The busy seaport of La Spezia is a popular gateway for visiting the nearby Cinque Terre. Before setting your sights on these picturesque villages, however, spend a day in the lovely and virtually tourist-free old town of La Spezia to experience its authentic atmosphere and cuisine. Here’s how to visit both city and coast in two days.
Day 1: La Spezia
Morning: Leave La Spezia’s busy cruise and shipping port behind and head into this historic city’s old town, crisscrossed with lanes lined with lively shops and restaurants filled almost exclusively with locals. Take a turn along the main thoroughfares and seaside promenade to admire the art nouveau architecture, Church of Santa Maria Assunta, and San Giorgio Castle.
Afternoon: The cuisine of Liguria is one of the most beloved in Italy, with crowd-pleasers such as pesto and focaccia. Take a deep dive into the local cuisine with a La Spezia food tour that stops at storied delis and trattorias in the old town so you can taste Ligurian classics such as trofie (pasta) with pesto or walnut sauce, farinata (flatbread made with chickpea flour), and a variety of fish and seafood delights.
Night: End your day with an informal cooking class in a local home, following the lead of a passionate chef during a hands-on lesson to learn the secrets behind some of the city’s most historic dishes. Alternatively, relax and watch a home-cooking demonstration; both experiences end with a family-style meal to enjoy Ligurian delicacies.
Day 2: The Cinque Terre
Morning: Today, leave La Spezia behind and join the flow of tourists farther along the coast to the famed Cinque Terre. Join a driving tour along these five picturesque villages, or take in their timeless charm from the sea with a boat or sailing tour. Most full-day tours include stops to explore one or two villages and free time for lunch.
Afternoon: If you want to visit these time-capsule fishing villages but would rather avoid the crowds, consider joining a guided e-bike tour through the hillsides along the Gulf of Poets.Take off in the cooler hours of the afternoon and explore far from the throngs that fill the trains and walking trails along the coast.
Night: One of the best times of day to admire the jewel-like towns that make up the Cinque Terre is as the sun dips over the Mediterranean. Set sail on a sunset boat trip along the coast, and toast your final hours in La Spezia with an aperitivo on board.