La Spezia is located in most eastern part of the region of Liguria, a few kilometers from the border with Tuscany and in the center of a deep natural bay from which its name is taken. This Gulf, also known by the nickname ‘Gulf of Poets’, is surrounded by a chain of hills whose highest peak is Mount Verrugoli at 749 m above sea level. They enclose, as well as Portovenere and Tellaro, Lerici which for many years hosted Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Thanks to the particular shape of the bay which offered protection from both the fury of storms and possible enemy attacks, one of the largest military marine arsenals was built up here making La Spezia one of the busiest merchant ports in the Mediterranean Sea.The territory of the municipality of La Spezia is part of an Authority which manages the River Magra in a small part of the comune. This zone is represented by the small village of Tramonti and the surrounding hills whic formpart of the the National Park of the Cinque Terre. The first mention of the name seems to date back to 1256 although a document dated July 25, 1071 perhaps cites for the first time the name Spezia. The core of the town is identified by Il Poggio in the heart of the old city.
The origins of La Spezia are linked to the Roman colonization and the story of Luni, the ancient Roman city which was without a doubt the most important of the whole area throughout the classical era.
The Museum of the Castle of St. George – Civic Archaeological Museum “u. Formentini” is located in the Castle St. George.
The Civic Museum of Ethnography “G. Podenzana” offers comprehensive synthesis of the popular Lunigianense during the nineteenth century.
The early twentieth century Naval Technical Museum is located near main entrance of the Military Arsenal and has a century old history. It was established with the aim of keeping alive the worship and traditions of the Italian Naval Military.
The village of PortoVenere is located at the southern end of a peninsula which has broken away from the jagged coastline of the Riviera di Levante to form the Western side of the Gulf of La Spezia, also known as the “Gulf of Poets”.
At the end of this peninsula there are three small islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Only Palmaria, which lies directly opposite the village of Porto Venere beyond a narrow strait of sea, is in anyway inhabited.
The cave dedicated to the poet Byron
Among this stunning natural setting, perhaps the most celebrated locations are: the marine grottoes of Byron (Cala dell’Arpia) Azzurrra (semi-submersed) and Tinetto; the cavity of the ‘Doves’ and the wall of Tino, the shoal of Dante and coves of Piccola and Grande.
The Byron Grotto is named after the English poet George Gordon Byron who drew inspiration here for his literary works. It is located at the spur of rock below the Church of St. Peter, an ancient defensive position.
The goddess Venus Ericina
The name of the village (Portus Veneris) derives from a temple dedicated to the Goddess Venus Ericina which was located exactly in the spot where the Church of St. Peter now stands. The name was probably related to the fact that, according to tradition, the Goddess was born from the froth of the sea just below the cliff.
The original town (Castrum Vetus) was inhabited by ancient fishermen and was situated in the current Spallanzani Square and has now entirely disappeared. In 1998 Porto Venere entered the UNESCO World Heritage list for its architectural and naturalstic heritage together with with the Rolli of Genoa; the only two references in the list from the region Liguria, along with Regional Natural Park of the Cinque Terre from 2001.