Whether you are exploring the Gulf of Poets on a cruise stop or on a road trip through Tuscany, there are plentiful of different things to do in La Spezia. From the charming villages of Cinque Terre to the off-the-beaten-path castle of Lerici, La Spezia has many incredible places that are within the one-two hours transfer from the city. Let’s see them!
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Table of Content
- Learn about Italian Navy’s history at the Naval Museum
- Visit the historic center and the Lia Museum
- Stroll through La Spezia’s waterfront and harbor
- Catch views in Castello San Giorgio
- Hike nearby Porto Venere on Mountain Muzzerone
- Sail in the Gulf of Poets from La Spezia
- Marvel at the beauty of Porto Venere
- Explore the enchanting town of Lerici
- Discover the marvelous Cinque Terre
- One last word about the best things to do in La Spezia
Learn about Italian Navy’s history at the Naval Museum
The Naval Museum of La Spezia, also known as Museo Tecnico Navale, is one of the most important naval museums in the world. Its incredible collection, that was started by the Savoia family at the end of the 16th century, heavily focuses on the technical equipment of the Italian Navy Special Forces (Marina Militare).
Situated nearby the city’s historic center, the Naval Museum occupies a building that was once a naval arsenal. The museum’s vast collection covers a wide range of naval subjects, including shipbuilding, naval architecture, naval warfare, exploration, and technology.
One of the highlights of the museum, is the collection of cannons, torpedoes, navigational instruments, uniforms, medals, and other objects that offer insight into the lives of sailors and the naval forces throughout history.
If you are lucky enough to visit during an open day, you may get to visit one of the Italian Navy’s ships! It’s an unforgettable experience both for adults and children.
Visit the historic center and the Lia Museum
Take a stroll through La Spezia’s historic center to discover its charming streets, squares, and buildings. Go shopping along Via del Prione and remember to visit the beautiful Lia Museum. Featuring an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and other objects the Lia Museum is a must visit when exploring the city’s center.
If you are coming from the cruise terminal or waterfront enjoy a walk under the portici along one of the main roads: Via Domenico Chiodo. You will arrive in Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, where there is a modern and very Instagrammable art installation.
Stroll through La Spezia’s waterfront and harbor
La Spezia largely developed when by the end of the 19th century it became the main center of the Italian Navy Special Forces. Nowadays the harbor is divided in two: the military part and the public part.
While access to the military side is forbidden, you can enjoy a walk through the public waterfront. There are bars and shops along the way, and nice gardens with carousels for kids. And one of the most important attractions: i grilli, literally crickets. These small tricycles are a classic along Viale Mazzini. If you find one at your size try them!
Catch views in Castello San Giorgio
Perched on a hill overlooking the city, this imposing fortress dates back to the 13th century and stands as a testament to La Spezia’s rich history.
The castle’s strategic location offers beautiful panoramic views of the gulf and the surrounding hills. Inside the castle you will find an interesting archaeological collection that features 19 statue menhir. These mysterious statues from the copper and iron ages were found in Lunigiana nearby La Spezia.
Hike nearby Porto Venere on Mountain Muzzerone
With the beautiful Apuanian Alps and Appenini around the corner there are many amazing hikes nearby La Spezia. But the closest and one that has the best views is the Muzzerone Trail.
The hike from the parking is only 30 minutes long, if you don’t stop along the way, and will bring you in Porto Venere’s center. There is also a road that in 15 minutes will lead you to a fort that was built at the end of the 19th century. The views are absolutely worth the detour!
Muzzerone is also known for its cliffs that are one of the most popular destinations in the area for climbers. If you would like to test yourself on this activity Explore-Share organises guided climbing of the area.
Sail in the Gulf of Poets from La Spezia
Sailing in the Gulf of Poets offers the chance to appreciate the poetic landscapes that have inspired generations of artists and writers. Whether you are taking the ferry to Cinque Terre, Porto Venere, or simply enjoying a boat tour in the gulf, there are some incredible landscapes from the sea.
Marvel at the beauty of Porto Venere
Just a short boat ride from La Spezia, Porto Venere is also known as the sixth of the Cinque Terre (Five lands). This picturesque town with colorful houses and a charming harbor is definitely worth a detour!
Porto Venere which translate as Venus Harbor, is a small town perched on a spur or rock on the sea. Explore the narrow medieval streets and visit the Church of San Lorenzo, also known as Santuario della Madonna Bianca (Sanctuary of the White Madonna). And enjoy breathtaking views from the Doria Castle.
If you are up for some kayak, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the beautiful caves that are around the area. This guided excursion of about 3 hours, will let you explore the most famous caves like Byron’s Grotto, but also hidden gems.
