If you are up for some cultural visits during your stay in La Spezia, the town offers a few exciting art and technology collections, which can also give you a glimpse on Italian culture during a visit to Italy limited to La Spezia area.
Here are the most important La Spezia museums
Museo Navale – Naval Museum of Shipyard history and technology
Via G. Amendola, 1; entrance: 1.55€; open 8.00 am – 7.30pm from Monday to Sunday
Amedeo Lia Museum: Art Collection, with Italian works of art from the 13th to the 18th century
Via del Prione, 234; entrance 7€ open Tue to Sun 10 am – 6 pm
Camec Museum – Centre of Modern and Contemporary Art
Piazza C. Battisti, 1; admission 5€; open from Tuesday to Sunday 11am-6pm, Closed on Monday
Seals Museum – the complete seals’ collection that has ever gathered as a result of thirty years of field research and collaborations with the most famous auction houses.
Opening: Wednesday and Thursday 3pm-6pm; from Friday to Sunday 10am-1pm /3pm-6pm; Monday and Tuesday closed. Admission: Adults € 3.5;
At the reception are available to visitors cards and captions in Italian, English, German and French
Ethnographic Museum – a comprehensive collection of art materials and manufactures from Lunigiana and Val di Vara, dating back from the 18th century.
Via del Prione, 156 – Thursday, 10.00-12.30 am, from Friday to Sunday 10-12.30am /4 pm to 7 pm.
The Naval Museum of La Spezia is one of the most interesting museums in town and certainly the most important Italian naval museum. It is located next to the main access gate of the military arsenal, the second in importance in the Mediterranean Sea and the first one in terms of shipyard technology development.
The military area is normally closed to the public but by visiting the Naval Museum you can get access to a part of the La Spezia military arsenal. Unfortunately in recent times (2015), due to international security, this entrance to the Arsenal has been denied by the Military Force until further notice.
The Naval Museum of La Spezia collects a rich heritage of civilization, technology and culture witnesses, related to the naval history of seamanship from the origins up to nowadays: models, maps, figureheads, medals, naval flags, military weapons and provides a look into the technical evolution linked to the sea and to navigation.
The room of the naval evolution houses a valuable collection of vessels scale models dating back to the time before the Unification of Italy describing the sailing techniques of the time, as well as models of almost all major Italian units launched between 1860 and 1910 in the arsenal of La Spezia and those of the Italian ships of World War II. Among the most ancient relics, a collection of figureheads belonging to vessels of the XV, XVI, XVII century. Among these, it is worth mentioning the mysterious female wooden sculpture, called Atalanta, which is believed to captivate with its charm those who look at it for long.
The hall of the assault craft gathers extensive documentation dating back to WWI, among which the famous Grillo “Cricket" model (M.A.S 15, armed torpedo boat) and a prototype of the bomb with which Rossetti and Paolucci sank in the port of Pula the Austrian battleship Viribus Unitis on 1 November 1918.
The hall on underwater weapons follows the evolution of the torpedo, from prototype used by the Navy in 1875 for the various types used in the First and Second World War. The evolution of underwater mines is demonstrated by the presence of original copies used during the world wars.
The room dedicated to ancient arms, eventually, includes among others two Moorish mortars dating back to the sixteenth century, a 1521 Turkish cannon, two small bombs dating 1784.
Of particular interest, finally, is the photographic documentation of Guglielmo Marconi’s early radio experiments with mobile receiving stations located on the deck of military ships at the end of the nineteenth century.
The Amedeo Lia Art Museum
The Amedeo Lia Art Museum in La Spezia is an art collection located in the pedestrian area of the historic city center. The building that houses the museum is the former convent of the San Francesco di Paola monks, built in 1616. From 1798, following the Jacobin anticlerical persecution, the convent became first a military hospital and then a city hospital. After the construction of the new hospital it was for long abandoned and became a residence from 1914, and after the war, it was then used as the seat of the District Court and as municipal offices. In the nineties, following the donation made by Amedeo Lia and his family to the city of the rich art collection, a reconstruction of the beautiful building was needed to make the building suitable to house the prestigious Lia museum.
