What are the best things to do in La Spezia Italy? In this guide, I will describe the main La Spezia attractions, including the best places in the surroundings!
La Spezia is one of the most important cities in Liguria, located a few kilometres away from the border with Tuscany. Its strategic position in the centre of the famous stretch of coast known as the Gulf of Poets is one of the main reasons why it is a very popular destination during the high season.
From here it is possible to reach the Cinque Terre Natural Park and Portovenere, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as Lerici. However, this wonderful town is not only a base for visiting its surroundings.
Crystal-clear sea, unspoilt nature and enchanting villages are just some of the features you will find in La Spezia Italy, but there are also important monuments, museums and churches.
Nestled between the mountains and a fabulous sea, La Spezia offers breathtaking views that you will never forget!
What are the best things to do in La Spezia? Read on to discover the main La Spezia attractions to see in one or more days, starting from the old town centre and ending in the surroundings of the city.
The best things to do in La Spezia Italy: nature, art, history, food & wine
If you are wondering what things to do in La Spezia, you are in the right place. The town is not very big and can be easily visited on foot. Dedicating the right amount of time to each attraction will take you a day, but if you are planning a weekend you will have the possibility to visit it more slowly.
Below I will describe what to visit in the amazing La Spezia town, presenting the main tourist attractions in the order that I think is perfect for an itinerary. But you are free to modify it according to your needs. Let’s go! 😉
1. Old town and the stairways
Our itinerary begins with the beautiful old town centre, divided into two main streets: Corso Cavour and Via del Prione. Walking through its alleys, you will still be able to breathe in the calm and relaxed atmosphere typical of a fishing village.
The traditional coloured houses keep company with the city’s symbolic monuments and buildings, such as Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, where history combines with futurism and contemporary art, creating a truly evocative geometric and architectural interplay.
As mentioned above, the main streets of the town are Corso Cavour and Via del Prione, important meeting points for young people and tourists who want to stroll through the old town centre, shopping and relaxing, perhaps having a drink in one of the many bars.
A striking feature of La Spezia are the many stairways that adorn the city, each with its own shape and colour. Their function is to link the surrounding hills with the centre of the town. These beautiful structures are a clear example of the union between history and architecture and are now one of the symbols of the town. The stairways that are definitely worth a visit are the one dedicated to Quintilio Sella and the Spallanzani stairway. Not to be missed!
2. Palazzo Oldoini, Palazzo del ghiaccio and Palazzo delle Poste
If you are wondering what are the best buildings to visit, let me suggest you three important civil architectures, each one with its particular characteristics.
Palazzo Oldoini, also known as Palazzo dei Nobili, is an ancient structure located in Piazza Sant’Agostino. This Baroque building represents the nobility of the past, when old aristocratic families would gather in these noble residences and enjoy their luxury.
A must-see is the Ice Palace, dating back to 1920 and the former site of the Ice Factory, which the city equipped itself with to better preserve food.
Finally, I recommend a visit to the Palazzo delle Poste by Angiolo Mazzioni. The beauty of this building is reflected in the mosaic covering the interior walls of the Tower, an example of Futurist mosaic art.
3. Church of Santa Maria Assunta and Cathedral of Christ the King
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta is a wonderful 15th century building with a difficult history. In fact, the church was almost entirely rebuilt after the Second World War. The bombings destroyed almost all of it, except for a few elements that managed to resist, such as the bell tower. Inside, you can admire the Annunciation by Andrea Semino and the Multiplication of Bread and Fish by Giovan Battista Casone.
The Cathedral of Christ the King is the main place of worship in La Spezia. This structure is characterised by a circular plan and a vast dome supported by twelve columns to symbolise the Apostles. The most important works of art you can see here are the Deposition of Christ and the 18th century wooden Crucifix in the centre of the church.
4. Museum of the Seal, Amedeo Lia Civic Museum and Naval Technical Museum
Our itinerary continues with a section dedicated to the most important museums in the Ligurian town.
A few steps away from the above-mentioned attractions there is the Palazzina delle Arti, a neo-medieval building. The building houses the Seal Museum with thousands of exhibits about seals, some dating back as far as the 4th millennium BC. The building also houses the library of art history and archaeology.
The Museo Civico Amedeo Lia is a 17th-century building that started out as a convent and is now the place where the works of art donated by the collector Amedeo Lia, before his death, to the municipality of La Spezia are displayed. The collection comprises miniatures, paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Moving towards the harbour, you will have the chance to see the old Navy arsenal dating back to 1869, whose prestige is gradually declining. The latter cannot be visited but nearby there is the Naval Technical Museum, the most important of its kind in Italy. There are three halls inside: the Ancient Weapons Hall, the Underwater Weapons Hall and the Assault Equipment Hall. If you are a fan of the sector, then you really can’t miss it!
5. Civic Theatre
Our journey to discover the best things to do in La Spezia takes us to the end of Via del Prione, a few metres from the urban gardens I will tell you about in a moment. In Piazza Mentana there is the most important and ancient theatre of the city, a 19th century building in neoclassical style. An evocative characteristic of the Civic Theatre is the openable dome on which the twelve constellations of the Zodiac are drawn, observable live when the structure is opened.
6. Public Gardens and Garibaldi Monument
There are many things to do in La Spezia and one of them is our next stop. After enough walking, we need to relax and recover our energy to continue our itinerary and the Giardini Pubblici is the perfect place. Situated just a few steps from the port, they are a green area full of benches and trees, with a great variety of plants.
Inside the gardens there is a monument dedicated to Garibaldi, a large equestrian statue that pays homage to him. Not to be missed!
