La Spezia

La Spezia Italy - Photo © Bianca Gualandi
La Spezia Italy – Photo © Bianca Gualandi

Already an important coastal center, La Spezia owed its development to the construction of the Naval Arsenal (1860-1865), which was the idea of Cavour and constructed according to a plan by Domenico Chiodo.

The Public Gardens, which were created in the early nineteenth century on the crest of the Napoleonic dream and, it was said at the time, in competition with those in Tokyo, are the true feather in the city’sof La Spezia cap. Originally known as the ‘Boschetto’, these enchanting gardens reflect the multifarious charms of nature throughout the seasons. The bandstand inside the gardens is a veritable jewel of Art Nouveau style.

Facing Palazzo Doria on the Via Chiodo is the lush garden park with its rare decorative plants. Standing among the flower-beds are statues of La Spezia’s illustrious citizens. The gardens lead onto the Promenade, which offers a spectacular view across the Gulf of La Spezia that is crowned by the sight of the Apuan Alps and the hills sweeping gracefully down to the sea. The glimpse of tugs and fishing boats rocking on the waves gives you an idea of the various activities that are carried out in the Gulf of La Spezia. The city is widely appreciated for its extremely mild climate and its ideal position in the Bay of Poets.

Today, you can make a special request to visit the Naval Arsenal, which has been very successfully opened to the public. Besides the exhibits of industrial archaeology, you can see sectors that are in the vanguard of the shipping industry. The hillsides that surround the city of La Spezia are a marvelous place to go for a stroll. Well worth a visit are the ancient villages of Biassa and Campiglia, true oases of tranquility and natural charm. You can also visit the ancient parish church at Marinasco, which underwent restoration in the eighteenth century.

La Spezia, Morin Promenade Photo © pincopallo
La Spezia, Morin Promenade – Photo © pincopallo

There is no shortage of accommodation in La Spezia. One particularly relaxing outing is the trip around the Gulf and the islands (bus and boat services leave from the Morin promenade). You will find a visit to the Amedeo Lia Civic Museum, which has a singularly fascinating history, very interesting. It was established by virtue of a generous gift to the municipality of La Spezia of a sumptuous private art collection that is now housed in the old monastery of the brotherhood of San Francesco da Paola. Castle Museum. The “Ubaldo Formentini” archaeological collections.

This comprises the Civic Archaeology Collections, the extraordinary stele statues, a vast collection of objects dating from Luni during the Roman era and originally belonging to the Fabbricotti family, mosaics and epigraphic exhibits. “Giovanni Podenzana” Museum of Ethnography. This offers a rich collection of exhibits testifying to popular traditions and the rural ways of life that were disappearing with the rise of industrialisation. Palazzina delle Arti and the Seal Museum.

The collection of official seals was donated to the municipality of La Spezia by the Capellini family and is the largest collection of its kind in the world. The building also houses a special art and archaeology library with workshops and spaces set aside for temporary exhibitions. Diocesan Museum. This will be opened in the ancient oratory of San Bernardo and will contain permanent collections of exhibits from diocesan life.

Port of La Spezia - Photo © Bianca Gualandi
Port of La Spezia – Photo © Bianca Gualandi

The Museum of Naval Technology of La Spezia is situated in the Naval Arsenal. It is one of the most prestigious in the world, offering an important collection of figureheads, glorious exhibits from naval history and models showing the evolution of shipping. National Transport Museum. This was originally created as a trolley-bus museum but trains were later added. The Museum has a specialized library of documents and objects relating to the history of transport and also a large collection of photographs.

Tourists and other visitors can admire the city’s harmonious Art Nouveau architecture, which became popular in La Spezia in the wake of the Art-Industry movement in the early twentieth century. Houses, gardens, theatres and urban decoration all saw the influence of the new art, which gave a new appearance to the city. Yet it is a new city that has not forgotten its ancient traditions and annual events that enthusiastically evoke festivals and rites of yore that still live on in the collective consciousness.

March 19 is the festival of San Giuseppe, patron saint of the city of La Spezia. The Fair that bears his name is a popular festival that brings the city to life with six hundred stalls running around the gardens and along the promenade. Another appointment not to be missed is the “Palio del Golfo”, a historic regatta that is followed with great enthusiasm all along the Gulf of La Spezia on the first Sunday in August. The Palio is preceded by the different hamlets’ costume parade that is based on a different theme every year. In the evening, the bay is illuminated by a traditional firework display.

Where to stay in La Spezia

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