Here’s the full itinerary to be accomplished in a day.
Many tourists are concentrated into visiting the most coveted destinations in the Golfo dei Poeti, Tellaro, Lerici, Portovenere and Cinque Terre, but the Historical Center of La Spezia is rich in monuments and fascinating places and deserves special attention, a daylong visit indeed.
The Old Town
The city center basically develops between two streets, Corso Cavour and Via Prione. Park your car in one of the many comfortable parking lots and quietly get around the centre on foot, you will avoid traffic and wasted time. Among the most important attractions: Port of La Spezia, the castle of St. George overlooking the Old Town, and the city Cathedral titled to Cristo Re.
1. The Port of Golfo dei Poeti and the bridge Thaon de Revel
The port of La Spezia is located within the Golfo dei Poeti. Known since old times, developed in the 19th century and has since been one of Italy’s main commercial ports, specializing in container handling. Dock Garibaldi is the docking point for the large cruise ships that disembark thousands of people going to Cinque Terre. If you want to enjoy a panoramic view, cross the mainland through Thaon de Revel Bridge. The bridge opened in July 2013, is a structure of more than a hundred and fifty meters in length, made with finishes white steel combined with exotic wood and connects “Passeggiata Morin” to Porto Mirabello. For some years now it has been a significant promenade for the “spezzini”, because you have a great view of the Gulf and the whole city.
2. The Waterfront
Between Thaon de Revel Bridge and the public gardens, there is the city’s waterfront. It’s a nice walk because it develops throughout the area where boats and ships moor at docks. In addition to the view of the Golfo dei Poeti, the walk is very pleasant as it is enriched by the shade of tall palm trees that decorate the whole path.
3. Public Gardens and the Monument to Garibaldi
The public gardens of La Spezia are known for the great botanical variety of species that are contained within them. Over the years, the green area has enlarged following the gradual growth of the urban center. Inside the public gardens there is also the monument to Garibaldi, the great equestrian statue in tribute to the Hero of Two Worlds, who on several occasions stayed in the city. The statue made by the Ferrarese sculptor Antonio Garella, dates back to the second half of the 1800.
4. The Naval Technology Museum and Military Arsenal
Nearby there is the Arsenal of the Navy, representing together with the structures of Augusta and Taranto, one of the most important arsenals of the Italian Navy. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who saw the possibility of building the structure, but it was realized only later in 1857 and opened in 1869. At the moment the Military Arsenal offers employment to a thousand civilians and more than two hundred military officals. Obviously it is not possible to visit it, but right next to it there is the Naval Technical Museum, one of the most interesting museums in the city and the most important in Italy of its kind. The current location was inaugurated in 1958, but its foundation dates back to 1923 and at the time it was inside the mechanical workshop of the Navy.
The Museum has some large exhibitions halls : the Polene hall (wooden decorations that were placed on boats) even dating back to the 15th century, the Underwater Systems Hall, the Marconi Hall, which houses the world’s largest collection of original radio equipment of the inventor and which testifies his long collaboration with the Italian Navy, the Underwater Weapons Hall, which hinges in a hull-shaped gallery of a submarine, along which are displayed torpedoes, weapons developed through the resulting technologies of the second industrial revolution in the 19th century and finally the Artillery hall, which displays 18th and 19th century cannon models and “thecae” with guns and rifles. In addition, there are experimental and ordinance rifles, white weapons, springalds, artillery devices and culverins from different eras, as well as an exhibition of model ships of the navies until the last century.
5. Corso Cavour and Via del Prione
The “tour” in the old town of La Spezia continues between the two streets that represent the “struscio” (stroll along the street and watch at the shop windows with no particular goal) of the city. Corso Cavour and Via Prione, these are the most attractive streets of La Spezia, full of shops and reference point for citizens and tourists.
6. Palazzo Oldoini and historic buildings in the central area
Many of the historic buildings in the city centre are Art Nouveau style, well preserved with finely decorated facades. The warm tones of the buildings stand out particularly in the light of the summertime sunsets . Among the “gentilizi” palaces, stands out for its particular beauty, Palazzo Oldoini, now also known as Palazzo dei Nobili. It was a palace of Rolli spezzini, term used for aristocratic houses that often housed the public figures visiting the city. The palace, arose from medieval fortifications, has undergone through the architectural impact of the late Baroque. The facade is characterized by a pleasant colour contrast between the white of the wall and the red of the frames of the openings. There are also rich decorations of shells, lion heads and floral motifs on the gable of the windows. The palace in the 19th century was the residence of the Oldoini family (the Countess of Castiglione Virginia Oldoini) and later of Marquis De Nobili.