7. Waterfront, Thaon de Revel Bridge and the Port
After resting, past the wonderful Giardini Pubblici, we come to one of the most important attractions: the waterfront. The latter is a meeting place for grandparents with grandchildren, young people, adults and tourists. Taking a walk here is something truly unique and is definitely one of the best things to do in La Spezia. The path from the promenade to the Mirabello port is known as the Passeggiata Morin: it consists of an avenue with palm trees that frames the Gulf of Poets and the Ligurian Sea.
To reach the aforementioned port there is the famous Thaon de Revel Bridge, a structure made of white steel and exotic wood. Through this imposing structure you will be able to cross the mainland and arrive at a small island that supports the port.
Porto Mirabello is one of Italy’s main commercial ports, used both for container handling as well as to accommodate yachts and cruise ships.
8. San Giorgio Castle
What are the best things to do in La Spezia? A visit to the majestic San Giorgio Castle is a must! The building stands on top of the Poggio hill, from which it dominates the whole area below. The castle dates back to the 13th century but, following an invasion by the Genoese Republic, it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 14th century.
It houses the Ubaldo Formentini Museum, where important archaeological finds are kept. Visiting this beautiful structure you will have the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views and panoramas over the Ligurian Sea and the entire Gulf of Poets.
Let’s discover many other La Spezia attractions!
If you don’t know what to do, La Spezia will surprise you! There are many activities to do in this fantastic Ligurian town. As you have seen, there is no shortage of opportunities to visit museums or historical buildings, real symbols of the place that can tell you interesting facts about the city. In the main streets of the city centre, you can relax and go shopping thanks to the numerous shops.
For nature lovers, there are trekking routes and beautiful paths to enjoy the best views and breathe clean air. Don’t forget to try the local food and wine: stuffed pumpkin flowers, chickpea porridge, pasta with pesto, focaccia and sgabei to be paired with an excellent Sciacchetrà or one of the wines belonging to the Cinque Terre DOC wine appellation.
Here is what to see in the surroundings!
With this itinerary, we went to the discovery of La Spezia in all its aspects and particularities. However, if you move a few kilometres away, you can visit the surrounding area, and trust us, it is really worth it! The Cinque Terre, Portovenere and Lerici are just some of the attractions that I will tell you about shortly and that deserve a visit at least once in your life. Read on to travel from La Spezia to Cinque Terre!
1. Cinque Terre
Thanks to its beauty, the Cinque Terre Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The characteristic landscapes of this area are a combination of land and sea, with wonderful coloured houses framing all this splendour. The fishing villages I am going to describe are:
The first village I am talking about is Monterosso al mare. This is the largest of the five villages and is divided into the historical centre and the residential area by a promontory. The Church of San Giovanni Battista dating back to 1200 and the statue of the Giant are worth seeing.
Vernazza is a real jewel set between sea and nature. Walking through its alleys, you can breathe a quiet atmosphere and observe monuments such as the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia and the Doria Castle.
Among the five villages, this is the only one that is not in close contact with the sea. For nature lovers, Corniglia is perfect thanks to its amazing paths and views. In addition to the trails, I recommend you visit the Church of San Pietro.
Manarola is a small town overlooking the sea, offering crystal-clear waters that you will hardly forget. Don’t leave this little village without seeing the Church of San Lorenzo with its bell tower and the Belvedere, a real “natural balcony”.
The last, but not least, of the five villages is Riomaggiore. The village dates back to the 7th century and is dominated by Mediterranean vegetation. Don’t miss the castle!
2. Portovenere and Archipelago
If you are in La Spezia, I suggest you to visit Portovenere, another typical fishing village just a few kilometres away from our town. This is a real pearl of the Gulf of Poets thanks to its beautiful landscapes and monuments. In order to enjoy the town at its best, I suggest you to walk through its carrugi observing the main attractions such as the Palazzata a mare, the historical centre and the Doria Castle. For nature lovers, don’t miss the Byron’s Grotto and a visit to the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, where you can immerse yourself in true unspoilt nature!
Lerici is one of the most visited and well-known tourist destinations in the world. With its colourful houses and fabulous sea, the village will give you truly unique emotions. Walking through its carrugi is the best way to get to know the town while breathing in its typical relaxed atmosphere, a common feature of fishing villages. If you find yourself in this fascinating place, don’t miss the Castle, the Oratory of San Rocco with its tower and Villa Marigola. For the summer season, Venere Azzurra beach is fabulous.
4. Castelnuovo Magra
Are you looking for other interesting things to do in La Spezia and its surroundings? Near our starting point there is a small village with very few inhabitants, Castelnuovo Magra. The town can be easily visited on foot, to admire the wonderful views over the Val di Magra. Sights include the Castle of the Bishops of Luni, the Parish Church of Santa Maria Maddalena and the Enoteca Regionale della Liguria.
Let us recommend Sarzana, a characteristic town nestled in the green hills on the border with Tuscany. The town has much to offer from a naturalistic as well as a historical point of view, as evidenced by the Firmafede Fortress and the Sarzanello Fortress, two imposing structures dating back to the 15th century. The Church of Santa Maria Assunta, with the oldest painted crucifix in Italy by Mastro Guglielmo, is worth a visit.
How to get to the town & move around the area:
Now that you know what to see in town, consider that it is very easy to get there. The city can be easily reached by any means of transport.
I recommend the car for greater freedom of movement and autonomy, but there are also train, boat and bus options. For those who choose one of the latter, there are of course buses that will allow you to move from one town to another and fully enjoy your holiday!
With Italia Delight you can discover the best things to do in La Spezia Italy by choosing from a wide range of activities. We have many experiences and ideas for your trips to Lerici or Portovenere and a fantastic winery tour in Castelnuovo Magra. All you have to do is book! 😍