The most beautiful lake according to Italians
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Lake Iseo in Italy is very popular with Italians. Lake Iseo is 25 kilometers long and more than 4 kilometers wide. It is not nearly as touristy as the other large lakes, and it is typically Italian. South of Lake Iseo is a well-known wine region: Franciacorta. The island of Monte Isola is also special, which is the largest island in a lake in Italy. You can easily explore the lake, villages and mountains.
The lake is near the town of Iseo, hence the name. Other places to visit are Marone, Pisogne, Sarnico, Tavelnola Bergamasca and Lovere.
Lake Iseo is located in the northern Italian provinces of Brescia and Bergamo in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. Next to the island of Monte Isola, there are smaller islands such as Isola di Loreto with an unprecedentedly beautiful castle / country house and the special Isola San Paolo.
Lake Iseo does not have the touristic history like the well-known lakes and so many visitors still see this as the real Italy. Even when I travel around here, I am amazed at the presence of rugged nature and only a limited number of restaurants and bars. These are the best sights of Lake Iseo and its surroundings. I also mention a couple of interesting tours to do.
There is a road around Lake Iseo. The circuit is 66 kilometers long. Which takes you about 1.5 hours, without stops. It is a wonderful trip for a day. Grab some food and drinks and hit the road. You pass several tunnels and numerous villages where you can stop for lunch or dinner.
For a panoramic view of Lake Iseo, you need to go up into the mountains. There are a couple of places that are good for an amazing view. One of these is the town of Fonteno, from where you can see Lake Iseo well, but also the steep mountain that lies behind it. The Ristorante Panoramico is a restaurant with a special terrace from which you have a beautiful view. But also places like Parzanica, Vigolo.
There are numerous campsites along Lake Iseo. And most are directly at the lakeside. There are smaller but also larger campsites, where you can set up your tent or stall your caravan or motorhome. The choice is yours.
The various towns along the lake and the island of Monte Isola are connected by ferry. A ferry ride is quick and fun. This way you can travel well over the water and see a lot of the lake. Especially if you go early in the morning it is nice and quiet with a beautiful view over the water. You can see the times of the ferry at the various stops.
The Monastero di San Pietro is located in the southern part of Lake Iseo in Lamosa. It is one of the oldest churches written about before 1083. Over the centuries the church developed into the church it is nowadays. The church is best known for its many 16th century frescoes depicting the life of Jesus. Scholars do not know who the artist was who created them. You can visit the Monastery of San Pietro In Lamosa.
The town of Iseo is the perfect starting point to explore the lake and surrounding area. It is located in the southern part of the lake, which includes several campsites, hotels and other various accommodations. You can also enjoy a nice walk along the lake on the special boulevard.
The Pieve di St. Andrea is a famous church in Iseo. The church dates from the 6th century and it used to be a Roman temple. The most famous artwork inside is Francesco Hayez's painting of the Archangel St. Michael.
Oldofredi Castle was built in the early 12th century. This castle later became a monastery for the Franciscan monks. Today it is a library, a war museum and serves as a wedding venue.
Cars are not allowed on the island of Monte Isola (except for some local traffic). You can easily explore the island on foot, by bike or by bus. Monte Isola is about 4.5 km2 in size.
You can visit the island in a day, but it is also nice to spend the night. There are various options, including rooms via Airbnb, for example. Because of the tranquillity on the island, this is a nice place to stay. And you are quickly back on the mainland by ferry.
The best walk is to the top of the island. At the top, you find the Madonna della Ceriola, a small church from the 13th century. It is located about 600 meters above sea level, which means a tough climb. Take into account a three hours return walk, excluding stops. As an appreciation for your perseverance, you get a beautiful view of the island, the lake and the surrounding mountains. Ask the tourist information for the route and the condition of the hiking trail.
Loreto Island is almost magical. The owner of the private island has built a kind of castle on it. It is hidden between the greenery, but the various towers are clearly visible. You can (unfortunately) not visit the island.
The water of Lake Iseo is very clear, it is perfect for swimming. In summer it warms up to 20 to 22 degrees, in winter it does not get colder than 18 degrees. You will therefore see many locals taking a dip in the early morning. Try it too, it's wonderfully refreshing.
Franciacorta is well known among wine connoisseurs for its sparkling wines, which we mainly know as champagne (France), cava (Spain) and prosecco (parts of Italy). Franciacorta is a protected region where its own sparkling wines are made.
This hilly area borders Lake Iseo. You can easily drive around by car. Exploring the area by (electric) bicycle is also a good alternative.
The sparkling wines are made according to the méthode traditionnelle. Some of the well-known houses are Ca' del Bosco, Berlucchi and Bellavista. I visit the Ronco Calino vineyard, which is beautifully situated in the hills.
Franciacorta wines are highly regarded in Italy. So much so that the wines are hardly exported. So go and have a taste at one of the many vineyards. You can do a wine tasting at various wineries.
You can also learn a lot about how the wine is made, but you can also see the vineyards on the hills. And of course, taste the various types of wines.
The Antica Strada Valeriana route is 140 kilometers long and runs from Pilzone d'Iseo and ends in Passo del Tonale. It was once the only road from the lake to the Valle Camonica. Now it is a lovely long-distance hike.
Santa Maria della Neve is an inconspicuous church in the town of Pisogne. But once you enter, you will see that the walls are covered with many frescoes. The church dates from the 15th century and is best known for the frescoes by Girolamo Romani (who became known as Romanino). The drawings mainly show scenes from the life of Christ. You can visit the chapel, although it is smart to go with a local guide.
There isn't really a long hiking trail along the lake. But in various places, you can walk along the old road. I did it myself and came across countless beautiful places. Especially the part between Castro and Zorzino is beautiful for walking. With steep rocks, a beautiful place for swimming and lots of rest.
The town of Lovere is nice to explore at your own leisure. You can shop, but also enjoy good food and drinks. It is best known for the Torre Civica, or the bell tower with a fountain in front. The address is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Basilica of Santa Maria di Valvendra is an imposing basilica in Lovere. You can see several chapels with many frescoes. The ones on the left are especially nice. The church is not always open, so check in advance if you can visit.
The Franciacorta Outlet Village is popular for a day of shopping with mainly Italian and international brands. You can also taste and buy various local wines at the Franciacorta Outlet Village.
Special is the shop of the Mille Miglia, which according to many is the most beautiful car race in the world. It starts annually in nearby Brescia. The shop has different cars at display that took part in the car race. You can also buy some merchandise.
Address: Piazza Cascina Moie in Rodengo-Saiano