Right before we left for Italy, we made a last minute change to our itinerary that resulted in an extra day in between our planned stops. While we threw around lots of spots that would make great 24 hour stops, ultimately, because of certain things that were already paid for (i.e. train tickets) we had to be somewhat strategic about where we went. I really wanted to make it to Cinque Terre, but because of the limited amount of time we had, it just didn't make sense. So we settled on another coastal town nearby, La Spezia. We had no idea what to expect, and I wouldn't say we were overly thrilled with the spot, but it's also always nice to have some quiet, low-key, low tourists spots on an itinerary.
La Spezia is a huge port town with cruise ships coming in and out every day, and it also is a base for the Italian navy. Needless to say, their are no shortage of boats around. While you won't find as much art and history as say a Rome or Florence, there are still a surprising number of museums to check out. All in all, La Spezia is a nice little spot to stop for 24 hours.
In the summertime, La Spezia would be perfect for any light and flowey sundresses you have. However, in October, while it probably would have been warm enough for a dress and sweater combo, I still opted for pants. Since you're mostly walking around and by the water, leggings or jeans are perfect. I'd say layer up on top (I did a long sleeve shirt, cardigan and scarf) as it gets hot walking around in the sun, and, this should go without saying, but comfortable shoes for all of said walking are a must. This outfit, this look, or this one would also have worked well in La Spezia.
As far as how others were dressed, there was a mix of people dressed to the nines (I'm guessing it had something to do with people getting off of their cruise ships for the day) and those dressed fairly casual (which probably had something to do with the large amount of young people we saw), so my casual polished look was safely planted in between the two and worked just fine.
Upon a quick Google search, it seems that focaccia is said to be native to the region as is something called 'farinata', which is a chickpea flour pancake. We tried to track the latter one down, but each time we asked a local about it they seemed to have no clue as to what we were talking about. So either we weren't pronouncing it correctly, Google led us astray, or we were just straight up clueless (the more than likely option). If you happen to go to La Spezia and you just so happen to hunt down this supposed local favorite, please let me know!
We weren't overly thrilled with our dinner, which is surprising given that we went to a place that was packed, so I'll spare you the details. I will say that we wanted to go to Osteria all'Inferno, however, we made the silly mistake of not making a reservation because who needs one of those in the off-season?! Lesson learned- you need one. This place is highly recommended, so if you're in the area, make a reservation and check it out (and let me know how it is).
Brioche Con Gelato- A very-overpriced treat but one that seems to be quite popular along the coastal region. It's essentially a brioche gelato ice cream sandwich. It's pretty delicious, and while I'm not quite sure it was worth what we paid for it, it was still fun to try. I can't remember the name of the place where we got ours but almost all of the gelato shops sold them.
Espressino- Traditionally, these Italian coffee drinks are made from equal parts espresso, Nutella all over the inside walls of the cup, cocoa powder at the bottom and top of the drink and then finished off with milk. As with everything, though, it seems there are several variations. The shop we popped into had a variety of flavors besides Nutella (we got one with pistachio) and they topped our drinks with whipped cream. Some places seem to include ice cream and others make a drink referred to as a espressino freddo, which is served as a cold drink as opposed to a hot shot of espresso served with something cold (from what I understand). These coffee drinks seemed to be most popular in this region of Italy as we saw them advertised on the boards of most of the coffee shops. They were absolutely decadent and divine and definitely the perfect afternoon splurge!
Il Sapore del Pane- A bakery spot perfect for breakfast, lunch or a small bite; we ate here for breakfast the morning we left and we thoroughly enjoyed the pastries we got. We ordered something that was basically focaccia bread stuffed with Nutella, an apricot tart, and a flakey pastry filled with cream. All were exceptionally good, but the Nutella focaccia is a must-try if you're in the area!
We stayed in an Airbnb that was closer to the train station than it was the center of town. While we research each area in depth before we book a room, we were a little unsure of this area once we arrived. However, it ended up being fine and we had no issues. The apartment was huge and spacious and nicely decorated. However, it was probably one of our least favorites of the entire trip. It was cold, there were no towels and I'd say our host was the least welcoming we encountered. In her defense, it should be noted our entire conversation was done by pointing to different things as she understood little english and us very little Italian. Luckily, she had everything typed up on a sheet for us, so we somewhat understood what was happening. If you're just coming in and out of La Spezia for a quick 24 hours (like we did) this spot is perfect. If you're looking to be by the restaurants, shops and boats, then I would suggest finding another spot.
Explore the Gardens- The public gardens are full of pretty plants (and playgrounds, if you have kids) and are located right before you get to the water.
Walk Along the Water (and think about hopping onto one of the dreamy yachts that are docked there)- With lots of bridges and paths, it's a great way to see the city form a distance, check out some of the boats (including some of the naval ships), pop into a fresh seafood market, and see parts of Cinque Terre from a distance.
Church of Maria Assunta- A beautiful church that was almost entirely destroyed in WWII, but now stands full of history and art.
Many trips to Italy are packed to the brim with sightseeing, eating, art, history and tourists. If you're looking for somewhere more low maintenance, where you can just kind of stroll along, still enjoy good food, but not have to worry about checking sites off of a list and battling tourists while you do so, La Spezia is definitely a good stop for you. I know we definitely enjoyed having an "off" day in the middle of our packed trip. However, while the Mr. and I liked seeing a more coastal side of Italy, I don't think either of us will be in a huge rush to get back here.