Lake Iseo - or Sebino, as it is called - is north of the lush hilly wine region of Franciacorta. The lake is seemingly closed by the landscape when you are coming from the south but should be approached via Brenner-Verona- Breschia.
We recommend that you take a tour around the lake if you arrive here by car. It is best to start on the south side in Paratico and end 60 km later at the southern end of the lake at Sarnico. Along the way you will see medieval towns, historic buildings, rolling countryside, alpine forests, rock formations and views of the lake's calm waters.
We recommend that you see the Franciacorta wine area south of the lake, and the town of Iseo itself, and Lovere and Pisogne in the north. The biggest jewel however is the island of Monte Isola which sits in the lake and features on the list of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy (I Borghi più Belli d'Italia) with its small fishing villages.
With its size of 4.5 km² and not least its altitude of 600 metres, Monte Isola is unique in its category and is the largest inhabited island on a lake in Europe. It is the sixth largest lake in Italy. The island has approx. 1,800 islander inhabitants.
The island has much to offer in terms of taste but also in terms of scenery and opportunity for exploration through energetic walks in the countryside characterized by olive groves. So, if you want to breathe some fresh air and appreciate the flora and the rich scents of nature, you can find many trails that intertwine between large chestnut forests and cultivated fields abundant with natural beauty. You can also choose to see the island from a bike saddle or from a bus window - buses run from Peschiera Maraglio. But the island is best explored on foot and is best enjoyed from further up the island's dominant hill from where you have the most amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
How to get to Monte Isola
You can arrive at Monte Isola from the towns of Sulzano, Iseo or Sale Marasino. With a crossing only lasting a few minutes you can arrive at either of the picturesque fishing villages of Peschiera Maraglio or Carzano. Like the other towns on the island - Sensole, Siviano, Cure and Menzino - they have all retained an authentic and original atmosphere which one finds refreshing whilst on holiday. Here you will find fishing nets decoratively hung out to dry along the shore, and quaint streets refreshingly free from car noise and pollution.
The island is a car-free zone with exception to vehicles used for public transport. That in itself is a good enough reason to visit Monte Isola. The island is home to excellent restaurants offering island specialties. Worth mentioning are specialties such as grilled sardines, which are stored in a spicy oil prior to being grilled.
Visitor attractions on the island include the breathtaking, peaceful and bright white chapel Santuario della Madonna della Ceriola , which is located on the island's highest point just above the town Cure, and Renaissance castle Rocca Oldofredi-Martinengo. In addition to the island of Monte Isola on Lake Iseo, there are also the smaller islets of Loreto and San Paolo.
Quite a craft industry has developed over two centuries on Monte Isola, much of what is produced here is shipped and sold on the mainland today. This production has had a significant economic impact on the island and is still the hallmark of the island. Here they produce handmade fishing nets and the gondola-like boat NAET. Originally, it was the women who wove the fishing nets, and today you can still find local artisans who make use of the centuries-old traditions and who still use original instruments and natural thread to produce beautiful fishing nets. Whether or not it's still the women that weave the nets, well you will have to find out for yourself!
The Franciacorta wine district is located west of Brescia and south of Lake Iseo and borders with the south eastern coast of Lake Iseo. Perhaps then it is clear why we have chosen to combine the description of these areas. Franciacorta has endless inviting rolling hills covered in vineyards, quality cuisine, fascinating buildings of a great historic interest, medieval castles and towers, churches and monasteries. There is an 80 km long wine route which can be explored on horseback, a bicycle, motorcycle, car, camper or by bus. For more information read more about Franciacorta.
Fanciacorta has always produced wine thanks to the fine soil conditions and the very mild climate. But in 1967, wine sales reached new proportions when the area of Franciacorta achieved the seal of DOC (denominazione Origine Controllata - guarantee of production), among the first 11 in Italy to have received this status. In 1990, a further initiative saw the launch of a voluntary association for the preservation of the wines of Franciacorta, which was the beginning of a registered trademark : resulting in further recognition and the major award in September 1995 of DOCG (denominazione Origine Controllata e garantita - guarantee of production and quality). Subsequent work has continued to improve and assure the quality of the wine lifting the reputation further, both at a national and international level. The region has approx. 100 wine producers and among the more famous wines, we can mention the Muosserande Brut.
Palazzo Torri in Nigolino outside Corte Franca is an old house from the 1600's where you can see how things worked several hundred years ago. Castello di Bornato represents a charismatic example of a Renaissance villa built within the walls of a medieval castle. The villa was the focal point for contemporary artists and poets from all over Italy, including the great Dante Alighieri (The divine comedy). You will find rare plants such as ginco biloba, lebanon-cedar trees and pagoda trees that are 200 years old in the park at the villa. Another attraction this time of the geological type are Natures Zone Pyramids on the east bank behind the town of Iseo on the road up to Monte Guglielmo at 1948 metres altitude. These distinctive rock formations are a geological phenomenon. The pyramids stand like monoliths in the middle of a mountain ridge and has been shaped through time by rainwater. The highest pyramid is approx. 30 metres high. There is a picnic area with parking from where you can walk down to the pyramids and enjoy them from different vantage points. These are only a few small suggestions. The area is full of seeing the villages and towns and historic monuments.
