La Spezia is an important port city on the western coast of Italy not far from Pisa, Genoa and Florence. This city is a major stop for Mediterranean cruise ships and passengers often stop at La Spezia before travelling to other cities in the Liguria region. Aside from its commercial port activities, La Spezia is also a major military hub and most of the Italian Navy is based here. The city has a population of 93,000 and is the second largest municipality in Liguria. La Spezia has seen some form of settlement since the prehistoric era and was an important trade centre during the Roman Empire. In subsequent history, La Spezia remained an important stronghold and has been a prominent Italian port for hundreds of years.
As a tourist destination, La Spezia has a great combination of historical buildings, beautiful scenery, and fantastic surrounding sites. Due to its location, La Spezia is a prime location to stay if you want to explore Liguria and Tuscany and you can easily travel to Pisa, Florence and Genoa using its train service. Furthermore, La Spezia lies in close proximity to the world renowned Cinque Terre and day trips to this marvellous region are easy to find.
Let’s explore the best things to do in La Spezia:
1. The Waterfront
La Spezia is an important port on the west coast of Italy and it stands to reason that it has a beautiful waterfront with some fantastic scenery and attractions.
The port area adjacent to the Centro Storico and Porto Mirabello are amazing places to walk, people watch and enjoy the fine weather.
At the front of the waterfront is the Passeggiata Costantino Morin that is lined with trees and offers great views of the harbour.
Furthermore, there is several artificial inlets and canals that have been created that offer a great way to see the comings and goings of the various commercial and passenger ships.
It is advisable to simply head on down to the waterfront and start exploring!
2. The Naval Technical Museum
This is one of the most important naval museums in the whole of Italy and it is a truly fascinating place to visit for adults and children alike.
Located to the west of Porto Mirabello and the waterfront, this museum is housed within a grand building and contains some fantastic displays and artefacts.
The primary objective of the museum is to educate people about technical aspects of the Italian naval forces and their equipment.
You can find a plethora of fantastic objects such as cannons, diving suits, model ships, and even control panels from battleships.
This museum really does paint a fantastic picture of the Italian navy and gives you great insight into its history.
3. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a world renowned stretch of coast not far from La Spezia and contains some absolutely phenomenal landscapes and gorgeous villages that hug the coastline and cliffs.
A trip to this region of Italy would not be complete without experiencing the idyllic scenery you can find here.
Notable villages include Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare.
These villages contain some beautiful houses painted in a myriad of colours that cascade town to the shoreline.
Guided tours are available and you can also take boat tours that stop off at several of the locations.
If bus tours are not your thing, there is also a train line that runs from the centre of La Spezia that passes through 4 of the 5 destinations.
Suggested tour: From La Spezia: Full-Day Cinque Terre Private Guided Tour
4. Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta
This church is one of the most important and recognizable in La Spezia and was originally contrasted in the 15th century; strangely enough, the basilica was not actually completed until 1954 and has been restored and changed over the last several hundred years.
The front façade features a green and white striped marble design that is similar to other churches in the city.
Furthermore, the interior features some fantastic marble status of prominent religious figures and some beautiful historical paintings.
5. San Giorgio Castle
This castle is one of the major landmarks in La Spezia and has stood for hundreds of years.
Originally part of the cities defensive fortification network, the castle was constructed in the 13th century by Nicolo Fieschi.
The castle can be found on the winding Via XXVII Marzo and features a typical square design with four diagonal guard towers that were popular during that time period.
A section of the original wall also still stands and provides an archway for the main road.
Inside the castle there is an archaeological museum that contains various finds from this region of Italy dating as far back as the Copper Age and Roman settlements.
6. Parco Naturale Regionale di Porto Venere
Next to Isola Palmaria is the Porto Venere Natural park – Palmaria is actually included within the boundaries of the park, but Tino, Tinetto and the Cinque Terre Islands are also within its limits.
Opposite Palmaria island is the small port of Portovenere – this part of the park is truly beautiful and Doria Castle stands proudly in the hillside next to the beautiful houses of the town.
Behind this port you can climb the slopes for amazing views of the Gulf of La Spezia and see the remains of the Forte del Muzzerone.
Furthermore you can travel to this islands of Tino and Tinetto and see their magnificent caves and the partially submerged statue of Stella Maris.
7. Isola Palmaria
At the southernmost edge of the gulf of La Spezia you can find Palmaria Island – this island is a fantastic place to explore and has some interesting flora and fauna.
The cliffs of this island also feature some hidden caves such as the Marble caves and the Blue caves – the coastline is dramatic and boat tours around the island are a great way to see its landscape.
