Farinata, Focaccia, Torta Verdura, Pizza
5. Have A Snack at La Pia In late morning and late afternoon in La Spezia, you’ll see a lot of folks walking and snacking. Join in and try some famous Ligurian treats from a famous La Spezia institution. Founded in 1887, La Pia, 'The Centenarian' is the place to go.  What to eat? They have pizza, true, but try the unique items explained in our article, A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia, and this precis on snacks:
Farinata. This is a famous must-try specialty. It's a chickpea flour pancake that's nutty, smooth, crunchy on the edges, creamy in the middle, about ¼ inch thick, and just delicious. It's gluten free, but not gluttony free.
Focaccia. This is indigenous to Liguria, and here it comes in many forms, shapes and sizes, and is always interesting. Try it at La Pia, and then try it again at the next place. Here, you can also ask for foccacia stuffed with farinata, odd sounding but great, and an authentic twist.
Torta di Verdura. Ligurians love vegetables, and slices of these pies are a favorite snack. They are bound with egg and cheese and filled with any variety of veggies and greens. They're offered at La Pia sold by weight.

 La Pia 12 Via Magenta, between Piazza Beverini and Via Prione. Just ask, everyone knows where it is.
La Pia Website.

La Spezia Covered Outdoor Market
La Spezia Covered Outdoor Market
6. The Markets  The sights and the sounds and the smells of an active Italian market are a wonderful adventure. La Spezia is lucky to have a thriving covered outdoor market daily right in the center of town on Piazza Cavour - also known as Piazza del Mercato. While some locals still gripe about the modern building, you'll appreciate the natural lighting. There are fruits galore, vegetables of every type, flowers, fish familiar and strange, cheese in amazing variety, salumi in profusion, and a lot of people.  This is how urban Italians have shopped for centuries! You'll find the vendors busy but quite affable, though it's best to ask before touching the merchandise, and try not to block the aisles. Get here early as most of the action is over by noon. Specialty shops around the piazza provide anything the covered market doesn't - fresh meat, bread, cutlery, coffee, etc.
La Spezia Covered Outdoor Market  (Mon.-Sat. until noonish)  Via Cavour La Spezia

As a bonus, the main weekly street market in La Spezia is on Friday and it sets up primarily along Viale Garibaldi which is a couple of blocks inland from the covered market. It's mostly clothing and shoes, but there are also some household goods and specialty vendors. It's most active in the morning as well, and here you may find the answer to the eternal question: Who buys that stuff?
La Spezia Weekly Market  (Friday, busiest before noon)  Viale Garibaldi et al.  La Spezia

Medieval Bishop, Museo Lia
Medieval Bishop Museo Lia
7. Museum Amedeo Lia If this museum were in Florence, people would wait in line to see the Renaissance art it contains. If you have time for just one museum in La Spezia, make it this one. Besides wonderful paintings, it also has an excellent collection of miniatures from illuminated manuscripts, ecclesiastical art, Roman sculptures, and a bunch more. We have an article with photographs that will win you over: Renaissance Art - Up Close and Personal Note that La Spezia offers a 72 hour discount combo ticket to four museums - the Lia, Ethnographic, Seals, and Castle
Museum Amedeo Lia    Via Prione, 234     Phone 0187 731100    Website: Museum Lia


Festival dress, Liguria. Ethnographic Museum
Festival dress, Liguria
8. The Ethnographic Museum
    and The Museum of Seals
For us, nothing beats an ethnographic museum. What is that you say? It's the study of people and cultures, i.e. how your ancestors lived. The Ethnographic Museum brings the past to life. Dresses, kitchen utensils, baby cradles, rings, musical instruments, a Garibaldian red shirt - it doesn't get better than this. All collected by one enthusiast - Giovanni Podenzana - who had the foresight to save the ordinary possessions so often lost to history.
Museo Civico Etnografico  Via Prione 156  Telephone 0187 258570
Website: Museo Etnografico

In truth, we never thought a lot about seals - as in sealing documents. Well, that needs to change. This is the world's largest seal collection with more than 1500 seals representing a part of human history previously known only to notaries. Going back to 3000 years B.C. from the present day, this collection is surprisingly interesting as the darn things are diverse and pervasive.
Museum of Seals  Via Prione 236  Website: Museo del Sigillo

La Spezia offers a 72 hour combo ticket to four museums - Lia, Ethnographic, Seals, and Castle.


San Giorgio Castle, La Spezia
San Giorgio Castle
9. San Giorgio Castle / Archeological Museum  This castle was built for a military purpose, so you don't get that Disneyland look. But when you see the wide views of the city, the Gulf of La Spezia, and the distant Apuan Alps, you'll understand why Napoleon had to have it. Now the castle can be explored, along with the Formentini Archeological Museum which has twelve rooms displaying finds from all periods of the La Spezia region's history, including the mysterious Ligurian tribes and the Roman city of Luni. The museum also has special exhibits and events, such as an included guided tour on the 1st Sunday of the month.  Note that La Spezia offers a 72 hour discount combo ticket to four museums - the Lia, Ethnographic, Seals, and Castle. You can avoid the climb by means of a free elevator and funicular from Via Indipendenza, a little street off Via Prione. Look for the signs near My One Hotel.

