If you like the Mediterranean vegetation, hiking, beautiful sea, seafood and calm, the Palmaria Island is definitely worth a visit.
To get to Palmaria Island, take a ferry boat from La Spezia harbour or a boat from Portovenere (make sure it is the authorized one, charging 5€ for a single ticket). Regrettably, in winter no boat service is available to get to Portovenere and Palmaria.
The Island is partly under control of the Military Italian Navy, which is the reason why on one hand the island has been preserved from wild tourism and building industry and on the other is yet showing way too many no-trespass area signs. A few beautiful beaches are located both on the side facing Portovenere and on the northern side: the free Terrizzo and Pozzale beaches are very wild, with no many services, on very clear and crisyalline water. Some very nice sea food trattorias are located in the inhabited area.
A complete hiking tour of the island is possible: it takes about two hours, good trekking shoes and allows a beautiful view on the white cliffs sloping to the wide open Mediterranean Sea, as well as great swimming (read here a few diving spots in Palmaria and nearby).
The Palmaria Island is the largest of three islands in the Gulf of La Spezia and the whole Liguria; down to just a few hundred meters in a straight line to the south you can sail to the other two islands of the little archipelago, Tino and Tinetto.
The island has a triangular shape: the sides facing Porto Venere and the Gulf of La Spezia are the most populated. There you can find the presence of some private houses, a trattoria and a few beaches, both public and reserved to employees to the Navy and Air Force. These sides slope gently down to the level of the sea, covered by typical Mediterranean vegetation; the side facing west to the open sea, is instead characterized by high bright white cliffs overlooking the water, with many caves.
The island’s west side, the most difficult to reach, is quite interesting for the study of the presence of man about five thousand years ago and of animals of the Pleistocene era, of which fossil bones of Pleistocene animals such as the chamois and the snowy owl were found in the Blue Grotto and the Cave of the Pigeon, reached only by climbing down ropes.
On the Palmaria island there are also many military buildings of great historical interest: on the top, inaccessible as a former military territory and currently in a state of neglect, the Count of Cavour Fort (or Fort Palmaria), the experimental weapons depot (now a environmental education center); the armored tower Umberto I – which used to be supplied with two Krupp 400 mm guns – and used after World War II as military prison; scattered throughout the territory of the island and submerged by the vegetation, several bunkers from the Second World War are mostly inaccessible coastal artillery and antiaircraft remains.