10 things to see in La Spezia – One day in La Spezia
With the cruise ships in the city and the international success of the Cinque Terre, the number of tourists who are in La Spezia grows as in a passage to be interpreted. Better to quickly reach the station to take the train to the Cinque Terre or be surprised by the city?
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.
Mappa delle 10 cose più interessanti da vedere alla Spezia
Tahon di Revel bridge, connecting city and town
So white and modern the immediately attracts the look of those arriving from the sea or those walking on the city’s promenade. Suggestive to visit also at night, to stop to look at the lights of the town and take pictured of the reflection of the white bridge set on the dark sea. Built in 2014, it is a drawbridge with a contemporary and exciting concept, which connects the touristic port with the historical center of the city through the public gardens.
Public Gardens, the “green lung"
With a great variety of beautiful plants, Art Nouveau architectures and sculptures, the avenues and the open spaces of the public gardens of La Spezia, although not always well preserved (they are at the center of a possible redevelopment intervention), offer the possibility of a pleasant walk in the green between the promenade and the city center, and some artistic and historical hints of its history, such as the statue of Garibaldi on horseback. Many of the La Spezia festivals take place in the gardens, such as the Festa del Mare and the Fiera di San Giuseppe.
Probably the oldest street in the center of Spezia, Via del Prione is today the center of the city’s shopping and strolling. There are bars, cafes, fashion shops and a characteristic liveliness (it is said that the German composer Richard Wagner, a guest at an inn in Via del Prione, was inspired by the morning vocals coming from the road to the initial crescendo of the overture of the Rhine Gold). The name of the Via probably means “great stone", from the Genoese pria, in memory of the stone from which perhaps in the ‘400 the messengers read the decrees of the Genoese Republic; however for the La Spezia people the street was called the Carugio Drito, (straight narrow street) not because it was straight but because it was the main street, that on which the commercial activities took place. Via Prione overlooks the Civic Theater, the Lia Museum, and with some brief “digressions" through the alleys of the city you can see 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.
Santa Maria Assunta, in the city’s heart
Through Via Magenta, which overlooks the historic pizzeria La Pia (great for a Farinata based snack) or Via Biassa, an ancient alley in which there is a rest of Palazzo Cenere, once city hall, 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 once upon a time, between the castle walls and the gateways that surrounded it, all its economic and social activities took place. Today there is not much left of those historical structures, almost completely destroyed by the bombings of 1944.
The Church of Santa Maria is inextricably linked to the origins of La Spezia, of which it was abbey and cathedral. It was destroyed several times and also in the last war it suffered serious damage, but after a careful restoration, even if today it is no longer the cathedral, it preserves important testimonies of the city’s history, as in it came together in the nineteenth century works of art from the destroyed La Spezia churches to make room for the industrial “new city", including works from the seventeenth-century Genoese and Sarzana school and a terracotta by Andrea della Robbia.
The Market: local food and fresh fish
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 architectural structure has been recently renovated and is a source of regret for many locals, who believe the charm of the ancient wrought iron building has not been preserved. But the market maintains the characteristic liveliness that distinguishes it and above all the most typical products of the territory as many of the sellers who attract the attention of the passers-by cultivate the lands in the very area.
A large market sector is dedicated to the freshest fish caught in our sea. If you are at the market at lunchtime, you can stop to eat a typical Mesciua in the ancient Trattoria dell’Inferno, a basement in which they prepare the most typical recipes from La Spezia.
The Amedeo Lia Museum
Returning from Corso Cavour to the parallel Via Prione, you can choose to visit the Lia Museum, which houses Italian works of art from the 13th to the 18th century collected by the collector Amedeo Lia and hosted in what was once the ancient hospital of La Spezia. Among the most famous authors represented at the museum are Tintoretto, Tiziano, and Canaletto. This is just one of the many Museums that can be visited in the city: not far from this route there is also the interesting Naval Museum.
La Spezia stairs, urban Art Nouveau decors
An interesting way to get to know the city is to explore its stairs, which always connect the lower part of the city, on the sea level, to its “hills". Of course, to reach Via XXVII Marzo, from which you can get a beautiful view of the city and its sea, you can also take the elevator (located in Via Prione at Via Biassa and the Church of Santa Maria) and make a lot of less effort, but to choose to climb on one of the urban stairways lets you to appreciate some art-nouveau style details of the steps themselves and the buildings that overlook it. One of the most beautiful stairs in the city is the Cernaia stairway, currently at the center of reconstruction but still viable.
Castello di San Giorgio,fortress with a view
Once you get to the upper floor of the city with a stairway or the elevator, you should not miss a look at least from outside of the Castle of San Giorgio, the ancient defending fortress, which had its most flourishing period during the short domain of the city of Nicolò Fieschi. The Castle now houses the archaeological museum Ubaldo Formentini, with evidence from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, including Statues Stele of the fourth millennium BC. The Castle also offers a wonderful perspective from above on the city.
Piazza Verdi, futuristic day and night
Returning to Via Prione with the lift, which is located right next to the Castle of San Giorgio, or descending from the San Giorgio stairway that arrives more directly, you can reach Piazza Verdi after a few steps. The square has been at the center of a recent and very controversial recovery intervention, and today presents itself, after years of degradation, with an entirely new design that the local look a bit perplexed, still arguing with animosity.
The square was designed by the French architect Daniel Buren, who inserted new architectural elements, squared arches and colored totems, on the old squared structure of the Piazza, and designed perpendicular lines on the streets facing. The square has some striking views, also at night.
On Piazza Verdi overlooks the Palazzo delle Poste, designed by the architect Angiolo Mazzoni, one of the major designers of the functional public building in the Fascist period. Inside, the imposing Futurist mosaics of Fillia and Prampolini are preserved, reflecting an important artistic movement that took place in the 1930s in the city. Unfortunately, the mosaics are not always open to visitors (it is advisable, however, to try to ask in the post office).
La CAttedrale di Cristo Re si impone su Piazza Europa - ph. Tiziano Riva
The Cathedral and Piazza Europa, the contemporay town
Not far from Piazza Verdi, along Via Veneto is the architectural complex of Piazza Europa and the Cathedral. Built where once there was a “small hill" (so-called montetto by the spezzini), then flattened to make room for the development of a new city directive to the east, even these contemporary architectures are not always well seen. 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 appreciate its shape and size, it is necessary to cross the space of Piazza Europa in front of the City Hall.