La Spezia (Florence, Pisa), Italy**Location: Europe
La Spezia, Italy is one of the exciting ports of call on a Disney Cruise Line European Cruise vacation. As the capital of a province of the same name, with a population of just over 222,000, La Spezia contains one of the world's most celebrated regions: the Cinque Terre—a cluster of 5 coastal villages that remain entirely free of cars. Visitors are taken with La Spezia's natural beauty, and they especially enjoy the port city's relative proximity to Pisa and Florence.
Things to See and Do
From the port of La Spezia, you can take a boat tour to Portovenere and discover one of the most beautiful ancient fishing villages on the Italian Riviera. Also not to be missed (and also accessible by boat) is Portofino, an elegant resort on the Ligurian Coast and a place where you can gaze upon the colorful hamlet and town square that is crowded around the cerulean harbor.
While you're touring the towns bordering the Gulf of La Spezia, you can journey into the village of Lerici, where the fortified Castle of San Giorgio—built in 1262—stands as a towering monument to La Spezia's military past.
Short jaunts beyond the borders of the Province of La Spezia will take visitors into some of the world's most illustrious cities. Here are two that hold especially noteworthy attractions.
Pisa (1 hour by car)
The world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is only a short trip outside the borders of La Spezia. Yet the splendor doesn't stop at this historic landmark; it is only one of many works of art and architecture in the city's Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli).
Florence (2 hours by car)
Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge—in and of itself an architectural wonder—and find yourself at the stunning Fountain of Neptune, around which is a shopping district that's among the chicest in the world. Art enthusiasts can spend time with Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Raphael at the world-renowned 16th-century Uffizi Gallery, or can embark on a pilgrimage to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore—a soaring cathedral notable for its ornate dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
From Florence, you're free to explore further into Tuscany. Take your family for a swim in Versilia, where the splendid coast of Forte dei Marmi boasts nearly 3 miles of sandy, golden beach bordered by a palm-and-oleander-lined beachfront promenade.
Local Culture and Flavor
La Spezia's quaint seaside villages provide unspoiled delights for visitors seeking a refreshing change of pace. For visitors seeking more cosmopolitan experiences, the surrounding cities in the La Spezia province offer world-class shopping and tours of historic landmarks and sites of local heritage.
Past and Present
Though La Spezia has only in recent decades become a popular tourist destination, the area has been settled since prehistoric times, up through the Roman empire, Renaissance and the modern age. During World War II, the city served as an important Italian naval base.
Today, La Spezia remains a chief base of operations for the Italian navy, but has also blossomed into a thriving commercial port. In a region known to be the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, you are sure to find art, culture, nature and history on impressive display in La Spezia.