Gardens, statues, museums
05 September 2009 | La Spezia
On the Saturday we caught the bus into La Spezia, the sizeable harbour city at the head of the bay. It was â'¬1.20 each, each way. It took ages to find the tourist information, which is (from the point of view of the visitor) tucked away in the park, down the eastern end of the ribbon of green that extends along the harbour front.
Saturday is the main market day in the town; we weren't buying, but it would be an excellent provisioning spot. There's lots of other shops, and allegedly a chart agent round by the naval base. La Spezia is one of the bigger naval ports in Italy, although apparently it took Napoleon to realise the advantages of this superb natural harbour. It also has a big container port, so the bay does see some very large vessels moving to and fro.
The town is very proud of its waterfront park, laid out in the late nineteenth century and home to various exotic flora. In the Italian style it is very green, rather than flowery, and very formal. It is dotted with heroic statues of unidentified men.
La Spezia gave us a very good lunch (local shellfish spaghetti and nice wine), and we then visited its most notable art collection, the Museu Amadeo Lia. This huge agglomeration of art from the ancient Greeks to the late nineteenth century was brought together by the local family. It's now housed in a old church and convent, dating from the 17th century, and the collection is carefully organised in ways which reflect the building's history.
We had the place nearly to ourselves (apart from some very grumpy security staff, who seemed to resent our interruption). There are some wonderful illuminated manuscripts, including three gorgeous minatures from the Vulgate version of Lancelot du Lac, a wide range of beautiful late-Gothic paintings on gold, and many renaissance wonders. We especially liked the bronze of a horse making a corvette, and some exquisitely painted and very modern looking Roman glass. Well worth a visit and the quite steep â'¬6.50 entry fee.