La Spezia is a port city, considered by tourists to be simply a "gateway to the Cinque Terre" but La Spezia has some very interesting attractions, great food served in numerous restaurants, and can serve as a hub for travel to so many of today's top attractions in Liguria and Tuscany--and you don't need a car, you can do it all by boat or train.
The Cinque Terre - Reachable by boat from the harbor or by train from La Spezia Centrale.
Portovenere - Go down to the port, have a coffee, take the boat to Portoverere (in season only) that also stops in Palmaria island, which has beaches, a restaurant, and hiking trails.
(Mouse over the map markers to see what they indicate).
Two places of note are on high ground in La Spezia, the Archaeological Museum in the Castello di San Giorgio, which has a commanding view over the Gulf of Poets and the port of La Spezia, and the train station. The rest of the historic center slopes gently to the sea.
It looks easy to get from the center to the musem, but it requires quite a bit of uphill stair walking.
La Spezia is easy to walk, and the pedestrian only zone starts just down the hill from the train station.
March 19 is the festival of San Giuseppe, patron saint of the city of La Spezia.
Boats from the port of La Spezia to to Portovenere and the Cinque Terre from Saturday 27th March 2010 until the 1st of November.
There is a bike sharing service called Spezia-in-bici, where you can rent a bicycle for a time period.
Getting Around: La Spezia - Lunigiana - Gulf of the Poets expertly describes ways to get from here to there in the La Spezia, Portovenere, Lerici, Ameglia, and Sarzana area.
The map shows the new cruise port located at Molo Garibaldi. Despite its name, it does not directly serve the Cinque Terre. You can take a ferry from the port that takes you to the Cinque Terre during the tourist steason. Here are the timetables.
You can also walk or take a taxi to the train station, marked on the map. This gives you the opportunity to see quite a bit of La Spezia before getting on the train and getting off at the first Cinque Terre stop.
While many first-time tourists recommend staying in one of the five villages, citing their "authenticity", those of us who've stayed in many small villages are less enthusiastic about those in the Cinque Terre. For many of us, seeing the towns, terraces, and vineyards from the sea is the best way to experience the territory. Viator offers a fine Sailboat trip to the Cinque Terre from La Spezia.
La Spezia Mapped Attractions
The recommended things to see in La Spezia are marked on our map.
Civic Museum Amedeo Lia is really not to be missed. The collection of artifacts by Puglian Amedeo Lia is truly extrordinary.
The climb up the hill to the Archaeological Museum inside Castello di San Giorgio is worth it for the views alone.
La Spezia Market is open but covered. If you need a bite to eat on the train to the Cinque Terre, you can probably find something here. You'll also find all sorts of things Italians can still dredge out of the sea in the southeast corner. The market is surrounded by stores and cafes; we recommend La Bonta di Giulia for fantastic breads and the foccaccia that Liguria is known for. It's on the east side of the market at Piazza Cavour 44.
Museo civico etnografico Giovanni Podenzana (La Spezia Ethnographic Museum) is where you go to see what the folks did in the old days.
Santa Maria Assunta Church, 13th century, contains lots of important 14th century paintings like the "Moltiplicazione dei pani e dei pesci" by Battista Casone. One of the treasures is a 14th century crucifix made of wood.
The tourist office has a very good page in English on events in La Spezia.
La Spezia - Where to Stay
Use the booking box on the right to get the best net prices on hotels, or try HomeAway if you prefer to rent a house or apartment (recommended if you're using La Spezia as a hub).
Hotel Firenze & Continentale is near the train station and highly rated by folks who've stayed there. The location is near the start of the pedestrian zone of La Spezia, so it's not stuck far away from the attractions.
Locanda del Golfo e delle 5 Terre is a highly rated but small guesthouse a little farther from the station than the Firenze, but close to the attractions of La Spezia. The port is a ten minute walk.
Hotel Genova is a reasonably priced three star hotel right in the heart of La Spezia and convenient to the port.
A restaurant with reasonable prices and local clientel we alway return to whenever we're in La Spezia is All'Inferno. You descend below the ground to some pretty darned good Ligurian cooking. Via Lorenzo Costa, 3 near the market. Closed Sunday. Tel: 0187.29458, it's always crowded at lunch time.