Already an important coastal centre, La Spezia owed its development to thè construction of the Naval Arsenal (1860-1865), which was the idea of Cavour and constructed according to a pian by Domenico Chiodo. The Public Gardens, which were created in the early nine-teenth century on the cresi of the Napoleonic dream (and, it was said at the time, in competition with those in Tokyo), are the true feather in the city's cap. Originally known as thè 'Boschetto', these enchanted gardens reflect the multifarious charms of nature throughout the seasons.
The bandstand inside the gardens ìs a veritable jewel of Art Nouveau style. Facing Palazzo Dona on the Via Chiodo is the lush garden park with its rare decorative plants. Standing among the flower-beds are statues of La Spezia's illustrious citizens. The gardens lead onto the Promenade, which offers a spectacular vìew across the Gulf that is crowned by thè sight of thè Apuan Alps and the hills sweeping gracefully down to thè sea.
The glimpse of tugs and fishing boats rocking on the waves gives you an idea of the various activities that are carrìed out in thè Gulf.
The city is widely appreciated for its extremely mild climate and its ideai position in the Bay of Poets. Today, you can make a special request i to visit thè Naval Arsenal, which has been very successfully opened to thè public. Besides the exhibits of industriai archaeology, you can see sectors that are in the vanguard of thè shipping industry.
The hillsides that surround the city are a marvellous piace to go for a stroll. Well worth a visit are the ancient villages of Biassa and Campiglia, true oases of tranquillity and natural charm. You can also visit tha ancient parish church at Marinasco, which underwent restoration in the eighteenth century. The most famous locai foods are: "mesciua" (a soup with mixed ingredient), vegetables cake and salted cod frìtters.
The most famous wines are Biassa white wine, Campiglia white wine, and Marinasco white wine. There is no shortage of accommodation in La Spezia. One particularly relaxing outing is the trip around the Gulf and thè islands (bus and boat services leave from the Morin promenade).
Monterosso al Mare, which has a large sandy beach wìth many facilities, is also famed for its artistic and naturai beauties: you can see the medieval Torre Aurora, which divides the old part of the town from the new pari (Fegina), the Crucifixìon by Van Dyck in thè Church of San Francesco and the eighteenth-century Sanctuary of Soviore on the hilltop.
Lying between these two towns is Vernazza. Its parish church bears thè signs of Genoese Romanesque style. Along the hìlltops of the Cinque Terre there is a charming path that takes in ali of the locai sanctuaries and offers breathtaking views as you look down from a giddy height on thè towns below: the itinerary that takes you to the sanctuaries located in the naturai greenery is truly spectacular.
The hanging vineyards supported by dry-stone walls are characteristic of this area and an amazing example of landscape architecture created by man in difficult natural conditions.
The creation of the Cinque Terre National Park and the Marine Reserve, together with UNESCO's recognition of these areas as part of world cuitural heritage, represent a commit-ment - and a challenge - to maintain this pre-carious balance between nature and culture. Thanks to the work of thè C.A.I., the network of panoramic paths are well-marked and very popular with tourists and trekkers. Some of them are also suitable for horses and mountain bikes.