La Spezia is a charming small town nestled at the final edge of the Gulf of Poets. Although it is just considered to be the gateway to the more famous Cinque Terre and other destinations of the Gulf, it is instead definitely worth a visit.
By Italian standards La Spezia is fairly “new”. In fact its expansion began in the 19th century when Napoleone Bonaparte started to think it would be a perfect naval base for the imperial fleet. La Spezia retains up to present time its character of major harbor for the Italian Navy. Its deep water port allows also the traffic of cargo ships and indeed it has become a major port of call for large cruise ships.
Many beautiful and decorated buildings in La Spezia of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th can be seen in the historic centre beside the many Museums and monuments which adorn the town. It is also a lively city with a large pedestrian area with plenty of shops, restaurants, bars for every taste and home of colourful events especially during Spring and Summer. Some architectural elements are instead very contemporary and innovative.
- By car, the A12 Rosignano-Genova highway exit enters the motorway junction linking Santo Stefano Magra with the city of La Spezia. La Spezia has many pedestrian areas and can be a good idea to leave your car in one of the many parks located in strategic areas of the city and connected with the center.
- By train, La Spezia Central Station is located a short walk from the city center and allows you to easily reach the Cinque Terre, getting, if you like, the Cinque Terre Card, with benefits also for those who love trekking.
- By ferry, you can reach La Spezia and many neighboring cities, especially during the summer. To get to Portovenere and Cinque Terre, please visit our ferry schedule. Numerous marinas for private pleasure boating.
The surroundings of the city of La Spezia give many possibilities to make nice walks and enjoy the beautiful views that the Gulf of Poets offers.
Forts surrounding La Spezia, built over the centuries for military reasons, are common points of reference of these walks to their dominance over the city and the gulf. Many of these routes are not well known even by those who live in city, in our map an overview of the most beautiful trails by foot.
The San Giorgio Castle is a Genoan military fortification which dominates the city from its hills (so-called “colli”) since the XVIII century. It can be reached through the Via XXVII Marzo or with a lift, which departs from the Via del Prione, stops in Via XX Settembre one level below the Castle, and from there reaches the Castle in a few seconds.
From the San Giorgio castle you can view sea and town, the naturally sheltering shape of the Gulf, and see its very natural call for military defence, once expressed with this fortress and today with an important naval arsenal.
The original core of the castle was an old fort, which was enlarged by Nicolò Fieschi, who in 1262 wanted to strengthen its domination in the area. But in 1273 the troops of the Republic of Genoa led by Oberto Doria conquered, destroyed and looted La Spezia, beating the Fieschi’s troops. Nicolò Fieschi had to give all his possessions, including the fortress to La Superba – “Th Superbe” – Republic of Genoa.
In 1343, when the doge Simone Boccanegra elected “Spetia” city of the new Podesta, the castle was rebuilt. At this time also the new town walls were built: today we have only three hundred meters of what once was an imposive defensive building that surrounded the whole town, but you can still see the original battlement features and the walkways of the guarding patrols going down from the castle to the original heart of the city: the Sant’Agostino area, once the commercial hub, with an important salt market.
The San Giorgio castle has been in ruins for a very long time, today, after careful restoration which lasted more than a decade, is at the center of the cultural and social community life, in its former glory. Inside, you can visit ad the archaeological collections of the Civic Museum “Ubaldo Formentini”, and see the impressive inner structure of the fortress.
The location can also host weddings and parties, with the use of the beautiful terrace overlooking the sea.
Winter: Wednesday to Sunday 9:30 to 12:30 am / 2-5pm; Mondays 9:30 to 12:30am.
Summer: from Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 4:30pm; Mondays 10:30am to 1:30pm.
Closing days: Monday evening, Tuesday, January 1, December 24 and 25.
On reservation, there is a stair lift for wheelchair access.
Reduced fare ticket €4.00€
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)