Lago di Iseo: the pleasant isle
It is the biggest lake island in Europe, and can be reached by boat from all the main towns around Lago d’Iseo.
For three weeks during 2016, it was also possible to walk there—preferably with
bare feet to feel the movement of the water—on the Floating Piers by Christo. In addition to the link with dry land, between Sulzano and Peschiera
Maraglio, the orange, or rather dahlia yellow, walkway by the Bulgarian artist
also reached the island of San Paolo, which for the occasion was given a sort
Best foot forward
Walking, cycling or buses are the only modes of transport for visitors to Monte
Isola island, home to some of Italy’s most beautiful villages, and they must keep a
sharp eye out for residents on mopeds. A round trip of the island is a ninekilometre walk. The starting point is generally Peschiera Maraglio, where the boats arrive from Sulzano. Here the seventeenth-century church of San Michele is worth a visit. Some
of Monte Isola's internationally famous net factories are still in business (with
a dedicated museum in Siviano), as are boatyards where expert carpenters and master shipwrights hand build wooden boats. A walk around the lakeside brings you
to Sensole, directly opposite the island of San Polo, where you can visit the small seventeenth-century chapel, with a painting of the Virgin Mary on the portal. The elevated position of Siviano makes it a must-visit panoramic location with
views of the Bergamo side of the lake. Once again on the lake is Carzano, an old fishing village that looks out towards upper Sebino, opposite the island of Loreto.
The other islands
San Paolo is a private island, home to a villa with garden, but with no beach. Thanks
to the installation by Christo it has been included today in an art catalogue. Loreto is another private island, the smallest. On it stands a neo-gothic style castle with a park of conifer trees and tiny harbour. A tower, battlements and pale stone walls make this a wonderful complex, with a perspective that can be enjoyed from the side, thanks to its position on top of an outcrop that plunges into the lake. Boat trips are organised around both islands.
Shrine with a view
The Santuario della Madonna della Ceriola shrine stands on the top of the mountain and
offers unparalleled views of the whole of Sebino. The last stop on the bus is Cure, and an easy walk of about one kilometre then leads to the shrine. Alternatively, it can be reached along the mule track up through the Peschiera Maraglio woods. The shrine is 23 metres long, 7.5 wide and 10 high and has a single nave with barrel vault and many
votive offerings for grace received. It would seem to owe its name to a log of Turkey
oak into which a likeness of the Virgin Mary was carved in the twelfth century.
A walk in the woods
For those wanting to quietly discover a Monte Isola off the beaten track, we suggest the walk from Siviano to Masse, both on the top part of the island. Once out of the town, the path winds through nature with extraordinary views. Another nice walk is from Menzino to the Rocca Martinengo fortification, and the path starts at the end of the town towards Sensole.
5 reasons for...
1. The Santa Croce festival, Carzano. Held every five years, the wonderful Festa
di Santa Croce is linked to a votive offering made to ward off an epidemic.The town and village of Novale are decorated with arches covered in pine branches and paper flowers, all strictly made by hand by locals, who have handed down the technique from one generation to the next. The next festival will be in 2020.
2. Montisola salami. Beware of imitations: Montisola salami is only produced out in the middle of the lake, with almost no fat, flavoured with wine and garlic and then lightly smoked.
3. The Net Museum, Siviano. The Net Museum in Porto is housed in the island’s oldest net factory and it houses a collection of documents, historic photos and articles linked to an activity essential for the island’s economy. Visits must be booked.
4. Fish in the sun. Perch and shad (here erroneously called sardines) are put out in
the sun to dry and make them easier to preserve. The special arched wooden supports used for this purpose, a tradition that has led to the most widespread surname on
the island: Archetti.
5. Ere beach, Peschiera Maraglio. Clear waters and shady olive trees make Ere beach, just a few hundred metres from the town, irresistible. Natural recycling of the water is thought to be due to underwater springs