Islands of Lake Iseo: discover Montisola, Loreto and San Paolo

The islands of Lake Iseo are definitely a striking stop to include in the itinerary of the things to do on Lake Iseo. They are really special destinations for those who like to take a motorboat or boat ride, as from this perspective everything takes on an even more poetic form.

Visiting the Islands of Lake Iseo

Actually, the only one that can be visited, among the islands located on Lake Iseo, is Montisola, with which I am deeply in love.

I live a short distance from Lake Iseo, in Franciacorta (could this article of mine on best things to do in Franciacorta). In the summer season every opportunity is good to be able to “pop in” on its shores and enjoy the peace of the small villages cradled by the waves of the lake. Obviously I recommend a very thorough visit, but already this article aims to tell you more about all three islands of Lake Iseo.

Monte Isola, the pearl of Lake Iseo

Monte Isola is without a shadow of a doubt the main attraction of Lake Iseo. In addition to being an enchanting tourist destination, among the most charming villages in the entire national territory, Monte Isola is also the largest lake island in Italy and Central-Southern Europe. I consider it a must-see if you have any idea of discovering Lake Iseo.

Monte Isola is quite easy to reach. The connections are excellent. You can take the ferry from places like Sulzano or Sale Marasino, and in a few minutes you arrive either at Peschiera Maraglio or Carzano in the northern part of the island.

The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola is a sure-fire point of interest. It is located at an altitude of 600 meters and can be reached through many paths that depart from the various villages of this fantastic island of Lake Iseo.

Given that the Sanctuary is located on the summit of Montisola, for the less trained or for those who do not feel up to a trekking route (albeit a light one), there are several buses available that take you directly to the summit.

cosa vedere in franciacorta recyourtrip
Memories of the most famous moment for Montisola, of Christo’s famous floating bridge.

Another must-see stop on the main island of Lake Iseo is Peschiera Maraglio. This is the town where the ferry from Sulzano docks. Just over 300 people live here, largely fishermen. A walk along the beautiful lakefront from Peschiera Maraglio to Sensole is definitely one of the experiences to have on Montisola. Another village, worthy of attention, is, precisely, that of Sensole. The scents coming from the lemon and olive trees are truly intoxicating.

Read more about Montisola -> What to do in Monte Isola on Lake Iseo

Loreto Island, another fantastic island in Lake Iseo.

Considered one of the pearls of the Sebino, Loreto Island is privately owned. Reason being, it has been inaccessible for a long time. Perhaps, this is one of the aspects that makes this destination that is said to hold so many secrets even more fascinating. One can admire the island of Loreto from the outside. Its history is very special indeed.

It was purchased in the late 1400s by the Sisters of St. Clare who built a convent. At the height of the 16th century, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo visited the island but was not impressed positively, to the point that he ordered its closure.

After abandonment, the Island of Loreto gradually fell into disrepair. The heirs of Count Alessandro Martinengo, who had then acquired the property, were unfortunately unable to re-evaluate its beauty, so much so that historians who visited it could only note the presence of ancient fortifications, a few walls and a few towers. Nothing more. Until the nineteenth century, this island was only and exclusively a stopover for fishermen without any attraction.

isole lago di iseo
Loreto Island on Lake Iseo

Changes in ownership have continued over the centuries. One of the most important ones saw Duchess Felicita Bevilacqua La Masa as the protagonist. The island then passed to her heirs who opted to sell the land to Vincenzo Richieri. It was he who took charge of what is now the gothic-style villa that dominates the island. Several were the owners of this splendid mansion that stands on a rocky outcrop. Today it belongs to the Society “Loreto of Erbusto”.

From a naturalistic point of view, it is fascinating how the pines and larches give rise to a real forest on the island of Lake Iseo. Many exotic plants are also present. It is a pity that the island is privately owned; it would be nice to be able to visit and fully appreciate it. However, this does not detract from the fact that you can tour the island on a boat, admiring it from the waters of Lake Iseo.

Island of San Paolo, the islet of Lake Iseo

This island in Lake Iseo is actually a large islet. Exactly like the island of San Loreto it is privately owned; for this reason it is inaccessible. However, as I also pointed out for Loreto Island earlier, a tour around San Paolo Island by boat or speedboat is equally feasible.

Even in the case of St. Paul’s Island, one is faced with an island full of mysteries. In 1091, the first transfer of ownership was recorded. The noble family decided to donate it to the Cluniac monastery of S. Paolo d’Argon. A priory was established here.

Later, the monastery was granted to another noble family: the Fenaroli of Pilzone. Later, it was the Friars Minor who became the new owners of this charming island on Lake Iseo. Their first action was the creation of a monastery, which over time became the centerpiece of the island.

The patronage over the monastery was maintained by the Fenaroli family until 1783. Later, with the transfer of the 14 friars to the convent of San Francesco, also in Iseo, came the first sale to private individuals. Finally, in 1916, Beretta, the historic arms manufacturing company, bought the island and restored it.

Isola di San Paolo sul Lago di Iseo
Island of San Paolo on Lake Iseo

Interestingly, according to several witnesses, at the height of the 19th century the islet could also be reached on foot, starting from the village of Sensole. This island in Lake Iseo became very famous in 2016 thanks to Christo’s art installation The Floating Piers. Conclusions

If you haven’t had the chance to “float” on the waters of Lake Iseo thanks to this land art work, I definitely recommend that you consider Lake Iseo should you want to take a rejuvenating weekend trip between Montisola and the other islands of the lake.

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