Discovering La Spezia and the peculiar beauties of the Gulf of Poets
La Spezia is Italy's largest naval base and the second city in the Liguria region, preceded just by Genova. La Spezia hosts the arsenal of the Italian Navy and it is the main Italian military and commercial harbour. La Spezia province has a characteristic shoreline featuring picturesque villages perched atop the bluffs and small villages set within green valleys.
La Spezia is located midway between Genoa and Pisa in one of the most wonderful stretches of the Ligurian Riviera: the Golfo dei Poeti, Poets’ Gulf, named after the great appreciation that many great writers and poets have demonstrated for this land. The shoreline offers the spectacular views of charming villages surrounded by steep cliffs and green hills of dense pine woods, romantic coves and exceptional beaches, along with a crystal-clear sea.
Lerici, Portovenere, the Island of Palmaria, and the Islets of Tino and Tinetto are just few of must-see destinations embedded in this graceful coastline.
If you don’t have time to visit them all Lerici and Portovenere could be your choice. Lerici is a typical hamlet with narrow carrugi (typical small streets of the region) that get to the top of the hills and put beside red and yellow picturesque houses. The village offers also many shops, restaurants and pubs. Do not miss the impressive Castle of Lerici, one of the most interesting defensive structures in the Region, and where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the Palmaria Island. Portovenere praises a small port at the bottom of the old town where brightly-colored houses dot the green background and steep stairs give the impression of hanging suspended over the cliff. Portovenere is, together with the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cinque Terre (the Five Lands) are five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare - all marked by their incomparable beauty. Cinque Terre is now a protected area and you can visit these villages one after the other going through the Via dell'Amore (Way of Love), the high-altitude pedestrian path overlooking the sea, with a run of just over one kilometer that links them all.
The Cinque Terre Park is a real marine heritage, ideal if you want to experience some scuba diving and snorkeling: fascinating elements of the ecosystem are for example whales, sperm whales and dolphins that gather in the so called Cetacean Sanctuary. The Park offers also opportunities for those seeking more wild trekking and hiking: the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail) wanders along the coast passing through all five villages. Other sports you can enjoy in the Park are canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and hydrospeed while exploring the waters of the Cinque Terre rivers.
Among the number of festivals, concerts and other cultural events held almost everywhere in the Province is the Palio del Golfo dei Poeti, in La Spezia: the Palio is a rowing competition between the 13 maritime contradas (or neighborhood teams) of the Gulf of Poets. The rowing boats used in the Palio are made by skilled craftsmen who make them fast and agile. The Palio is held the first Sunday of August and is always initiated with a themed costume parade.
In the city centre of La Spezia you will find cosy trattorias showcasing the Ligurian kitchen's finest. Unmissable dishes are Monterosso anchovies, fainà or farinata, mesciùa soup, focaccias and trofie al pesto, just to mention a few. Remember also that the local enogastronomy features DOC wine and olive oil. Some of the wine to taste are Luni Hills, Levanto Hills, Cinque Terre, Sciacchetrà, just be sure you ask for advice to accompany them with the right food.