7. Church of Santa Maria Assunta
The church of Santa Maria Assunta has very ancient origins: it was built in 1271 in a position not far from the current. Later in the 15th century, it was rebuilt within the city walls in order to better protect it from possible invasions. The dilapidated bell tower was demolished in 1935 and promptly rebuilt. Unfortunately it will be one of the few elements of the church to withstand the bombing of World War II, which almost completely destroyed it. After the war, reconstruction works were carried out quickly, returning to the locals a completely new church with a significant extension of the navatas.
8. Market Square
Don’t miss the picturesque market square with undulating-roofed buildings, which offer to merchants a shelter from the sun and bad weather. The market square in La Spezia has always been a meeting of the scents of the sea and the Ligurian hinterland, a triumph of flavors and colors to be enjoyed with all the senses.
9. Piazza Garibaldi
Piazza Garibaldi arises from the meeting of different streets of the Historical Center. In the centre, surrounded by elegant Art Nouveau palaces, stands “The Fountain of Dialogue” by the sculptor Viliano Tarabella. The work made of Carrara marble and erected in the 2002, represents two sails crossing a flow of water.
10. Palazzina delle Arti – Museo del Sigillo
Also in the historic Via del Prione you can visit the Palazzina delle Arti, a building in the neo-medieval style, built in 1924 by architect Franco Oliva. The building houses the Museo del Sigillo, which offers a rich and complete collection of seals donated by Lilian and Euro Capellini at the Municipality of La Spezia in 2000. A path beginning from the 5th millennium BC with seals from civilizations developed in the area of the Fertile Crescent and pre-Columbian civilization, Egyptian stone matrixes, seal-rings of the Roman period, up to a medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical period pieces. In addition to the Museo del Sigillo, it is possible to visit the Art and Archaeology Library which has about twelve thousand historical volumes.
11. Amedeo Lia Museum
The “Amedeo Lia” Museum is a “art gem” that stands in the ancient monastery of the Minim Friars of St. Francis of Paola, who settled in the city of La Spezia around the second decade of 1600. Opened to the public in 1996, the Museum houses a collection of about 1000 works, ranging from the Classical Period to the Late Antiquity, to the Middle Ages until the 18th Century. The collection displays miniatures, bronze sculptures, copper, ivory, wood, as well as a series of glass works and maiolica and a variety of art objects that testify the excellence of Italian and European art. The “diamonds” of the Museum are undoubtedly the series of so-called “primitives”, with more than 70 tables by Pietro Lorenzetti and other artists of the period, as well as canvases by Tiziano, Pontormo and Tintoretto.
12. Teatro Civico
In Piazza Mentana, nearly at the end of Via del Prione there is the most important theater in all of La Spezia, Teatro Civico. The building was built in 1840 in neoclassical style. The structure was built according to rigid rules with four stages and the loggia overlaid with a gable. Over the years the Theatre had a period of decline and its appearance underwent changes implemented in the 1930s. One of the largest peculiarity of Teatro Civico is the opening dome on which were draw the zodiac constellations that, on summer nights, can be seen live with the opening of the structure.
13 Castle of St. George in La Spezia
If you want to climb the hill “Colle Poggio”, you will meet on your way up the Castle of St. George, Genoese fortification erected in the 14th century to defend the city. The structure that has come to us is the result of an important renovation, designed in the 1970s and carried out over thirteen years. The Castle today houses the archaeological collection of the Ubaldo Formentini Museum. The halls of the museum exhibit finds from the Ligurian hinterland and offer historical evidences from the Neolithic age to the Middle Ages. The view of the Gulf and the city is really lovely and worth getting out of town and facing the climb.
14. The Duomo – Cathedral of Cristo Re
The Cathedral of La Spezia is part of the “futuristic” cathedrals that are completely outside the classical conception of place of worship. Designed in 1930 by architect Brenno Del Giudice, was however built only in the 1950s, making several changes to the original project. The circular structure made of reinforced concrete can accommodate up to 2,500 people and ideally recalls the shapes of the Pantheon of Rome. In fact, the basilica receives light from an eye placed at the centre of a vast dome, supported by twelve pillars symbolizing the Apostles.