La Spezia, the provincial capital of this part of Liguria, owes most of its development to the 1860s, when the Naval Arsenal was built here. It is still a heavily naval town, although its proximity to such beautiful tourist destinations as the Cinque Terre, and its mild climate have given it some appeal to holidaymakers. The town centre is pleasant; and although it’s not a striking tourist destination in itself, La Spezia is well-connected by transport and makes a good, affordable base for exploring this part of the Italian Riviera. The town spreads across the inside of the Golfo dei Poeti, the Gulf of Poets. The town also has lovely views inland, towards the Apuan Alps.
La Spezia Tourist Information
Most tourists use La Spezia as a base for visiting the Cinque Terre and the Golfo dei Poeti, but it’s worth spending a day wandering around the pleasant town and visiting its more notable sights. For the naval enthusiast, La Spezia’s nautical heritage will be a major attraction.
Among the nautical-themed tourist sights, the best is proably the naval museum, the Museo Tecnico Navale, close to the Naval Arsenal at Viale Amendola, 1. The museum claims to be one of the best of its kind in the world; exhibits include a collection of ships’ figureheads. The Arsenal itself can sometimes be viewed, upon request. The local archaeological museum is housed in the Museo del Castello (Castello di San Giorgio, Via XXVII Marzo), where there is a fine collection of Roman and pre-Roman artefacts from the surrounding area, including some striking stelae from the Bronze and Iron Ages. A more esoteric tourist attraction is the Museo del Sigillo (Via del Prione, 236), the museum of seals, consisting of a large, formerly private collection of seals, probably the largest in the world. The Museo Civico Amadeo Lia (Via del Prione, 234) is based in a former monastery and contains another donated collection, this time of art, and includes works by Titian and Bellini.
The seafront is wide and provides lots of opportunities for gawping at boats of all sizes. A strip of park runs along the esplanade, making it a pleasant place for a stroll or a sit-down. There are also luxuriant parks, owing their existence to the turn-of-the-century lavishness that is also commemorated in the town’s architecture and public buildings. Via del Prione is one of La Spezia’s busiest streets, a largely-pedestrianised thoroughfare lined with shops, where the young bucks promenade on a Saturday afternoon.
La Spezia Tourist Information Office is located opposite the esplanade at Viale Mazzini, 45. There is also a Tourist Information kiosk just outside the railway station.
Good daytrips from La Spezia include the Cinque Terre (thanks to the train service it’s easy to walk and dine in the villages and then return to La Spezia to sleep), Portovenere and the other Golfo dei Poeti resorts, Lerici and San Terenzo, home of the Shelleys, which are pretty towns worth a visit for their own sake as well as for their literary connections. In the castle at San Terenzo there is a small museum dedicated to Mary Shelley. Further up the Ligurian coast (about an hour and a half by train) you’ll come to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.
La Spezia Travel Information
Get to La Spezia
The handiest airports for this stretch of the Italian Riviera are Genoa and Pisa – both towns are connected by rail to the coast, and both are on budget airline routes from the UK.
La Spezia is well-served by the Italian railways. Direct trains link the town with Rome, Genoa and Pisa, and local trains also stop at the nearby Cinque Terre villages.
Tourist boat services run to the towns around the Golfo dei Poeti, such as Lerici and Porto Venere. Frequency depends upon the season.
Accommodation in La Spezia, the Cinque Terre and Levanto
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