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- 14 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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La Spezia on the Ligurian Riviera in Italy is a maritime port and a popular cruise ship stopover. Hugging its hills are numerous pastel-hued houses, which look out over the sparkling sea. Within the city are atmospheric trattorias serving up delicious plates of pasta and al-fresco bars perfect for an aperitivo (a pre-dinner snack). La Spezia is also the gateway to the five villages of the UNESCO-listed Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
La Spezia hostels are usually within walking distance of the train station. You can stay in a homely hostel with traditional wooden window shutters, or in one with a light-filled dorm with a sociable bar. Wi-Fi is standard in most hostels; some are also equipped with bedside USB ports – ideal for overnight phone charging. Look out for a La Spezia hostel that serves up free breakfasts, which typically consist of Italian roasted coffee and pastries.
La Spezia’s pedestrianised zone starts down the hill from the train station. Here, you will find wide avenues lined with pizzerias serving wood-fired specialities, as well as bakeries selling handmade focaccia. Passeggiata Costantino Morin is a palm-fringed waterfront boulevard, while the Porto Mirabello marina is home to shiny super yachts and a clutch of upscale restaurants and bars. The area between the harbour and the historic centre has public gardens dotted with exotic trees and marble statues.
Most of La Spezia’s old town was destroyed during the Second World War, but pockets of history still remain. Museo Civico Amedeo Lia, a Fine Arts museum, is housed in a restored 17th-century friary. Set on a hill known as Poggio, the medieval castle of Castello San Giorgio has great views across the city. Piazza Cavour in the heart of town holds a daily market that's popular with locals and visitors alike. At the harbour, you can hop on a boat to the villages of Cinque Terre, all five of which can be explored on a day trip.
La Spezia’s busy train station provides links to the Cinque Terre, as well as other destinations in Italy such as Genoa. The closest airport is Pisa International Airport, which is 84km away. From here, trains connect to La Spezia in under an hour. The city also has a bicycle-sharing scheme called "Spezia in Bici". Visitors can pick up and drop off bikes at designated spots all across town, with no charge for the first 30 minutes.