10 things to see in La Spezia in one day

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With the city's cruise ships and the Cinque Terre's international success, the number of tourists in La Spezia grows. Is it better to quickly reach the station to take the train to the Cinque Terre, or is La Spezia worth a visit?

Sometimes a little lost, trying to read the names of the streets and victims of unexpected traffic, we see more and more tourists throughout the city. Passengers heading somewhere else, they decide to give some time to its discovery, abducted by the call of the of the charming city center streets and the contrast between the contemporary and the Art Nouveau buildings, or venturing on its hills to understand it from above.

Below is a Google map of the center of La Spezia commented and a summary of the itinerary among the ten things to see in La Spezia in our opinion most significant for those who visit the town on their own. The list is not exhaustive but describes a possible route to start with depending on the time available. The map also shows other points of interest not included in this article but other parts of the site.

Map of the ten most interesting things to see in La Spezia

1. Tahon di Revel bridge, connecting sea and town.

The Thaone Revel bridge, one of the most interesting things to see in La Spezia.

So white and modern, it immediately attracts those arriving from the sea or those walking along the promenade. Likewise, the Tahon de Revel Bridge is a suggestive point of view of the town, even at night. This drawbridge was built in 2014 to connect the marina to downtown with an innovative concept for the city.

2. The Public Gardens, city’s green lung.

Garibaldi’s statue in the Public Gardens of La Spezia

With a great variety of beautiful plants, Art Nouveau architectures and sculptures, the avenues and the oThe public gardens of La Spezia offer the possibility of a pleasant walk in the green between the sea promenade and the city center. Its avenues and widenings unwind through a significant variety of gorgeous plantsArt Nouveau installations, and sculptures, like the statue of Garibaldi on horseback. In spring and summer, the gardens are the location for local fairs such as the Festa del Mare and the Fiera di San Giuseppe.

3. Via del Prione, the Carugio Drito

Via Prione decorata a ombrelli per Natale - ph. Tiziano Riva
Christmas lights in Via Prione – Ph. T. Riva

Probably the oldest street in the center of Spezia, Via del Prione is today the shopping center. Bars, cafes, and fashion shops create a characteristic vibrancy. The German composer Richard Wagner was a guest at an inn in Via del Prione when he wrote the initial crescendo of the  Rhine Gold’s overture. Some say the sound of morning vocals from the street inspired him. 

Prione means “big stone” from the Genoese language, pria, stone. In the 15th century, a big rock was probably set in this street to serve as a pedestal for the Genoese Republic messengers when they read the decrees out loud for the locals. However, the street name for the La Spezia people was Carugio Drito (straight, narrow street). They called it straight even if it’s not, as to them, it meant it was the main street where all trading activities took place. Via Prione overlooks the City theater, the Lia Museum. With a couple of short diversions from the road, you can go to Piazza Sant’Agostino, with the nineteenth-century palace of the Countess Oldoini, the baroque church of San Giovanni and Agostino, and the church of Santa Maria Assunta, once the cathedral of the city. 

4. Santa Maria Assunta, in the city’s heart.

Santa Maria Assunta church

From Via del Prione along Via Magenta, with the historic pizzeria La Pia you get to Piazza Beverini. On the Piazza, the Church of Santa Maria Assunta stands out with its large façade in black and white marble. We are in the oldest part of the city, where all trading and social activities once took place. Today not much is left of the historical premises, almost entirely destroyed by the bombings of 1944.

The Church of Santa Maria is inextricably linked to the origins of La Spezia, of which it was an abbey and cathedral. Unfortunately, it was destroyed several times, and in WWII, it suffered severe damage. However, even if it is no longer the cathedral today, it preserves important testimonies of the city’s history after a careful restoration. When many La Spezia churches were demolished to make room for the industrial “new city,” Santa Maria took the legacy of the works of art they hosted. Its collection includes nineteenth-century and seventeenth-century Genoese and Sarzana art school paintings and terracotta by Andrea Della Robbia.

