With the cruise ships arriving in the city and the great international success of the Cinque Terre, the number of tourists who visit La Spezia is growing and often this passage needs to be interpreted. Is it better to reach the station quickly to take the train to the Cinque Terre or to be surprised by the city?
You can also choose to make one of the city trekking trails with an expert city guide.
Below is a commented Google map of the center of La Spezia and a short summary of 10 things to see in Spezia for those who choose to travel alone. The list is not exhaustive but describes a possible path from which to draw depending on the time available. Other points of interest and references that are not described in this article but in other parts of the website and the application are also shown in the map.
1 Revel Bridge, between sea and city
White and modern, the Revel Bridge immediately attracts the gaze of those who come from the sea or those who walk on the city waterfront. It is also fascinating to visit by night, to look at the lights of the city and to photograph the white bridge on the black sea. Built in 2014, it is a drawbridge with a contemporary and interesting concept, joining the tourist harbor, full of restaurants and clubs, in the historic city center through the public gardens.
2 Public Gardens, the green lung
With a wide variety of botanicals, architecture and sculptures of the liberty era, the avenues and the slopes of the public gardens of Spezia, although not always well preserved (they are at the center of a possible retraining intervention), offer the possibility of a pleasant walk in the green between the seafront and the city center, and some hints to know its history, like the statue of Garibaldi on horseback.
3 Via del Prione or Carugio Drito
Probably the oldest street in the center of Spezia, Via Prione is now the center of the city’s walk and shopping. There are cafés, fashion shops and a lively atmosphere (it is rumored that Richard Wagner, a guest at a Prion Inn, was inspired by the morning noise coming from the road for the initial crescendo in of the Rhein’s Gold). The name of the Via probably means “big stone”, from the Genoese pria, in memory of the stone from which perhaps in the 15th century a messanger would read the decrees of the Genoese Republic; locals would call it Carugio Drito, though, meaning “the most important street”, on which the main activities would need to be. On Via Prione you can see the Civic Theater, the Lia Museum, and with a few short “digressions” through the narrow streets of the city you can see Piazza Sant’Agostino, with the nineteenth century palace of Countess Oldoini, the Baroque church of San Giovanni e Agostino and the church of Santa Maria, once the city’s cathedral.
4 Santa Maria Assunta
Walking along Corso Cavour, the central Napoleonic promenade, full of shops and cafés, you arrive at Piazza Cavour Market. The architectural structure has been recently restored and is a source of regret for many parts of the area, which do not consider the charm of the old wrought iron structure to be preserved. But the market maintains the characteristic liveliness that characterizes it, and most of all the most typical local products of the territory, because many of the sellers who shout for attention to the visitors cultivate lands in the territory of La Spezia. A large market area is dedicated to the freshest fish caught in our sea. If you are in the market at lunchtime, as per tradition, you can stop for a typical Mesciua meal in the old Trattoria dell’Inferno, a basement where the most typical recipes are prepared.
6 Amazing works of art at the Museo Lia
Returning from Corso Cavour to the parallel Via Prione, you can choose to visit the Lia Museo , which houses Italian art works from the 13th to 18th centuries collected by Amedeo Lia and housed in what was once the old hospital of La Spezia. Among the most famous authors represented at the museum are Tintoretto, Tiziano, il Canaletto. This is just an example of the museums that can be visited in the city: not far from this route is also the interesting Naval Museum.
7 La Spezia Stairs
An interesting way to get to know the city is to go up its stairs, which join the lower part of the city, the sea level, to its heights, the “Colli”. Of course, to reach Via XXVII Marzo, from which you can see a beautiful view of the city and its sea, you can also take the lift (located in Via Prione at the foot of Via Biassa and the Church of Santa Maria) and do a lot less effort, but choosing to climb on one of the city stairs allows you to appreciate some of the Liberty style details of the stairs themselves and the palaces that look out over them. One of the city’s most beautiful stairs is the Cernaia one, currently at the center of a recovery operation but still accessible.
8 The Fortress of San Giorgio Castle
Once you reach the top floor of the city with the staircase or the lift, you should not miss a look at the San Giorgio Castle, an ancient fortress of the city, which had its most flourishing period during the short domain of Nicolò Fieschi. The Castle hosts today the Ubaldo Formentini archaeological museum, with testimonies from prehistory until the Middle Ages, including the IV Millennium BC Statue Stele. The Castle also offers a gorgeous view of the city.
9 Piazza Verdi, futuristic night and day
Returning to Via Prione with the lift, which entrance is right by the Castle of San Giorgio, or downhill from the San Giorgio stair, which gets closer to it, you can reach Piazza Verdi after a few steps. The square has been at the center of a recent and very controversial recovery operation, and today, after years of degradation, it has a completely new look that the locals observe a bit perplexed and still arguing about it with animosity. The square was designed by the French architect Daniel Buren, who has included new architectural elements, squared arches and colored totems, which are located in the center of the square and design lines perpendicular to the square. The square has some striking views, also at night. Over Piazza Verdi is the Palazzo delle Poste, designed by the architect Angiolo Mazzoni, one of the major public building designers of the fascist twenty years. The impressive futuristic mosaics by Fillia and Prampolini are preserved inside, witnessing an important artistic movement that animated the city in the 1930s. The mosaics are unfortunately not always accessible (however, it is advisable to ask in the Post office).
10 Cristo Re Cathedral and Piazza Europa, or the contemporary city
Not far from Piazza Verdi, Via Veneto is the architectural complex of Piazza Europa and the Cathedral. Built where there was the “montetto” (a height so called by locals), then paved to make room for the development of a new town road to the east, even these contemporary architectures are not always appreciated. The new Cathedral of Cristo Re is an imposing architecture dominating the top of the square, which might not even be noticed walking under the arcades. You need to climb a short staircase leading to the building to visit the church and appreciate the interior with the unusual, somewhat sprawling circular plant and the central altar. To appreciate its shape and size, it is necessary to cross the space of Piazza Europa in front of the city Hall.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)