I’m currently staying in a perfect 1900s farmhouse in Tuscany…I can’t believe I just typed that out myself. I’m flashing back to watching Under the Tuscan Sun as a 13-year-old and bawling with wanderlust (and an absurd desire to be Diane Lane when I grow up). Now I’m here, under the best of circumstances, and I couldn’t be more elated for life than I am in this moment…
Before we start exploring Cinque Terre, I want to take my readers into one of the surrounding cities within driving distance of our humble stone abode: La Spezia – an important port city of the Liguria region situated between Pisa and Genoa. As we drove into Palm-lined streets of this luminous and vibrant Italian coastal town (and all its pastel color villas); I was pinching myself. Due to a few years of serious Pinterest pinning on my Cinque Terre board…the definable architecture combined with the endless Farinata options and the views of villages stacked between olive groves in the viridescent emerald mountains…I felt like I was already there.
As we watched the leviathan-sized cruise ships and super yachts of European royalty sail by in an early summer parade of Riviera flair to getting lost in an irresistible Panificio (that’s Italian for bakery)…there wasn’t a moment spent in La Spezia that didn’t become a treasured memory on this trip
Here is how to spend 24 hours in La Spezia:
First, a Tiny Dose of the History of La Spezia
From Roman times and royal Genoese families to the modern day commercial and military port it is today, La Spezia has always been a critical cultural and strategic port of Liguria. It was also the cherished point of departure for thousands upon thousands of Holocaust survivors fleeing Italy during World War II. Whether strolling through the city’s churches (which double as art museums of priceless creations dating back to the renaissance) or simply walking through the city and spotting engraved stones from the Roman Empire, the rich history of this gorgeous city is tangible every moment you walk through it.
What to do in La Spezia
What I love about La Spezia is that it’s actually quite off the radar to most tourists – so what does that mean? You have the opportunity to soak up a slice of authentic, barely touched Italian city life. In addition to exploring the endless (and oh-so-Instagram-worthy) streets, try to add a few of these activities to your perfect La Spezia day:
Stroll through the waterfront and public gardens – When it comes to the gardens, think a mini Boboli Gardens (Florence) but on a small and charming local scale. The waterfront is a walk that will transport you to summer regardless of what time of year you actually visit – it’s Italian Riviera life at its finest.
Explore San Giorgio Castle – This recently renovated watchtower-turned-castle originating from year 1262 is a must-see historical pit-stop. If only these walls could talk.
Visit the Naval Museum or CAMeC Museum (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) – The naval museum is one of the city’s most cherished attractions but for the art aficionados (raises hand), a short post-lunch visit to the CAMeC is mandatory.
Take a Boat to Cinque Terre – If you extend your visit in La Spezia, it’s a great place to make your home base to explore the Cinque Terre region. There are several boat and train services out of La Spezia that take you to this dream destination in a heartbeat.
Where to eat in La Spezia
When looking for local food in La Spezia, there are two specialties you absolutely need to try: Farinata and Focaccia. Here are a couple places to snag the most authentic versions of it:
La Pia – Via Magenta, 12
Panificio Rizzoli Marcello – Via Fiume, 108
Where to drink in La Spezia
When in Liguria, you need to indulge in aperitivo hour (Italy’s happiest hour) and my favorite drink ever, the classic Aperol Spritz. I found La Suprema (Piazza Sant Agostino) to have the most charming setting, strongest Spritz game and prime people watching views. Always brimming with chatty La Spezia locals, you’ll only find the authentic Liguria aperitivo hour experience here.
Where to stay
I chose to explore the best of both worlds when it comes to the Liguria region by saying in the nearby peaceful Tuscan countryside with locals and commuting into the Cinque Terre region by day…I’m in a 1900s stone farmhouse that comes with a nighttime display of fireflies, Italian skies and a sea of stars, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you aren’t afraid to drive a car in Europe, I highly recommend indulging in this magical and authentic Italian experience.