La Spezia is renowned for the amazing beauty of its gulf, also known as the “Gulf of Poets”.
Between Porto Venere and Lerici lies one of the most beautiful inlets on the Ligurian coast, which has inspired poets, writers and artists from all over the world for more than two thousand years. Dante, Byron, Shelley, Hemingway, Montale and Soldati – to name just a few – fell in love with the beauty of this “amphitheatre of water” and its three attendant islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. La Spezia can trace its origins back to Roman times. An independent fiefdom from 1323, the city expanded with the construction of the Italian Royal Navy Arsenal in 1869, which radically transformed its appearance.
Nowadays, La Spezia is an attractive maritime and port city with important Art Deco, Futurist and Rationalist buildings, and fascinating museums. The local economy is based on the freight port, the cruise station and tourism, which takes in both the coast and the hinterland.
The city enjoys good transport links thanks to the A12 Genoa-Livorno and A15 La Spezia-Parma motorways, the rail network and the nearby Genoa and Pisa international airports.
Not to be missed: the city offers many buildings of interest, from the 13th century San Giorgio Castle, erected in 1262 by Nicolò Fieschi, which now houses the Ubaldo Formentini City Archaeology Museum, to the church of Santa Maria Assunta, once the cathedral of La Spezia, and the Church of Santi Giovanni ed Agostino behind Piazza Sant’Agostino. There are countless Futurist and Rationalist buildings, including the Post Office on Piazza Verdi with the magnificent mosaic by Fillia and Prampolini inside the tower.
Not for nothing is La Spezia is known as a “museum city”: there is the “Giovanni Podenzana” Civic Folk Museum; the “Amedeo Lia” Museum; the Civil Seals Museum; the CAMeC La Spezia Centre of Modern and Contemporary Art; the Shipbuilding Technology Museum; the Radio and Telecommunications Museum; and the National Transport Museum.
Dining out: the traditional local cuisine offers many famous specialities, such as flatbreads containing greens or “erbi”; mussels and oysters (farmed in the gulf); anchovies (prepared in many different ways); pesto (a regional pasta sauce made with basil, garlic, oil, pine-nuts and pecorino cheese); “testaroli” (pasta made from water and flour and baked on a traditional cast-iron griddle); “farinata” (made from chickpea flour and baked in a wood-fired oven); “mesciua” (legumes and grains) and “spungata” (traditional confectionery from Sarzana). Not to mention a rich variety of D.O.C. wines from the Cinque Terre and Colli di Luni wine-making areas (especially Vermentino and “Sciacchetrà”, a rare straw wine made only in small quantities).