Every year, many people visit Bel Paese, attracted by the historical and natural beauties that characterize it. However, if we talk about sea towns, tourists tend to visit the beautiful south of Italy, ignoring the small gems of the north – among these we find La Spezia, a port city located in the Liguria region, but just a few kilometers away from the border with the gorgeous Tuscany. So, we decided to dedicate today’s article to this (in our opinion) underestimated city precisely because it is relatively unknown to tourists.
5 UNMISSABLE THINGS IN LA SPEZIA
In this article we will take you with us to La Spezia, where we decided to spend a day. If you too want to go on an out-of-town trip in this beautiful small town, you absolutely must try these 5 things I’m about to talk about…!
1 – THE SEA
Since it’s an Italian seaside town, it is obligatory to take a walk along the seaside promenade! If you’re interested in walking along the promenade, you can do so along the Morin Promenade (“Passeggiata Morin“), a path that develops along the entire docking area of ships and boats, between two rows of palm trees, and overlooking a breathtaking view. There is no shortage of benches to rest in the shade of palm trees, and green areas – if you are a flower lover like me, this will be your favorite place in the city!
From the port area you can easily make boat trips to nearby (and very popular) tourist destinations, such as Porto Venere, the Cinque Terre, Lerici, the islands of the gulf – which, among other things, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Alternatively, you can try seafood specialties in the nearby restaurants and cafes, but even just walking among the palm trees and bridges will allow you to admire incredible views!
I don’t know about you, but I really like the beautiful view of the sea, boats, hills, flowers, and palm trees! A nice mix, don’t you think?
2 – THE FOOD
After a long walk, you will probably get a little hungry and you will have to look for a place to eat. We advise you to eat things that can only be found here and choose a typical restaurant to eat the Ligurian specialties: focaccia, empty or stuffed, or even with fresh cheese; pesto (which, in our case, was inside the focaccia); or farinata di ceci (typical of both Ligurian and Tuscan traction, it’s sort of like a chickpea flat bread). Too many carbohydrates? Well, we are in Italy after all…!
Among the other Ligurian specialties that you will find very easily in La Spezia, there are also stuffed pumpkin flowers and savory (vegetable) pies, in addition to sgabei (leavened bread dough, cut into strips, fried, and salted, traditionally eaten plain or stuffed with cheese) and testaroli (a type of pasta in Italian cuisine that is sliced into triangles). If you want to try some typical fish dishes, you can taste the stewed stockfish with potatoes and olives, or the “muscoli” (stuffed mussels).
As good Italians, our lunch ended with a coffee and a small pastry – all in the beautiful Piazza Verdi, which is the backdrop to the cool installation of arches with water and mirrors designed by the French artist Daniel Buren.
3 – THE ELEVATORS
Be honest: have you ever seen a city… with elevators? No, not inside of buildings, but right in the middle of the city! Well, we had never seen them before visiting La Spezia.
Let me explain better: the city extends over several levels (between sea and mountains), so going up and down the stairs on foot, perhaps several times a day, can be difficult, and for this reason the city has installed very practical elevators – which among other things are panoramic – available to citizens and tourists. You can use it completely free of charge! Cool, isn’t it?
These two elevators I’m talking about are inclined elevators that connect the San Giorgio Castle to two different points at the bottom of the hill – for this reason, they are called “Ascensori di San Giorgio“: there is one which valley station is in via XX Settembre and the mountain station in via XXVII Marzo, in front of the entrance of the Castle, while the other connects via XX Settembre with via dell’indipendenza. In practice, it is a single car that travels a path of 40 meters, alternating with a shuttle between the two stations (that of XX Settembre and that of XXVII Marzo-Castello).
4 – THE PANORAMA FROM ABOVE
And if you take an elevator to go to the castle of San Giorgio, stop there on top of the hill and take a walk to admire the sensational view! The castle itself is an ancient Genoese fortification built in the 13th century, as attested by the thin vertical loopholes for archers. Modified and restored over time, today it houses the Archaeological collections of the Ubaldo Formentini Museum.
Even if you are not interested in history, you can still appreciate the spectacular view, given by the perfect location of this fortification: immersed in medieval buildings, you can admire the sea and the surrounding mountains.
5 – WITH YOUR NOSE IN THE AIR
Another thing that we particularly liked about the city of La Spezia is its architecture: similar to the French ones, here you can find many Art Nouveau buildings that testify to the economic development experienced by this city between the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, widespread both in the central areas and in the so-called “Umbertino district” wanted by King Umberto I to house workers from all over Italy, dating back to the late XIX century.
Walking around the city, you can certainly not ignore the beautiful squares and churches of La Spezia – among these, the beautiful Santa Maria della Neve (also dating back to the nineteenth century) and the church of Nostra Signora della Salute (located right in the Umberto I district, which we have already mentioned). Equally spectacular are the porticoes that, as you may already know, are common in many Italian cities – but those of La Spezia are particularly beautiful because they are colorful and painted!
The city also has many small streets, typically Italian, full of shops and cafes, where it is nice to get lost and admire … strictly with your nose in the air!
What do you think about La Spezia? Would you like to visit it? And if you’ve been there before, what do you think about it? Let me know in the comments! The article ends here, but this does not mean that your journey to discover Italian culture too must end. If you want to know more about our experiences around Italy and you are curious to know what it means to live a three-Michelin star experience, I strongly recommend our article (and vlog) on Casa Maria Luigia, the name of the villa of the multi-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura!
On the other hand, if you like to fully immerse yourselves in the authentic Italian culture, you cannot miss our course: Italiano in Contesto, completely based on the Contextual Method! You will be immersed in real daily conversations (at the bar, in the pizzeria, at the doctor, etc.), just as if you were really in Italy! Thus, you will learn real Italian, that of native speakers, which you will not find in books. Using the coupon code LASPEZIA, you will get unlimited access to Italiano in Contesto for only 79€.