Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Ari Lopez Nunes, an artist and theater buff here to tell us all about La Spezia – a hub of museums, art shows, and exhibitions just minutes from the Cinque Terre.
First, tell us about you.
I was born in Milano and now I live in a little village eight kilometers from La Spezia (where I’ve been for 15 years). I’m an artist and I practice art in everything I do.
If someone is visiting La Spezia for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
La Spezia has a lot of museums, a nice castle, exhibitions, many art shows in summer, but not a beach. It isn’t a town for young people and La Spezia’s youth prefer to go and enjoy themselves at the pubs, fun little shops, and dance clubs of Sarzana (a little town 15 kilometers from La Spezia). Versilia Coast in Tuscany is also popular with the young crowd.
What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?
In La Spezia, Via Prione and the surrounding area have some nice, typical restaurants and the best shopping. Near La Spezia, there are many little and amazing villages on the sea, including Lerici, San Terenzio, and Portovenere, which you can reach by city buses (€2.50). Then, of course, there is the Cinque Terre, which are easily reachable by train or boat (don’t try to go to the Cinque Terre by car; the cost of car parks is very high).
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
You can visit the Cinque Terre in a day, walking from one village to the next, especially when the weather isn’t too hot.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
In La Spezia, you can snack on focaccia (bread with olive oil and salt), focaccia al formaggio (with cheese), and farinata (focaccia made with chickpeas).
For lunch or dinner, try testaroli (the most ancient type of spaghetti), panigacci (a sort of Indian chapati with sliced salami or nutella), and trenette al pesto (tagliatelle with a typical Ligurian sauce with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil).
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
Don’t walk on the streets of La Spezia in your swimsuit, even if the weather is hot.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
It’s very hard to make local friends in La Spezia, but people are courteous in general.
Why should people make sure to visit La Spezia?
Because of the wonderful and amazing villages on the sea, visited in past centuries by Goethe, Shelling, Mann, and many European intellectuals.
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?
From around and in the castle and on the sea-walk.
Anything else you want us to know?
It’s better to visit La Spezia and the region in spring and autumn when the weather isn’t too hot and there aren’t too many tourists.