Lake Iseo is a lake located in Lombardy, between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, in Northern Italy. The lake is surrounded by very high mountains of glacial origins, such as Mount Trentapassi, Mount Guglielmo, and Mount Bronzone. In some stretches of the lake, between Riva di Solto and Castro, the mountain falls directly into the water, and it is possible to admire these huge slabs of rock that drop sheer to the surface of the lake. They are very suggestive, especially to be admired on board a boat. Lake Iseo is divided into two shores: the Brescia and the Bergamo. Since 2018 the northern portion of the lake is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the “Valle Camonica – Alto Sebino”.
Along the shores of Lake Iseo, there are suggestive towns where you can walk quietly and relax, taste some specialties, enjoy the view, and get lost in the ancient alleys.
Among the towns to visit there is certainly Lovere, in the province of Bergamo. Lovere has been counted among the most beautiful towns in Italy for its priceless architectural and artistic heritage, its medieval streets, and the beautiful lakefront. Also worth visiting is the Tadini Academy, housed in a beautiful neoclassical style building, where you can admire works of art by Antonio Canova. The ancient town allows you to get lost in romantic streets that make you dream, and at the same time, you can visit unique places such as the Basilica of Santa Maria in Valvendra, the Civic Tower, and of course not to be missed the Tourist Port which presents itself as one of the most modern and large in Europe. Finally, the Sanctuary of the Loveresi Saints is also very interesting.
In the province of Brescia, exactly in front of Lovere, but on the other side of the lake, there is another of the most characteristic towns in the area. This is Pisogne, with its beautiful historical center, the lakefront where you can stroll and admire the sunsets, and a lively square with many bars and outdoor tables. Then, to visit absolutely the Church of Santa Maria della Neve which houses precious frescoes by Romanino. The “Sistine Chapel of the Poor”: this is how this small church of incredible beauty was renamed, located just outside the historic center of Pisogne and known for the marvelous frescoes by Gerolamo Romanino, one of the greatest exponents of Brescia’s Renaissance painting. Characterized externally by a very sober facade, once you enter, you will be fascinated by the pictorial cycle of the Passion of Christ, with the idealized figures of the classical Renaissance that embrace Christianity’s humble and popular reality. The culmination of Romanino’s artistic work is the great dramatic Crucifixion that occupies the entire counter-façade.
Monte Isola is certainly not to be missed among what to see on Lake Iseo. This looks like one of the largest inhabited lake islands in all of Europe. This is located on Lake Iseo and as the name suggests, it is configured just like a mountain rising above an island.
Along the slopes of Monte Isola there are 11 inhabited centers which, due to the excellent state of conservation of the cultural heritage with its ancient flavor and their picturesque appearance, are named among the most beautiful towns in Italy. On the island it is also possible to follow a path that leads to the top of the mountain where the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola is located. From this height it is possible to see the whole of Lake Iseo and discover the beauty of the landscape with a unique panoramic view.
Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola
The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola, a symbol of Monte Isola and an unmissable destination for anyone wishing to spend a relaxing day on the island, is a small jewel that stands out over Lake Iseo, offering a breathtaking view. Built on an original nucleus of the early 1400s, the Church is the result of a series of interventions from different eras, from the expansion of the presbytery in the early 1600s to the construction of the bell tower in 1750. The result is a place of worship in Baroque style that amazes its beauty: extraordinary frescoes in the nave and presbytery dedicated to the Virgin and the wooden sculpture placed above the altar of the Madonna enthroned with the child and on both sides the Saints Faustino and Giovita. At the bottom an extensive collection of ex-votos left by the faithful as a sign of gratitude and devotion. A trip to Monte Isola is essential when visiting Lake Iseo. It can be reached from the Brescia side and the Bergamo side, although the fastest route is from Sulzano.
Of course, Lake Iseo is famous for the beauty of its towns, but also for its archaeological sites. A site not to be missed is certainly that of Predore. In fact, in this town, after 1500 years, the ruins of an ancient thermal complex dated between the second and third centuries AD have been found. Visiting the Roman bath complex allows you to see a piece of ancient history, to admire the mosaics and architecture of the site thanks to the careful restoration carried out in recent years. The Predore bath complex can be visited throughout the year only on Saturdays and Sundays.