5.AT THE MARKET, TRY AND BUY LOCAL PRODUCTS 

The market square of La Spezia

Walking along Corso Cavour, the central avenue of La Spezia strolling built in the Napoleonic era, full of shops and cafes, you arrive at the Piazza Cavour Market. The market building has been recently renovated, a source of regret for many locals, who believe the charm of the former wrought iron building has gone lost. However, the market maintained its characteristic lively atmosphere over the years. Suppose you happen to visit it n the morning. In that case, you will see local producers selling their fresh products, calling for the attention of the passers-by to trade. A large market sector is dedicated to the freshest fish caught in La Spezia sea. At lunchtime, you can eat a typical Mesciua in the ancient Trattoria dell’Inferno. In this basement, they prepare the most typical dishes La Spezia dishes.

6. URBAN ART DECÒ AND STAIRWAYS

Scalinata CErnaia, una delle scalinate di Spezia - Ph. Tiziano Riva
The Cernaia stairway, one of the most characteristic La Spezia stairs – Ph. T. Riva

Once you get to the city’s upper floor by stairway or elevator, look at the Castle of San Giorgio, at least from the outside. This ancient defending fortress had its most flourishing period during the short domain of Nicolò Fieschi. The Castle now houses the archaeological museum Ubaldo Formentini, with evidence from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, including the Statues Stele of the fourth millennium BC. The Castle also offers a beautiful perspective from above on the city.

7. Castello di San Giorgio, a fortress with a view.

San Giorgio castle

Once you get to the city’s upper floor by stairway or elevator, look at the Castle of San Giorgio, at least from the outside. This ancient defending fortress had its most flourishing period during the short domain of Nicolò Fieschi. The Castle now houses the archaeological museum Ubaldo Formentini, with evidence from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, including the Statues Stele of the fourth millennium BC. The Castle also offers a beautiful perspective from above on the city.

8. Piazza Verdi, night and day futurism.

Piazza Verdi, nuove e vecchie architetture
The new Verdi square – Ph. T. Riva

You can reach Piazza Verdi by returning to Via Prione with the lift, located right in front of the San Giorgio Castle, or more directly with the San Giorgio stairway. The Square has been the object of a recent and controversial recovery intervention. After years of degradation, Piazza Verdi has an entirely new design the locals look bewildered at, still arguing with animosity.

The French architect Daniel Buren designed the new Square and inserted new architectural elements, squared arches, and colored totems on the old layout. As a result, the Piazza has some striking views, also at night.

The Palazzo Delle Poste overlooks the Square, designed by the architect Angiolo Mazzoni, one of the prominent representatives of the Rationalist architecture style typical of the fascist time. Inside, the imposing Futurist mosaics of Fillia and Prampolini are preserved, reflecting a significant artistic movement that took place in the 1930s in the city. Unfortunately, the mosaics are only sometimes open to visitors (it is advisable to try to ask in the post office).

9. The Cathedral and Piazza Europa, the contemporary city.

La CAttedrale di Cristo Re si impone su Piazza Europa - ph. Tiziano Riva
Cristo Re Cathedral in Europa square – Ph. T. Riva

Not far from Piazza Verdi, along Via Veneto, is the architectural complex of Piazza Europa and the Cathedral. Built where once was a “small hill” (so-called montetto by locals), then flattened to make room for the development of a new city directive to the east, these contemporary architectures are not always appreciated either. The new Cathedral of Christ the King is an imposing structure that dominates the Square, which may not even be noticed walking under the arcades. It is necessary to climb a short stair that leads to the building to visit the church and appreciate its interior with the unusual, slightly bewildering circular plan and the central altar. To understand its shape and size, cross the space of Piazza Europa in front of the City Hall.

10. the 20th-century town walls park.

If you have some time left, going up to the recently recovered ancient city walls is an excellent way to view the city. The nineteenth-century “Savoy” walls form the city’s defensive walls built between 1887 and 1889. Together with the arsenal on the seafront, the walls were intended to protect La Spezia militarily. The newborn Parco delle Mura is today a long path in the shadow of the large structure, opening a view of the city from above, its landscape, and history. This view was not possible before and pleasantly surprised locals, who now use the trail for running and walking in their spare time. 

The Savoyard belt joins the eastern city, what was once called Porta Rocca, in the area of ​​the current Cruise Terminal, and reaches the west up to Porta Castellazzo and down again to Porta Genova. At the end of the works, it will end in the district known as “Buggi,” which is connected to the Arsenale walls.

The Savoy city walls park

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