Lake Iseo in Italy is one of the three major lakes in Brescia alongside Lake Idro and the more famous and well-known Lake Garda. Three completely different lakes of Lombardy, each with its own characteristics yet all three are extremely fascinating.
In recent years, thanks to the artistic work of Christo (The Floating Piers) the spotlight has been turned on Lake Iseo and many people have rediscovered and appreciated a part of the territory of Brescia that I find very interesting.
It is not a biased judgement, there are many things to do and experience in its surroundings, starting from the well-known Franciacorta and ending with Lovere and the northern part of the lake.
What are the things to do on Lake Iseo?
With this article I would like to list a series of things to do around Lake Iseo, with a sort of anti-clockwise tour that will allow you first to discover the Brescia shore first and afterwards the Bergamo shore. Lake Iseo and the river Oglio are the natural border between the two provinces of Brescia and Bergamo.
Lake Iseo is very popular with Dutch and northern Europeans in general, tourists who like the lake and camping life. There are many campsites in these areas, so campers will find suitable tourist facilities too.
Where to stay on Lake Iseo – Option n.1
If you’d like to experience the lake Iseo and enjoy its views when you wake up in the morning, there’s no better way than sleeping on its shores.
Where to stay on Lake Iseo – Option n.2
Se invece volete qualcosa di più particolare, immerso nel verde a pochi chilometri dal lago, vi consiglio di dormire in Franciacorta.
1 – Montisola: the largest lacustrine island in Europe
We can’t help starting the things to see around the Lake Iseo with its icon: Montisola or Monte Isola.
Obviously it doesn’t fall within the anti-clockwise tour I was telling you about a few lines above. Montisola needs at least half a day, a whole day if you want to discover it far and wide and maybe reach the Madonna della Ceriola on the top of the mountain.
I will discuss Montisola in a specific post because it is a real excursion that can take you the whole day, especially if you visit it during summer and maybe you want to spend a few minutes lying on its beaches admiring the calm waters of the lake.
You can reach Montisola from the various ports both on the Bergamo and Brescia shores. On the Brescia side the routes are Sale Marasino -> Carzano and Sulzano -> Peschiera Maraglio. I recommend this last route because you will arrive in the most important town of the island.
2 – Franciacorta and its wine cellars
We can’t help but start the itinerary around Lake Iseo by visiting the beautiful Franciacorta and maybe have a taste a good glass of wine.
The land of Franciacorta is dotted with vineyards and wine cellars. Almost all of them allow you to taste, discover their history and more generally the history of Franciacorta and its production, which in recent years is increasingly shifting towards organic production.
If you’d like to have a look at the list of wineries with timetables and tastings -> click here for the cellars
Franciacorta, however, is not just wine. Franciacorta is also a wonderful area for outdoor walking, paths through the vineyards and many opportunities to have fun mountain biking.
3 – The Torbiere del Sebino: walking in a Nature Reserve
A protected area, a natural reserve where you can enjoy a walk in the middle of nature or have fun while bird-watching and doing nature photography. These are the the Torbiere del Sebino, a marshy area that was formed thanks to the receding waters of Lake Iseo up to the present day borders. The Torbiere del Sebino, thanks to the formation of peat, became very important also from an economic-industrial point of view as peat was used instead of coal to feed the trains of the Brescia -> Edolo railway line.
I highly recommend the Torbiere del Sebino to those who love photography and being contact with nature. A suggestive environment that offers different panoramas according to the seasons.
There are several routes to follow in the nature reserve and you can check them out here: Torbiere del Sebino trails.
For the sake of completeness I would like to inform you that although there are no turnstiles or inspectors, the cost of entry to the bogs costs 1 euro. You can find the automatic machine at each entry point to the reserve.
Near an entrance to the bogs (see map) lies the Monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa.
4 – Visit the Monastery of St. Pietro in Lamosa
We can say that our actual itinerary about the things to do around Lake Iseo starts with a visit to the peat bogs. Right next to the nature reserve there is also the Monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa.
5 – Following the Ancient Via Valeriana
Between Lake Iseo and the Camonica Valley there are several remains of the Roman period. Just think of the Sanctuary of Minerva at the gates of Breno and the Theatre and Amphitheatre in Cividate Camuno. However, the Roman testimonies are not limited to buildings. Between Pilzone d’Iseo (a hamlet of Iseo just before Sulzano) and Pisogne runs the ancient road that until 1850 was the only way between Brescia and the Camonica Valley. It is a cobbled road that crosses the hills on the Brescia side of Lake Iseo, giving those who travel along it wonderful views.
If you love trekking or active tourism in general. The Antica Via Valeriana is the perfect solution to combine sports activities with the discovery of the territory. 25/30 km marked by a yellow and brown V.
