Like many of Italy’s busy port cities, La Spezia is often overlooked by travelers passing through on their way to higher-profile destinations. Before continuing on to the nearby Cinque Terre, however, take time to explore La Spezia’s old town and sample the excellent local cuisine. Here are your options for one day in La Spezia.
Morning: La Spezia’s Historic Heart
A modern cruise and shipping hub, La Spezia’s port area is home to the largest naval base in Italy. Walk a bit farther into the old town, however, and you will be rewarded with a lively grid of lanes lined with locally owned shops and restaurants and imbued with a refreshingly authentic atmosphere. Stroll down the main Via del Prione and Via Garibaldi, being sure to admire the art nouveau architecture; wander through the market in Piazza Cavour; and take in the sea breezes along the palm-lined promenade of Costantino Morin. Stop in at San Giorgio Castle and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta before settling on one of the city’s many old-school trattorias for a leisurely lunch.
Afternoon: Ligurian Cuisine
Liguria is the birthplace of pesto and focaccia, two universally beloved specialties. Sample these and other delicacies from the coastline by joining a food tour through the city. Stroll through the old town to explore traditional delis and trattorias, sampling Ligurian favorites such as stuffed anchovies and mussels, octopus salad, farinata (a crepe made with chickpea flour), mesciua (garbanzo-bean soup), and trofie al pesto (twisted pasta with pesto sauce). If you’re a hands-on gourmand, take a cooking class to learn how to prepare many of these dishes on your own. Hone your skills with a professional chef either in a home setting or a restaurant kitchen, and then enjoy what you’ve created over dinner.
Night: The Cinque Terre and a Home-Cooked Meal
Italy’s most famous cluster of picturesque fishing villages are just minutes away along the coast, a quick jaunt by land or sea from La Spezia. Take a sunset sail past the Cinque Terre, or opt for a driving or e-bike tour to admire the five famous fishing villages along the Gulf of Poets in the cooler hours late in the day. End your day with a cooking demonstration and family-style meal in the home of a local cook, featuring four courses of classic Ligurian dishes paired with local red and white wines.