Guide to Lake Iseo – Italy
Lake Iseo is the fourth largest lake in the Lombardy region of Italy, situated just north of Brescia and Bergamo. It is not well known outside Italy and, therefore, less touristy. There is Monte Isola, the largest inland lake island in Europe. The Pyramids of Zone are pinnacles of earth up to ten metres high, caused by erosion. On the western lakeshore are the bogns of Castro and Zorzino, sheets of limestone that plunge into the lake. North of the lake in Val Camino, you can see hundreds of prehistoric rock carvings. To the south is the Torbiere peat bog and Franciacorta, the area of production of the renowned sparkling wine.
Bergamo (Orio Serio)
All of these airports are within reasonable travelling distance to Lake Iseo. Most international flights come into Milan Malpensa, although the low cost carrier Ryanair uses Bergamo and Brescia.
Travelling on the Milan Venice motorway (A4) to go to the West bank of Lake Iseo, you get off at the Sarnico junction and on to the SS649. To reach Iseo town, go east on the A4, and get off at the Sarnico exit. Drive west on the A4 and turn off at Brescia up the SS510.
There are regular connections by bus and train to Brescia from all the nearby airports, then connections from Brescia by bus and train to Iseo. The train continues up the east bank to Pisogne. Once you reach Iseo the most relaxing and picturesque way of getting around the lake is by ferry.
Iseo town has a relaxed ambience, wide squares and a lovely promenade with a fantastic view of the lake and Monte Isola. It is quite lively, mainly with Italian families and couples.
Sarnico is the first resort heading west from Iseo. It was originally a prehistoric stilt village, where the lakes narrows and once again becomes the River Oglio. There are frescoes dating from 1200 AD in the church of San Nazario e Rocca di Castione. You can still see ruined medieval ramparts. It is home to the Bellini Gallery, a picture gallery exhibiting around 150 pieces, mainly from the period between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Riva di Solta
From Tavernola north constitutes the most dramatic stretch of the west bank. Just try to blot out the quarry at Tavernola! Riva is a pretty fishing hamlet, full of arches and alleys. The old centre is up the hill at Zorzino. The Zorzino Bogn, with its vertical slabs of limestone plunging Mount Clemo, creates its own enclosed bay. Further north is the Castro Bogn.
Lovere has ramparts remaining from its period as a medieval fortified town. The lakeside Palazzo Tadini contains the School of Fine Arts, a gallery with paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
The English writer and poet, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, lived in a villa in Lovere in the 1740s. She is said to have written many letters to her daughter in the villa garden, being inspired to write poetry by the beauty of her surroundings. She wrote, “There are plenty things to do in this village which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful that exists.”
Lovere has another literary connection in Georges Sand, the French novelist, who wrote of Lake Iseo to a friend in London, “Come, I have found a lovely place to live.” Georges Sandï¿½s’s real name was Aurore Dupin, but she had taken a man’s name as it was not deemed suitable for ladies to be novelists in the 19th century. So she often dressed as a man. She had a long-standing affair with Chopin. After their break up in 1847, she wrote the novel, Lucrezia Floriana, The romance between a young Italian noble and an older lady is set on Monte Isola. Apparently this novel inspired many visits by ladies seeking romance to the area!
From Lovere travel north to visit Valle Camino and see the prehistoric rock carvings.
Marone lies in a green valley at the foot of Monte Guglielmo. There are ruins of a first century Roman villa, Co del Hela as you enter the town. A few kilometres uphill from Marone, lies the Earth Pyramids. They are an amazing sight: thin spires of earth up to 30 metres high, with large granite masses perched on top almost like hats.
On the way to the Pyramids is the church of San Giorgio and on the outer sidewall are 15sup>th century frescoes including one of San Giorgio slaying the dragon. Further up the hill is the village of Zone. The festival of honey is held in the town square at the beginning of August.
The largest lake island in Europe is three kilometres long, rising to an elevation of 600 metres, and is sometimes referred to as the “pearl of Iseo.” Only public service four-wheeled vehicles are allowed on the island. If you want to see more, you can rent a bicycle, use the bus, or walk.
The population of the island is around 1,700, with those not employed in tourism working as fishermen, in boatyards or making nets. In fact, the nets for the goal posts of the 1982 Football World Cup were made locally. And Italy won the Cup that year! One of the big events on the island is the festival of Corzano, a hamlet that dates back to the 1600s. This only takes place every five years.
It is possible to drive round the lake with a few stops in one day from Milan, Brescia or Bergamo to see unique sights.
Take the bus to Iseo town, and a ferry trip from there.
You can be based in Iseo, spend a day visiting Monte Isola, one day for the west bank of the lake, or one day for the east bank. An alternative is to tour the lake in a day and take day trips to the cities of Bergamo, Verona, Venice, Brescia, Vicenzia and Padova, or visit the nearby lakes of Garda and Como.
The staff in both these offices are extremely helpful. They go out of their way to find out the information you request.
Piazza X111 Martiri
Telephone: 0359 62178
Fax: 0359 62525
Lungalago Marconi 2
Telephone: 0309 80209
Fax: 0309 81361
Check out the author’s website at www.europealacarte.co.uk