The City Museum “Amedeo Lia" hosts one of the most prestigious international art collections which includes more than a thousand works of great variety, from classical to late antiquity, the Middle Ages and finally to the eighteenth century. In particular, the so-called “primitive" section is a real gem with over seventy tables by various artists; also many gouaches and paintings (including Vincenzo Foppa, Pontormo, Titian, Tintoretto, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni Cariani, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto).
CAMeC is the Contemporary Art Museum of La Spezia, hosting an important collection donated to the City of La Spezia by the collectors Giorgio and Ilda Cozzani from La Spezia of about 1200 among sculptures, drawings and paintings, in addition to an imposing collection of graphic arts of the Twentieth century.
The collection is the successful outcome of frequent journeys of the collectors in Italy and all around the world, in search for the missing piece, and the following friendly relationships between the collectors and international artists and art gallery managers.
The artistic movements mostly represented in the interesting gallery are Expressionism, Bauhaus, Surrealism, the Figurative movement of the second postwar period, and many more recent and less known vanguard abstract art groups .
The museum also hosts many temporary exhibitions and gathers the works from the “La Spezia Gulf Prize", a National art contest that started in 1933, thanks to the organization of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Fillia. These were two important exponents of the Futurism artistic movement, who strongly believed that La Spezia was a Futuristic town.
The artistic event took place until 1965 and was then resumed in the year 2000 to keep a biennial cadence.
The by now 300 works is now a permanent exhibition housed at CAMeC.
The Seals Museum
The seal Museum in La Spezia is unique wordwide, the result of thirty years of field research and collaborations with the most famous auction houses and leading scholars in the field.
Housed in the neo-Gothic building of the Art Palace “Lucio R. Rosaia" in the central Via Prione, the Civic Museum of the Seal displays fifteen hundred seals ranging from from specimens of the fourth millennium BC, Egypt and then Imperial Rome, the most complete collection of seals that has ever been assembled. The collaboration with the Vatican Secret Archives, the Archive of the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Maison Lalique in Paris made it possible to select the stunning material and to realize, in the opinion of experts in sigillography, a unique collection in its kind in quality and quantity.
In current language the term “seal" indicates both the matrix, ie the object (in stone, metal, wood or other) which has engraved in negative the symbol to be reproduced and the footprint, or the positive mold obtained by applying the negative on soft substances (clay, wax) or by inking.
The period between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the most important for the production of seals, such as are those of crystal and glass made by René Lalique Art Nouveau displayed in the first museum’s room. In the second room are the gold seals including goldsmith creations for the Russian czars, Faberge. Finally in the third room are the seals made in the East ranging from the fourth century BC to contemporary times.
The Ethnographic Museum
At La Spezia’s Ethnographic Museum, on permanent display art materials and popular tradition of the Val di Magra and Val di Vara, dating from the mid-eighteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century. These elements of social life and everyday rural communities of the area, profoundly changed as a result of industrialization, offer visitors an interesting synthesis of life in Lunigiana in the eighteenth century and early twentieth century. It emerges a simple but rich set of ancient customs, rituals, beliefs; a skilful craftmanshift, capable to transform daily use objects in small artistic masterpieces.
The museum is particularly remarkable and rich in the textile section displaying traditional costumes of the nineteenth century, including festive womens’ dresses from La Spezia, Sarzana and Cinque Terre, with skirts made in turquoise fabric woven with the local chassis, ancestor of the legendary jeans (the word possibly means genoese– from Genoa).
Also notable is the section documenting the gold filigree jewelry, to be worn on festive the days, and the local manufacture with silver crosses, from which women never separated even while working in the fields. Also displayed are the unique braided raffia hats female, whose tiny dimensions had marveled British travelers of the past century visiting the area. But also domestic instruments, votive offerings of popular devotion, objects related to the realm of superstition, the tools associated with farming or herding, the house furniture and furnishings, the carved instruments of spinning and weaving, gifts engagement donated to the bride. All elements are, by their antiquity collection and their originality, a repertoire of rare charm and subtle seduction.