Among what to see on Lake Iseo, we also find the ancient Via Valeriana, which is located between the Camonica Valley and the lake. The Romans built this ancient road was the only connection between Val Camonica and Brescia until 1850. This cobbled street among the hills overlooking Lake Iseo allows you to discover unique views. On this road, it is possible to discover the Sanctuary of Minerva, located at the entrance to the Bren and the Amphitheater of Cividate Camuno is also very beautiful. This area is also perfect for trekking.
Another area for trekking and discovering the beauty of the itineraries on Lake Iseo is that of Mount Guglielmo. The excursion to Mount Guglielmo is one of the most beautiful and scenic on Lake Iseo and one of the most challenging. It takes about two and a half hours (one way) to reach its summit, and the path is entirely in the woods. It can be reached in three ways: from Zone, from the Croce di Marone refuge, or Passabocche. The summit is 1,949 meters high and the view from up there leaves you breathless because it is so panoramic. At the top, there is the Almici Refuge, but it is always better to make sure it is open, and in any case, it is advisable to bring water and snacks. This route allows you to reach a panoramic point that offers a view of the lake, Montisola, and Mount Adamello.
In general, Lake Iseo offers many walks immersed in nature, including challenging trekking routes and trails suitable for everyone.
Between Lake Iseo and Val Calepio, in the province of Bergamo, there is also a very lively and trendy town, with a very long lakefront and many shops: Sarnico. Here it is possible to admire a characteristic historical center, known with the name of “Contrada”, with several Art Nouveau villas, the fifteenth-century Church of San Paolo and the Gianni Bellini Art Gallery.
Iseo is certainly the main tourist center of the lake and is located in the province of Brescia. This beautiful town offers many activities to do: from the classic lakeside promenade, with restaurants at water level, to the discovery of the most beautiful cafes, to the squares of historical interest. Ferries depart from all towns that allow you to both go around the lake and move from one area to another.
The Ceratello-Bossico walk is one of the most suggestive on Lake Iseo among hills and cultivated fields. Park your car in the town of Ceratello and continue towards Bossico, a town located on a panoramic plateau. Here you can admire a series of historic villas bearing the names of the 7 hills of Rome, built by the upper middle class of the area in honor of the capital.
Sebino Peat Bogs
Also worth visiting are the Sebino peat bogs, a small paradise south of Lake Iseo. They are a protected area of great naturalistic interest where you can find numerous species of birds and plants, pools of water covered with water lilies, paths immersed in the typical marsh flora, lagoons, and cultivated fields. The complete tour is about 9 km long and is divided between the “north route” and the “south route”, which can be traveled in the sense that you prefer by bike or on foot.
Pyramids of Zone
Another place that deserves a visit is the, an attraction not to be missed on Lake Iseo: they are located in a Reserve that was established in 1984 and takes its name from the strange shape that the moraine deposit of sand, boulders, and pebbles it has acquired over the centuries, transforming itself into strips of rock up to 30 meters high, with large boulders lying on their top, as if they were hats, protecting the rock below. The route is of medium difficulty and is not particularly suitable for families with small children. These very particular rocky conformations are found in the small town of Zone, which rises in the mountains just above Marone, one of the most important inhabited centers of the lake.
Palot Valley is located in the province of Brescia, above Pisogne, and it is a very green wooded area crossed by an enchanting stream, equipped for picnics, campers, and ideal for a day in nature of total relaxation (you can also make barbecues ).
Big Bench Community Project
Also worth seeing are the giant benches, the large colorful benches resulting from the Big Bench Community Project, created by the artist and designer Chris Bangle. There are 12 of them on Lake Iseo and Val Camonica.
Summer in Lake Iseo
When the heat becomes almost unbearable during the summer, Lake Iseo is also an excellent destination for a swim. In addition to the towns and mountain walks, there are many beaches and lidos where you can sunbathe and swim. For a different experience than usual, you can rent a boat or a small motorboat or spend an afternoon on a sailing boat (with a skipper).
What is the best time to visit Lake Iseo?
In spring and summer, this area offers bright and colorful views, you can swim and hike in the green nature. While in autumn and winter the atmosphere becomes more melancholy, but the sunsets are beautiful. In short, in any season of the year, Lake Iseo offers many things to see and experiences to do, each time with new suggestions.