Monte Isola: the green mountain in the middle of Lake Iseo

Is that a lake or a mountain surrounded by water? That is the question I asked myself when I reached this wonderful place, just 90 kms away from Milan. The Lake Iseo houses in the middle the largest lake island of Southern Europe. It is the fourth in size of the great Italian prealpine lakes (Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Lake D’Iseo, Lake Orta), formed by the river Oglio and other minor tributaries. The length of this beautiful prealpine lake is estimated to be about 25 kms with an average width of 2.4 kms and a maximum of 4.5 kms;

Lago D'Iseo
Lago D’Iseo

The Lake, embraced by the mountains of the Orobic Pre-Alps, is divided between the provinces of Bergamo to the west and Brescia to the east. Both sides offer villages to discover and beautiful natural landscapes. The upper part of the lake, called Alto Sebino, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Despite being less popular than some of the others in Lombardy region, Lake Iseo has nothing to envy to famous Lake Como or Lake Maggiore. The highlight of Lake Iseo is the scenery: due to particular climatic conditions the flora of this area flourish enriching the landscape with a great variety of colors.

Iseo Lake
Lake Iseo

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Its beauty is universally recognized and it is not in vain that in 2016 Lake Iseo was chosen by the artist of Land Art – Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Their installation Floating Piers allowed litterally “to walk on the waters of the Lake”, in only 16 days there were more than 1.3 million visitors and the Brescia shore of Lake Iseo resulted connected to Monte Isola and San Paolo.

Floating Piers Iseo Lake
Floating Piers

Here on Lake Iseo you can practice various activities, including long walks through the ancient villages, kayak or kitesurf and hiking trails that lead into the hills admiring the beautiful landscape of the lake from above.


Attractions and villages on Lake Iseo:

Monte Isola

This island is located right in the middle of the lake, it has an elevation of 600meters above the lake surface and a total area of 8 square miles. No cars are allowed in Monte Isola, the only way to move around is by bicycle, on foot or by bus; among natural itineraries and fishing villages you will feel an ultimate peace of mind.

Monte Isola
Monte Isola

The visit of Monte Isola starts from the town of Peschiera Maraglio and Carzano, which can be reached by ferries from Sulzano and Sale Marasino, on the Brescia shore.

Monte Isola map

Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Peschiera Maraglio is the most visited area of Monte Isola. Once inhabited only by fishermen, nowadays it is a pretty port where still today the naèt (the typical boat of the lake Iseo fishermen) are moored, and where even today the fishermen prepare the nets and put the fish to dry in the sun.

Peschiera Maraglio
Peschiera Maraglio – Monte Isola

The stretch on the lake between Peschiera Maraglio and Sensole overlooking the private island of San Paolo is one of the most picturesque road of the island. On the path, lined with olive trees, you can make a pleasant stop in the picnic area with access to the lake and services. Here you also find bars and restaurants.

Peschiera Maraglio lakeside
Peschiera Maraglio lakeside

From Sensole the road starts to climb gradually, taking us first in Menzino, where stands the majestic Rocca Oldofredi-Martinengo, built in the fourteenth century, with the tower placed unusually in the center of the castle and surrounded by a moat, and then in Siviano, a medieval village dominated by the imposing tower Martinengo of the fourteenth century.
P.S.: today the Rocca Martinengo is a private property and can be visited only outside.

Rocca Oldofredi Martinengo Iseo
Rocca Oldofredi Martinengo

Not to be missed the climb to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Ceriola, one of the most panoramic place on the whole Lake Iseo with a 360º view of its coasts and mountains, up to the rolling hills of Franciacorta and beyond. The church, built in the fifth century, stands on the highest point of the island and dominates Lake Iseo.

Santuario della Madonna della Ceriola
Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola

How to reach the Sanctuary of Madonna della Ceriola:
On foot: from the Information Office of Peschiera Maraglio take the internal uphill path. The shortest route takes 75 minutes, passing through the village of Cure and the total length of 4 km. Comfortable shoes are mandatory.

Sanctuary of the Madonna della CeriolaBy bus: Bus connects Peschiera Maraglio to Cure, from there you need to walk along unpaved path for only 20 minutes.

View from Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola
View from Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola

Although Monte Isola is not really a seaside resort, there are however free beaches where you can swim in the lake and sunbath. The main areas are two: Le Ere, located about 500 m from Peschiera Maraglio towards Sensole, and Blue Lake near Carzano.

Lakeside restaurant Monte Isola
Seafood restaurants with lake view

In Monte Isola you will also find delicious seafood restaurants with lake views. The island is famous for such typical products as dried sardines, salami of Monte Isola and local extra virgin olive oil.

