Lake Iseo: The Lesser Known Gem of the Northern Italian Lakes

After a Saturday waking up early to spend a gloriously sunny day climbing, running out on the trails, or hiking up to the peak of a local mountain.. or ok also a rainy Saturday busy doing chores that we didn’t have time to tackle during the week.. sometimes when Sunday comes around and adventure is calling, while we may be keen to get out and about, we might be more inclined to slow down a little and find a more low-key way to spend the day, after all it’s not called #selfcaresunday for nothing.

Last weekend I did just that, I am very fortunate to live in Milan where there are plenty of places to reach in a day, whether it be a local city, mountain range, lakes or the sea. After a tiring Saturday the plan was to find somewhere to visit but also have the opportunity to do a little hike. Iseo presented itself as the perfect option, a sweet town on its namesake Lake with the opportunity to take the ferry across to Monte Isola, made famous in 2016 by the temporary floating piers installation by Bulgarian artist Christo, and hike up to the church perched on top of the hill. Best of all Iseo is in the Franciacorta wine region, known for its delicious sparkling wine, so a post-hike tipple was guaranteed to be waiting in one of the many small bars dotting the lakeside.

Arriving into Iseo, we wound through vineyards and past wineries until we reached the town. If you want to stop for a drink after your hike, here’s the place to do it. The bars on Monte Isola are a little less on the friendly side and I found the food quality to be lower. From Iseo the ferry goes regularly to Monte Isola, you can find the timetables here in both Italian and English.

Upon arriving in Monte Isola, we took the hiking trail from Peschiera Maraglio which is situated next to the tourist information centre. The path rises steeply up out of the town and then begins to level out, presenting you with spectacular views over the lake and the island, certainly worth the initial effort at the beginning. There are also options to take a bus up the hill for those that have had a few glasses of Franciacorta before the hike! In the woods nearer the top, we noticed people carrying bags packed full of fallen chestnuts, ready to take them home to roast later. The hike takes around an hour, depending on your pace and the views from the top are well worth it. The best way to get back is the way you came, or the bus down if you want to take it easy. You can enjoy the other villages on the island or head back over to Iseo for your well-deserved glass of Franciacorta. If you’re staying longer make sure to book in a winetasting at one of the Wineries: Ferghettina, Bellavista, Ca’ del Bosco are amongst some of the best.

It’s also possible to reach Iseo without a car by taking the train from Milan with a changeover in Brescia, the journey takes around 1.15 hours (or 2.05 if you take the less expensive Regionale train).

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