San Giorgio Museum   Via XXVII Marzo   Telephone 0187 751142  Website: Museo del Castello

Osteria All'Inferno, La Spezia
Down to Osteria all'Inferno, La Spezia

10. Eat the local specialties  Pretend you're an Italian tourist, and seek out the piatti tipici - the regional dishes - when you go out to eat. This part of Liguria has too many delights for a short article, so we wrote a special piece: A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia about some you'll encounter. What sauce on the croxetti? What the heck is mesciua?  Read it, and you're ready to pass for a local - except for that accent.

The restaurant we recommend first is Osteria all'Inferno for a simple good meal. Begun in 1905, this modest basement place has a memorable ambiance, and they take reservations (018729458). Via Costa 3, near the corner of Via Rosselli at the SW corner of the covered market.

For quality traditional Italian food with a Ligurian accent, go to Vicolo Intherno at 20 Via della Canonica near the SE corner of the covered market off Via Rosselli. The prices are mid-market, the dishes were skillfully cooked, and service was quite pleasant when we dined there in autumn, 2016.

More upscale is Osteria della Corte at Via Napoli, 86, where we really enjoyed the inventive take on traditional Italian cuisine and ingredients. It's definitely the best cooking we had in the province. It's not far from the train station. Full info and a sample menu at:  Osteria della Corte Website

Also more upscale, we greatly enjoyed the creative gourmet dishes and relaxed friendly atmosphere at Bago dalle Corriere at Piazza Domenico Chiodo 6 near the Ferry Dock and the Naval Museum. They even offer mesciua with mussels in the winter! Website with a sample menu: Bago della Corriere.

The remaining places on our 'Must Eat Here' list in central La Spezia are Il Ristorantino di Bayon at Via Felice Cavallotti, 23 as it is liked by a lot of folks for seafood; and La Carbaccia Osteria at Via Roma, 96, small, but down-to-earth authentic and a good value.

Travel Tip____________________________________________________________________________
Where to Stay     -Use this Booking.Com.Italy link to find your hotel anywhere in Italy.
                                      -All the La Spezia hotels are listed here: Booking.Com.La Spezia
Below are links to our La Spezia hotel recommendations. The downtown grid of La Spezia is not huge, and there are no especially trendy or dangerous neighborhoods. Parking is tight in the center, though. Considerations: train access, Cinque Terre ferry, parking, budget, shopping, museums.

Click on the hotel name for more information and booking.
Hotel Crismar Great location in the center between the train station and the port, on the pedestrian shopping street. Loan bikes, small, friendly, no hotel parking. Economical to Moderate pricing.
Albergo delle Spezie Close to the port, ferry dock, two museums, and the public gardens but still downtown with a funky, eco-friendly vibe. No hotel parking. Economical to Moderate pricing.
Hotel Birillo On the edge of town, yet close to the ferry dock, the market, walking distance to the train.  Small rooms, friendly staff.  No hotel parking. Economical pricing.
Affittacamere Casa Dane Very close to the train station, shops and restaurants.  Small, newly renovated, friendly.  No hotel parking. Economical pricing
CMH My One Hotel A larger business hotel, right in the center of town with a multilingual staff. Walk to the train. Parking can be arranged. Moderate pricing.
Hotel Corallo  A larger hotel. It's a manageable walk from the center, but close to the harbor with available hotel parking.  Economical to Moderate pricing.

Our Hotel Guide & City Selector gives you the Pluses and Minuses for other excellent Ligurian towns:
Part 1 Liguria Hotel Guide & City Selector  Cinque Terre South.
Lerici, Portovenere, La Spezia. Visit Cinque Terre & enjoy the Gulf of the Poets as well.
Part 2 Liguria Hotel Guide & City Selector  Cinque Terre North.
Levanto, Bonassola, Moneglia, Sestri Levante, Lavagna, Chiavari. Visit both Cinque Terre & Portofino.
Part 3 Liguria Hotel Guide & City Selector Towns on the perfect Portofino Peninsula.
Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Portofino, Camogli, Recco.
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La Spezia in Two Paragraphs La Spezia is both really old and not so old. There has been human activity here since before written records. The Ligurian tribes were here, and the Romans and the Lombards, but it was not historically a thriving population center. In the 1200's the area became contested between the Republic of Genoa and the Fieschi family of Lavagna, and the Castle San Giorgio was begun (see above). The city grew slowly over the centuries, but everything changed at the Unification of Italy with the building of the new Naval Arsenal in 1861. From that designation the fate of the city followed, and the town grew from about 15,000 people in 1861 to 74,000 in 1901! La Spezia became a major ship-building center, and is still important for ship-fitting and services. As a military facility, it was, of course, strategically important, and was heavily bombed in WWII. After the war, it was a major departure point for Jewish refugees to Israel, where the city is still referred to as the 'Door to Zion'.

Today La Spezia is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, and one of the two major ports for the Italian Navy. The city has become a cruise ship destination, and since 2015 the facility can handle two large ships simultaneously. La Spezia is the home port for the Italian Navy's beautiful tall ship, the Amerigo Vespucci, and the city hosts a Tall Ships Regatta – the Festa della Marineria – in autumn every odd-numbered year. The city's other large annual celebrations are the Fiera di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Fair) in March and the Festa del Mare in August.

Buddy Can You Spare a Click? 

If we've helped, you can thank us by using these links to get quotes and/or reserve your car rental.
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Written by Martha