Sardines with polenta
Sardines with polenta

I would suggest to rent an e-bike in one of the many shops and explore Monte Isola by cycling. Just keep in mind that to get to the fortress or the sanctuary you will have to climb steep climbs. Therefore you will still have to move on foot.

Top of Monte Isola
Top of Monte Isola

How to reach Monte Isola:
Monte Isola can be reached by ferry from almost all the villages overlooking Lake Iseo. The most frequent routes (every 20 minutes) depart from the port of Sulzano in the direction of Peschiera Maraglio.
There is a special offer by Trenord that for only for 16€ per person combines a special return train ticket from all over Lombardy plus a return boat ticket to Monte Isola.
The special ticket allows boarding from Iseo, Sulzano or Sale Marasino and to arrive / depart from all the villages of Monte Isola.

*For all info visit Navigazione Lago Iseo. Schedules may vary during the tourist season, so it is useful to plan ahead. Tickets can be purchased at departure points or online.

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Giogo

An incredible view over the entire Lake Iseo waits for you at Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Giogo.
To reach the sanctuary by car from Sulzano follow the signs for Tassano, then continue along Via Martignano, a winding municipal road that will lead you to the parking lot of the Trattoria Santa Maria. Along the route all uphill there are many panoramic views but when you reach the top at 1000 meters above sea level the spectacle of Lake Iseo will leave you speechless.
From the parking lot continue on foot, pass the restaurant and walk along the CAI path, in five minutes you will be there.

View from the Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Giogo

Lake Iseo is surrounded by a series of charming villages, each with its own unique and original identity:


Starting from the south, the starting point for your visit is definitely Iseo, the city from which the lake takes its name.

Iseo village
Iseo village

The beautiful lakeside promenade, very popular on weekends, is not the only attraction in the village. Just venture into its alleys to discover the old medieval plant and you’ll fall in love with them at first sight.

Main things to visit in Iseo village:
The Pieve di Sant’Andrea, whose splendid exterior dates back to the Middle Ages. The interior, instead, is the result of a nineteenth century extension.

The Pieve di Sant’Andrea

Piazza Garibaldi, a large square overlooked by many historic buildings and which used to house the dock warehouses.
• Search for Casa dei Palatini which still preserves traces of a fresco depicting the knights.
• The Church of Santa Maria del Mercato, a small church of the fourteenth century that still retains the beautiful frescoes inside.
The Oldofredi Castle, which originated in the 12th-13th centuries. Today it is municipal property and has been renovated integrating it with elements of contemporary architecture.
Palazzo dell’Arsenale, an ancient noble residence dating back to the Middle Ages that currently houses exhibitions and events.
The Marina, from which boats also sail to Monte Isola


Sarnico is a very romantic town. In the historic center there are some beautiful squares and narrow alleys built in the Middle Ages. Can not miss shops, restaurants and beautiful churches.

Sarnico village

Sarnico is also known for the beautiful Art Nouveau villas, still inhabited today, and for the Buskers Festival, an event that attracts street artists from all over the world.

Sarnico Art Nouveau villa
Sarnico – Art Nouveau villa

The lakefront is the most charming part of the city. The Lido Nettuno in Sarnico has a public park in a large green area overlooking the lake where you can spend the days sunbathing. The Lido is open from May through September and is a perfect weekend getaway to spend some quality time by the water.

Lido Nettuno – Sarnico


Lovere Lake Iseo
Lovere -Lake Iseo

North of Lake Iseo, on the Bergamo shore, there is Lovere – another real pearl. This beautiful village is not easy to reach but the effort will greatly be repaid: its alleys, the historic buildings and the lakefront are the main reasons that in 2003 made the village inserted among the “most beautiful villages in Italy”.

Lovere city
Lovere village

Its beautiful historic center is all to be discovered: the Church of San Giorgio and the Monastery of Santa Chiara and the Sanctuary of Sante Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa.

Lovere village
Lovere village

Just outside the historic center there is the Tadini Academy, a neoclassical building that houses one of the oldest museums in Lombardy. During the Christmas holidays a part of the building is reserved for the Christmas market.
Finally, a romantic sunset relaxing along the lakeside promenade.

Lovere lakeside



Pisogne is one of the oldest and most characteristic villages of Lake Iseo and in its territory have been found important prehistoric finds. The village of Pisogne is located on the north-eastern shore of Lake Iseo and has a very beautiful and interesting old town, where you must visit the church of Santa Maria della Neve (inside there are precious frescoes by Romanino) and Piazza Mercato with the Bishop’s Tower, dating from the thirteenth century.

Chiesa Santa Maria della Neve Pisogne
Chiesa Santa Maria della Neve – Pisogne

Want to find out more about the lakes of Lombardy? Discover Lake Como.

If you have the opportunity to expand your visit in the area I recommend you visit Bergamo with its charming old town, just an hour away.