Very often, foreigners are attracted by Italian lakes that, for different reasons, can exhibit international fame, such as Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, and Lake Garda, missing small treasures that escape their search.
As our readers know, these are exactly the places that spark our interest because they can reveal hidden beauties and offer a more authentic experience of our country. This is undoubtedly the case with Lake Iseo located in Lombardy.
We cannot omit that since 2018 the northern portion of the lake (called Alto Sebino) is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve of “Valle Camonica – Alto Sebino”
The Iseo Lake has a glacial origin and it’s located at the bottom of the Val Camonica, right between the provinces of Brescia and Bergamo, and hosts the largest natural lake island in Italy, Monte Isola, along with its two smaller satellites, the two islets of Loreto and San Paolo.
Among other things we have to mention that, right on the western shores of the lake, in Sarnico, in 1842 was founded Riva, the Italian luxury boat yard that built those unforgettable and very cinematic wooden motorboats that with their sinuous and elegant shape, have driven VIPs for decades on Italian waters, from Portofino to Venice passing through Capri and Ischia.
The company’s success goes back to 1962 when they presented the “Aquarama” model at the third International Boat Show in Milan. The first to test it was the president of FIAT, Giovanni Agnelli, and since then it became one of the most famous objects of the Italian design golden era.
This motorboat has represented for years a symbol of style and success: Brigitte Bardot owned a “Florida” model, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton used a “Junior” as a tender on their yacht, not to mention Prince Rainieri, Aristotle Onassis, and Ferruccio Lamborghini while today George Clooney and Elle Macpherson still guarantee the maintenance of the legendary fame.
But let’s leave luxury and the jet set aside and let’s focus on two places that have been for me a real discovery.
The first can be reached by taking the road that leads to the municipality of Zone from the eastern shore of Lake Iseo
Shortly before arriving in the town, you’ll find the “Natural reserve of the Pyramids of Zone”, a protected natural area characterized by the presence of fascinating geological formations with the appearance of large cones up to thirty meters high, surmounted by a large stone. These formations, the result of the erosive force of water, is also called “The fairy chimneys” due to their dreamlike appearance.
In reality, the large reddish boulders on top of the earth pyramids protect them from disintegration like large anti-rain hats: when the pyramids become excessively thin the boulder above them falls leaving them unprotected, this means that the material they are made of is demolished in a relatively short period of time.
The unstoppable process of erosion produces continuous changes in the strange landscape: in a few decades, new pyramids are created while others slowly get destroyed.
If I managed to make you curious about this place you can easily enjoy a visit with a ring walk of about an hour that goes all around the site, first going downhill and then uphill with quite a challenging height difference but in my opinion accessible (and I’m not very sporty, believe me!).
At this moment you are about 600 m above sea level and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lake below. After a well-deserved break then you can go down to the lake to face some more sport.
I took these two trips with my niece Camilla on two different days because I like to enjoy things and stop and observe what surrounds me but if you have little time or you are particularly fanatic you can do both experiences on the same day.
The other trip that I suggest is on the island that I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Monte Isola, a mound with a circumnavigation of about 9 km spotted by a dozen small villages, some in the hills, and others on the coast, characterized narrow alleys and tiny houses, whose inhabitants were dedicated to the construction of wooden boats, the production of nets and fishing.
There are no cars on the island and it can be toured entirely on foot or by bicycle (bikes can be rented on site) or for the lazy ones with the shuttles arranged by the local administration but I assure you that it is worthwhile to face the walk that will make you discover in a short time all the views of the lake from different perspectives.
The lakes of northern Italy are often surrounded by mountains but a microclimate is created on their coasts that favors the emergence of sweet vegetation so often fig trees, vines, oleanders, and olive trees meet creating an environment more similar to that of the coast rather than the harshness of the near impending mountains
Monte Isola that by the way became famous in Italy and the world in 2016 thanks to the installation by Christo The Floating Piers, floating walkways 16 meters wide, for a total length of 3 kilometers, can be reached by ferry from almost all the towns overlooking Lake Iseo.
The most frequent runs (approximately every 20 minutes) depart from the port of Sulzano towards the hamlet of Peschiera Maraglio the village where The Floating Piers just mentioned were temporarily installed), while the furthest one is between Lovere (BG) and Carzano.
You can decide whether to take a longer crossing by ferry passing from one village to another to the landing on the island or choose the shortest route and spend more time exploring not only the coast but also the internal itineraries which are also full of suggestive corners or panoramic views including the one that can be seen from the highest point almost in the center of the island from the Sanctuary of the Madonna Della Ceriola from which you can enjoy a 360 ° panoramic view of Lake Iseo and Franciacorta.If you need one last good reason to visit Montesola here we are: it’s fish cooked with masters at the restaurants on the lakeside.
The traditional way of preserving the lake fish involves a long procedure. First is put in salt for 24 hours and then, removed from the salt and washed again, it is placed in the sun for 5/10 days in parallel rows on ash wood arches. After drying, it is carefully pressed in a layer with olive oil inside metal containers. After a few months, the fish can be eaten as soon just removed from the container or cooked on the grill for a few minutes. It is served with oil, aromatic herbs, and polenta. Every restaurant on Montisola offers this typical dish always accompanied by Franciacorta wine.
As we always suggest avoid Saturdays and Sundays: don’t forget that Italy is a crowded country and everybody wants to have a good time!!!!!
How to get to Monte Isola on Iseo Lake