Southwest of Iseo come to the enchanting sight of the bog Torbiere del Sebino , which today is a protected natural area and a coveted status for ornithologists. In the 1800s during the early days of industrialization, there was a growing demand for peat combustion engines and the peat from here was utilized for trains running between Brescia and Edolo during the World Wars. In the 1950's they stopped digging the peat and during 1983 around 360 acres of land was renamed as Riserva Naturale delle Torbiere del Sebino. It is a great place for extensive hiking and exploring and the route that goes through the swamp is 4km. It is free access for groups of up to 5 people but larger groups have to go with a guide.
Gastronomically speaking, one finds a colourful palette of foods in Franciacorta and Iseo. The area is in fact typical of rustic cooking which over the years has been largely anchored around meat dishes. However, since Lake Iseo is like a golden knob of butter on the edge of the plate, here there is a plethora of other specialties on the menu, which is a lot to do with fish.
Franciacorta is one of the few places in the Apennines where you will find a comfortable climate for cultivating olives, and the olive oil from this area is particularly admired; Olio extra vergine di oliva del Sebino DOP. The gastronomic colours on the platter include the yellow from polenta and olive oil and gold from the filled pasta shapes - a favourite is ravioli, white from cheeses such as stracchino, robiola Bresciana and taleggio, silvery blue from fish such as tuna, pesce persico (perch) and tinca (tench - minnows), dark red from beef, light brown, dark brown and golden from the forest fungi - mushrooms, namely chanterelles, porcini and boletus, and finally grayish-purple shades from the meat of small birds and other farm animals.
Finding your way here:
By train you can get here on the Milan-Venice service, Milan-Bergamo-Brescia, or local commuter train on the Brescia-Iseo- Edolo route. There is also a train station in Rovato in southern Franciacorta, and then there are also bus services to Iseo and Clusane.
The infrastructure is so good that there are three highway exits to choose from if you are travelling in your own car: Palazzolo, Rovato Ospitaletto from the A4 motorway linking Milan and Venice. The nearest airport is Bergamo (38 km), Verona (75 km) Linate (80 km) and Milan Malpensa (180 km).
In the heart of Franciacorta is the beautiful Franciacorta Golf Club at 185 metres above sea level. The golf course stared in 1986 and has been continuously improving over the years. With 27 holes there is ample opportunity for a challenge, as the course meanders between forest and vineyards with great views over the valley. Since Franciacorta Golf Club is located in the aforementioned Wine Region, it is nicknamed The Wine Golf Course and the three 9-hole courses are all named after wine varieties: Brut, Saten and Rose.
See more about Franciacorta Golf Club under the tab for 'excursions.'
Some bike routes have been arranged in Franciacorta and on Lake Iseo with clearly marked trails. The routes take from 30 minutes to 4 hours and are divided into different levels of difficulty. Therefore, there is something for the enthusiastic and professional cyclist, and also for the holidaymaker cyclist. Franciacorta district offers assistance to riders in the form of bike rental, workshops, guides etc.
See more at www.iseobike.com
Franciacorta Outlet is located between Bergamo and Brescia in the city Rodengo Saiano. The place is great for shoppers will find many of the prestigious designers' collections with true outlet prices offering discounts of up to 70%.
See more about Franciacorta Outlet under the tab for 'excursions.'
The most significant celebratory events at Lake Iseo takes place every five years on Monte Isola and bears the name Festa di Santa Croce. It takes place in the town of Carzano. Windows, window frames and doors are completely covered with flowers - a plethora of colours, shapes and scents that render onlookers speechless. The preparation takes about two months. Next time you can experience this spectacle is during the fall 2015, 2020 and so on. One of the better festivals in Franciacorta is the Festival del Franciacorta Corte where there are stalls with wine tastings and cooking demonstrations in beautiful buildings.
On the commercial side, you will find several days with market stalls, an amusement park in miniature form and other festive adventures around the lake and in Franciacorta. Look for posters in individual cities or local newspapers. On the sporting front, it should be mentioned that in September there is a Mountain Bike race called Gimondi from Iseo.
You can choose from our collection of handpicked holiday accommodation including self catering apartments and hotels in charming locations in towns on Lake Iseo's shores, and in the hills around the Franciacorta wine region. Feel free to ask our experienced travel experts for advice on the best places to stay, or have a look through the catalogue and choose whatever suits you best. This is an area known for its gastronomy, wine, landscapes and culture and there is so much to discover.