La Spezia in due parole. Ligurian Lunigiana’s principal city, La Spezia is both really old and not so old. There has been human activity here since before written records. The Ligurian tribes were here, and the Romans and the Lombards, but it was not historically a thriving population centre. In the 1200s the area became contested between the Republic of Genoa and the Fieschi family of Lavagna, and the Castle San Giorgio was begun. The city grew slowly over the centuries, but everything changed at the Unification of Italy with the building of the new Naval Arsenal in 1861. With that development the town grew from about 15,000 people in 1861 to 74,000 in 1901! La Spezia became a major ship-building center, and is still important for ship-fitting and services. As a military facility, it was, of course, strategically important, and was heavily bombed in WWII. After the war, it was a major departure point for Jewish refugees to Israel, where the city is still referred to as the ‘Door to Zion’.

Today La Spezia is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, and one of the two major ports for the Italian Navy. The city has become a cruise ship destination, and since 2015 the facility can handle two large ships simultaneously. La Spezia is the home port for the Italian Navy’s beautiful tall ship, the Amerigo Vespucci, and the city hosts a Tall Ships Regatta – the Festa della Marineria – in autumn, every odd-numbered year. The city’s other large annual celebrations are the Fiera di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Fair) in March and the Festa del Mare in August.

With grateful thanks to a Path to Lunch.

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