I must have led a charmed life up to this particular venture to Italy, because in all the other countries I visited, English was either one of the standard languages or, in the case of France, I spoke the ambient tongue. I suppose I expected that many, if not most, of the hoteliers and shop keepers and transport personnel in Italy would speak at least a modicum of English. I didn't invest in a phrase-book (although it turned out my companion had brought one along). What arrogance! I have only myself to blame for the multiple times when language barriers led to absurd or disappointing results. (It is hard to ask for directions when you can't articulate where you want to go -- and can't understand when someone tries to help out.)
Probably no one reading this tip would make such a foolish mistake, but just in case...either learn enough Italian to get by, or keep a phrase-book or English-Italian dictionary close at hand. I promise you'll have a more enjoyable visit.
(And as one VT'er says in a very funny motto which I will badly paraphrase, speaking English slowly and very loudly does NOT make it more comprehensible!)
Something I noticed in this part of Italy is that streets are lined with orange trees, same thing as in some areas of Portugal (my home country). La Spezia is no exception and while strolling through the city's streets you will notice the orange trees covered in oranges (July) making streets even more colourful. In my opinion, the orange trees make the city look less impersonal and seem cosier, as if walking on a small village or backyard.
Culinarily speaking Cinque Terra is known for several things. The pesto grown in this region of Italy is delicious. Just about every meal I had was covered in the delicious, green seasoning! Bring a jar of it home! The white wine from Cinque Terra is also quite good. The house white wine from any of the restaurants was great. With your dessert be sure and drink some of Cinque Terra's finest Sciacchetra (sweet wine).