If you prefer a more relaxed boat tour instead, take the chance to sail along the Palmaria and Tino islands. This 1 and a half hour boat tour is ideal to navigate around the small bays. A more luxurious option is the 5 hour sunset tour with an abundant aperitivo. Definitely worth if you aren’t on a tight schedule!
How to get there?
By Boat: One of the most scenic and enjoyable ways to reach Portovenere is by taking a boat. During the summer months, there are regular boat services that operate between La Spezia and Portovenere. You can catch a boat from La Spezia’s harbor area, near the city center. The boat ride offers breathtaking views of the coastline and takes approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on the sea conditions.
By Bus: Another option is to take a bus from La Spezia to Portovenere. Bus labeled “Portovenere” or “Linea 11P” are your go-to at La Spezia Centrale train station or at one of the various bus stops in the city. The bus ride takes approximately 30 minutes and follows a scenic route along the coast. Keep in mind that bus schedules may vary, so it’s advisable to check the timetable in advance.
By Car: The road from La Spezia to Porto Venere is approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles), and will take around 20 minutes. Take the SP530 road towards Porto Venere, and follow the signs. However, note that parking can be difficult in Portovenere, especially during peak tourist season. Alternative transportation methods are recommended.
Explore the enchanting town of Lerici
One of the many hidden gems on the Ligurian coast, Lerici is just a short distance (about 20 minutes by car) from La Spezia. Towering on a promontory over the sea, when arriving to Lerici you will be greeted by the majestic medieval castle.
The fortress rises at the entry of the bay and dominates the area. For an entrance fee (5€) you can visit the inside and climb to the top for a panoramic view of the bay and the Gulf of the Poets as well. The interiors were once home to a palaeontology museum that is now closed. Occasionally it hosts art exhibitions.
The town itself is a delightful maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, and quaint squares. Stroll along the promenade, lined with palm trees and dotted with outdoor cafes, and savor the serene beauty of the Ligurian coastline.
Are you up for some beach time? If you want to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean there are many beaches nearby where you can sunbath.
How to get there?
By Bus: The most convenient way to reach Lerici from La Spezia is by taking a bus. There are regular bus services that operate between La Spezia and Lerici. You can catch the bus from various stops within the city. Look for buses labeled “Lerici” or “Linea P.” The journey takes approximately 40 minutes, depending on traffic, and the buses provide a scenic route along the coast.
By Ferry: Another enjoyable way to reach Lerici is by taking a ferry. During the summer months, there are ferry services that connect La Spezia to Lerici and other nearby coastal towns. The ferry terminal is located in La Spezia’s harbor area.
By Car: If you are renting a car/have your own car, you can reach Lerici from La Spezia in 20 minutes. The distance between the two towns is approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles). Take the SS1 (Aurelia) road in the direction of Lerici and follow the signs. Keep in mind that parking in Lerici can be limited, especially during peak tourist season, so it’s advisable to arrive early or use public transportation if parking is a concern.
Discover the marvelous Cinque Terre
As the Italian name says, Cinque Terre are five villages (literally five lands) perched on dramatic cliffs on the Ligurian Sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
Each village retains its distinct character and charm, with narrow streets, pastel-colored houses, and picturesque harbors. The rugged hiking trails that wind along the cliffs offer breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, while the turquoise waters beckon visitors for a refreshing swim.
Cinque Terre are without a doubt one of the most scenic locations in Italy and every year they attract million tourists. One of the best ways to explore them is by taking the train day ticket from Trenitalia or a small group boat tour (of course not for the same budget) to explore the coast from the sea.
Our pick for the boat tour?
For a more luxurious ride go with the 8 hour cruise on a small boat that will let you explore Cinque Terre but also Porto Venere, Lerici, and Tellaro.
To stay on a budget the ferry that connects La Spezia to Cinque Terre and Porto Venere is ideal to explore Vernazza and Monterosso on a 8 hours excursion.
How to get there?
By Train: The most popular and efficient way to travel from La Spezia to Cinque Terre is by train. La Spezia is a major transportation hub, and frequent regional trains run between La Spezia Centrale (the main train station) and the five villages of Cinque Terre. The train journey takes just a few minutes, with each village having its own dedicated stop along the scenic coastal railway line. Tickets can be purchased at the train station or online on Trenitalia website. Remember to validate them before boarding the train!
By Ferry: Another enjoyable way to reach Cinque Terre from La Spezia is by taking a ferry. During the tourist season, there are regular ferry services that operate between La Spezia and the villages of Cinque Terre. The journey takes a bit longer compared to the train but provides a unique perspective of the picturesque villages from the sea.
By Car: Even though it won’t be possible to drive inside the villages of Cinque Terre, there are parking facilities available outside the villages.
One last word about the best things to do in La Spezia
When exploring the area many forget that are many things to do in La Spezia, and the city itself is a hidden gem on the Italian Riviera. From cultural discoveries to outdoor activities you will have plentiful of choice!
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