6 – A walk through the town centre of Iseo
The name of the lake is tied to the town of Iseo, one of the most populated villages among those overlooking the lake. A beautiful center with Piazza Garibaldi, a beautiful lakeside promenade with many cafés where you can relax while having a drink overlooking the lake and many shops where you can go shopping, if you are interested.
Iseo is perfect to spend a few pleasant hours. From its pier also depart the ferries that transport tourists to discover the lake.
At mid-August a fireworks display on the lake takes place: don’t miss it!
7 – Trekking on Mount Guglielmo
Mount Guglielmo or Gölem (known by the people of Brescia by its name in local dialect) certainly represents the “surroundings of Lake Iseo“. It is not possible to include it in the classic tour around the lake because it is a trek that, although not very demanding, lasts more than half a day. I recommend it if you want to see the view over the whole lake, Montisola and Adamello, hoping to find good weather.
The summit, on which stands the statue of the Redentore, is about 1950 m. There are several paths of varying length to reach it.
You can take the path that starts from:
- Zone village crossing in the forest of the gnomes, the beginning of the route is near the pro loco of Zone -> about 3 hours of walk and 1000/1100 meters of altitude difference.
- The hamlet of Passabocche to Pisogne -> approximately 2 and a half hours of walking and 700 meters of altitude difference.
- Croce di Marone -> about 2 hours of walking and 800/850 meters of altitude difference. Croce di Marone can be reached by car by taking a very steep road before the village of Zone. In the map you will find the trail starting from Iseo.
8 – The pyramids of Zone
Have you ever seen pyramids made entirely of stone? That’s exactly what you’ll find in Zone!
The pyramids of Zone, also called stone fairies, are located within an area defined as a nature reserve. These are pyramids made of rock on top of which there are boulders. It seems unreal, but when a boulder falls, the pyramid crumbles to form a new one.
9 – Visiting the Church of Santa Maria della Neve in Pisogne
It may sound strange, but a few steps away from Lake Iseo you can visit what Giovanni Tentori defined as the “Sistine Chapel of the poor“. The Brescian painter “Romanino” painted the vault, the arch, the walls and the façade. It is a small church, perhaps a little barren and humble, yet on the inside you will be left looking upwards for quite some time.
10 – Lake Moro near Darfo Boario Terme
This stop is a bit far away. Lake Moro is located in Darfo. Especially in summer, provides a valid alternative to Lake Iseo. It is nestled between the first mountains of the Valle Camonica and can be reached by following two roads. I suggest you to take the one that leaves from Darfo and not the one from Angolo Terme.
You can sunbathe near the kiosk, or dive into the water from the pier or rent a rowing boat and explore the lake.
Darfo Boario Terme, as its name suggests, is also known for its thermal baths.
11 – Luine Park and rock carvings in Naquane
The history of the Valle Camonica, as well as being engraved by the Romans, is famous for its rock carvings. The largest number of histories can be found in the area of Capo di Ponte with the Naquane Rock Carvings National Park (UNESCO heritage) and other important sites. You will walk in the middle of nature through paths that lead to the discovery of the engravings. Each rock is illustrated on various signposts.
The park of Luine and Monticolo is located near Lake Moro, not far from Darfo Boario. Here you will also find a trail among the rocks. The park is very well preserved. If you are interested in the Camuni representations, it is certainly an excellent deviation in the surroundings of Lake Iseo.
12 – Discovering Lovere
Let’s go back to the itinerary on Lake Iseo, the next stop is Lovere in the province of Bergamo. Lovere, it’s one of the best place to see around Lake Iseo. It has also been included in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy. In addition to a beautiful lakeside promenade, you can visit the Basilica of Santa Maria in Valvendra, the Accademia Tadini gallery and the Torre Civica.
14 – Sarnico and Paratico
Sarnico and Paratico hold the “end of the Lake Iseo”. The first is a town in Bergamo, the second in Brescia. They are separated by a small bridge but the two town centres, although from different countries, they seem to belong to the same country. In my opinion it is a very beautiful place on the lake. The best time to visit it is at the end of July with the Sarnico Busker Festival, when Sarnico is overwhelmed by street artists who gather in 3 days of celebration enlivening the whole town..
15 – Montisola and Spongada salami
This is not a stop on the itinerary of Lake Iseo itself, rather it is a culinary break that you will certainly not want to miss on a tour on Lake Iseo.
Montisola is famous for its salami, a sausage that has less fat than traditional salami, it is not minced meat but meat cut strictly with a knife. The salami undergoes a light smoking with olive branches, laurel and juniper berries. The real Montisola salami must be produced exclusively in Montisola!
Another typical product is the spongada that you can find on Montisola or throughout the Camonica Valley. The spongada recalls the idea of a huge sweet bread with lots of butter and caster sugar. Beware: it’s addictive. Once you eat the first bite, you won’t resist eating the whole loaf of bread.
Are you visiting Lake Iseo? You may also be interested in: What to see in Brescia, my city!