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A few kilometres from Bergame and Brescia can be found the countryside surrounding Iseo Lake. With mountains and canyons, hills and vineyards, this area has long attracted visitors from around the world who come to enjoy the peace and quiet. Rent an apartment close to Iseo Lake to fully benefit from this delightful region of Italy.
Lake Iseo in the north of Italy with the Island of Monte Isola
It is next to Franciacorta, a region famous for its wine, that Iseo can be found together with the lake that bears the same name. Small flowered alleys, the Piazza Garibaldi and the Chateau Olofredi from the 13th Century, as well as Sant’Andrea, a Roman Catholic church dating from the 12th Century, compose this lovely town. Take the time to admire the beautiful clock tower of the church and the fresco decorated walls of Santa Maria des Mercato that date from the Middle Ages. To benenfit from a supuerb view over the lake we recommend you climb the hill to the eastern side that gives a panoramic view over the Pre-alps, Monte Isola with its surrounding blue water, the Val Camonica and outlying vineyards. This area is renowned for its tranquillity and the lovely walks it offers in the Lombardy countryside.
Monte Isola : An island in the centre of Lake Iseo
Iseo Lake, to the west of Garde Lake, is smaller than its neighbour and slightly less well known. Called the Italian Lake Sebina, it is 24km long and 5kn wide which makes it the fourth largest lake in Lombardy in the category ‘Great Lakes of Northern Italy’.
Before we start on a discovery of the banks and towns that surround it, let us give a few details on Mount Isola which is in the middle of the lake. This ‘Mountain in the Middle of a Sea’ as the Republic of Venice calls it, is the largest Lake Island in Europe at 4.3km long and is home to several fishing villages.
Monte Isola Village (Montisola in Italian)
It can be reached by boat from Iseo, Sulzano or Sale Marasino and cars are banned. This means that walks here are very pleasant, in a protected environment, surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, discovering tiny picturesque corners, arcades and loggias. Only by touring the island on foot, bicycle or taking the small bus can you really appreciate the beauty of this countryside, from the Rocca Martinengo at Menzino to the Siviano Tower, via the traditional stone built houses of Peschiera Maraglio. A small path leads to the sanctuary of the Madonna di Ceriola (allow around 1h30 for an easy walk), a church built in the 15th Century. No not leave the island before tasting one of the region’s specialties, grilled sardines from the lake. On your way back to the mainland you will pass close to the islands of Loreto and San Paolo, smaller versions of Monte Isola, both privately owned.
In the small town of Provaglio, approximately 10km from the lake, Tourbière can be found with wetlands teeming with enough birds and fish to satisfy the most ardent nature lover. On the banks of Iseo, from Marone, can be seen the Zone Pyramids, unusual arrow like stone formations topped with ‘hats’, curious vestiges of the ice age.
The High Town of Bergame
All round the lake there are many towns and villages that merit a detour, starting with Bergame. This pearl of northern Italy is actually in two parts; the High Town, Città Alta, surrounded by 5km of ramparts, and the Low Town, Città Bassa which is located on the plain. The former benefits from a cable car that enables you to reach the extreme west of the charming San Viglio but we recommend you take the footpath to see the lovely view over the surrounding area. It is also in the High Town that you will find the majority of the historical monuments such as the Piazza Vecchia, the historical heart of the part of the town, as well as the Palazzo della Ragione and the Piazza Duomo. If the weather is good it is even possible to see Milan. Skiers and climbers often congregate near Bergame where a number of resorts are situated.
The second largest town in Lombardy, Brescia has turned towards modernity. A half day is plenty to discover its monuments; Place de la Loggia created in 1433, the castle built on the slopes of Cidneo and the medieval square of Paolo VI. The next place to visit is Garde Lake, the largest lake in the country! Tucked away among high mountains, certain of its landscapes resemble scenes in Norway although the Mediterranean climate is the reason for its plant life such as lemon trees and olive trees. Inhabited throughout the centuries as can be seen by the grottoes at Catulle (Sirmione) and the roman villa of ‘Desenzano del Garda’, this area has long been a choice location for mankind. Although possessing fewer attractions than its neighbour Iseo, it is however an ideal place for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. At Sirmione, a highly popular town with tourists in the summer, there is a lively and pleasant atmosphere. Access is gained to the town via the drawbridge and Fridays find many of the populace at the Piazza Montebaldo for the small traditional market. The view over the lake is incredible!
If you have the time, one hour from Lake Iseo you will find Verona, famous for its star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, and then one hour further still is Venice. Along the route you will enjoy another facet of Italy although just as romantic. More to the west is Milan, Duomo, the Castello Sforzesco and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Close by the superb Abbeys of Chiaravalle and Viboldone as are the Monastery at Pavie and the Ducale Palace at Vigevano.