In the summertime, ferries run from La Spezia and Lerici and drop off at the northern side of the island.
Here you can find some picturesque pebble beaches lined with fishing boats and a handful of restaurants and amenities.
To escape from the busy city, take a trip to Palmaria and you will not regret it!
8. Visit the village of Biassa
Located only a short distance from the centre of La Spezia, Biassa is a charming village of just 650 inhabitants.
If you want to see a slice of local life, this is a great place to visit – the village remains relatively untouched and maintains a traditional way of life.
Biassa offers fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and a short walk to the right of the village are the ruins of the unfinished Coderone Castle.
Moreover there is also the artistic church of San Martino that has a Romanesque façade and some beautiful wooden carvings inside.
Biassa makes for a great stop en-route to Cinque Terre and is a charming village with a great deal to offer.
9. Parco Giardini Pubblici
You can find this beautiful public garden at the waterfront and it is a great place to walk through whilst exploring this area of La Spezia.
The gardens cover a wide area and feature a series of walkways lined with gorgeous trees.
Stretches of the garden run alongside the Passeggiata Costantino Morin and you will not find a more pleasant place in La Spezia to relax.
Aside from the walkways, there are also several monuments, statues and water features to admire.
Whilst walking through the historic city centre, the gardens are a must see and are a great place to rest from sight-seeing.
10. Ponte Thaon di Revel
The waterfront and harbour has some beautiful structures and monuments, but the Ponte Thaon di Revel is undoubtedly one of the most noticeable.
This elegant modern bridge spans part of the harbour and provides a walkway from the public gardens across to Porto Mirabello.
Supported by a series of white cables, the bridge is truly impressive and its central section actually rises to allow large boats access to the harbour.
Whilst walking through the harbour, this bridge is a great structure to admire, and the views from the middle section are picture perfect.
11. Visit the town of Lerici
On the opposite side of the bay from La Spezia you can find the beautiful coastal town of Lerici.
Only 8km from La Spezia, it is possible to reach Lerici by boat from Portovenere or along the scenic SP331 coastal route.
The harbour of this town is truly breath-taking – it is amazing to see the hundreds of fishing and sailing boats moored in the water and watch the locals going about their daily business.
Notable sites include Lerici Castle, the harbour, the Lido and beach and the main square on Via Giuseppe Mazzini.
There is also a range of restaurants, cafes and amenities if you want to stay for the day or enjoy a quality meal by the coast.
12. Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Neve
Continuing the theme of green and white striped exteriors, the Church of our Lady of the Snow has a beautiful façade that is not dissimilar from the cathedral at Florence.
Two small bell towers flank the sides of the church and the main doorway features some intricate sculptures.
Although this church looks like it was created in the Renaissance, it was actually constructed in the 19th century and completed in 1901. Located on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, this church is easily accessible and is another fantastic structure to admire in the centre of La Spezia.
13. Enjoy a meal at La Taverna del Metallo
La Spezia has its fair share of quality restaurants and eateries and the Taverna del Metallo is hugely popular.
Located in close proximity to the waterfront, this restaurant stroke bar is easily accessible and features a fantastic rustic decor with exposed stone and brick walls and rustic wooden tables and chairs.
In terms of food, this establishment offers some hearty dishes that will leave you feeling content.
Furthermore, there is a great selection of beer, ales, lager and wine to choose from.
Additionally, rock and metal music is played here for those who love the genre, but it is tastefully executed and doesn’t assault your senses.
14. Enjoy breakfast at the Orange Café
If you are looking for a place to take a break, enjoy a coffee and relax from a busy day of sight-seeing, the Orange Cafe is a fantastic location to do so.
Located only a short walk from the Public gardens, this cafe is a great place to stop at whilst walking through the city centre.
The breakfasts here are highly recommended and you can choose from pastries, croissants, sandwiches and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Furthermore, the cafe has a wide variety of coffee, tea, and juice for those seeking refreshment.
The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is inviting and you can even listen to some soft jazz music as you indulge in the high quality food and drink.
15. Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco-Emiliano
This national park is predominantly mountainous terrain and features some truly epic landscapes and scenery.
Located approximately 40 minutes to the north east of La Spezia, the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park is a fantastic place to explore and seek adventure.
Notable mountains include Monte Prado, Monte Cusna and Alpe di Succiso.
Furthermore, there is large areas of high-mountain grassland and some hidden lakes.
Wildlife that can be found in the park include wolfs, Deer and even the Golden Eagle.
Information about the park is available in the tourist offices in La Spezia, but the region is fantastic for hiking, cycling and nature treks.