Corners of uncontaminated beauty, still in their natural state and with a lush and verdant vegetation between the lake, the olive groves, vineyards and dense woods: this is the land of Lake Iseo of the Franciacorta and the Valley Camonica.
Iseo, or Lake Sebino as it is also known, is fed by the Oglio River, the seventh longest Italian river with its 70 kilometres of perimeter. The lake has always been viewed as an important reference point between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia. It is blessed with a mild climate all year round thanks to its exceptional location. It still holds many secluded areas that have remained wild, with a lush and verdant vegetation including olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards alongside dense woods. The ancient road that runs up the coast and along the banks of the lake brings sports enthusiasts to the water for all types of activities: from hang-gliding for the more adventuresome to the more traditional but no less exhilarating pursuits of windsurf and sailing, thanks to the many inlets and coves and facilities along the coast. For those who want to challenge the mountains, there are numerous trails and open air “fitness centres” tucked in among the rocks. At the centre of the lake is Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Europe. It represents an oasis of peace and tranquility and is linked with the mainland by a public ferry service as well as by private taxes. The entire island and its 20 kilometers of roads can be explored on bicycle or on foot. There are four charming fishing and farming villages on the island (Peschiera Maraglio, Sensole, Siviano, and Carzano), while the lake front esplanade from Peschiera to Sensole is an enchanting place for taking long walks or leisurely bike rides. Don’t miss a visit to the sanctuary of Ceriola, located at the top of the mountain at the centre of the island. From this vantage point in the midst of centuries-old chestnut trees, the visitor can admire a spectacular view of the entire lake. On the southern banks of the lake stands Iseo, the largest tourist centre of the region. Its origins date back to prehistoric and Roman times, at the beginning of the 16th century it was one of the outposts of the Republic of Veneto. Several of its monuments are worth a visit, among which the Palazzo dell’Arsenale. Constructed back in the Middle Ages and used as a prison until the turn of the 20th century, today, a series of scrupulous renovations have restored the building its original splendor. The Palazzo is now a venue for art exhibitions and cultural events. Another magnificent monument, Castello Oldofredi, was the ancient residence of the noblemen of Iseo and its halls are now occupied by public institutions or the site of important conferences. Let’s not forget the parish church of Sant’Andrea, whose construction dates back to the 12th century, with its late Roman-era bell-tower inserted into the façade, and the churches of the Mercato and San Giovanni, adorned with its beautifully-preserved frescoes. Leaving Iseo and continuing along the coastal road northward, we come upon several other localities. Sulzano is one such, an important sailing centre. The heart of the community dates back to the 18th century, evidenced by its charming narrow lanes on the banks of the lake.
Worth a visit is the Church of San Fermo and visitors should make the trip inside, along roads and trails that lead up to 1,000 meters in elevation, among the gentle hills blanketed with olive groves and woodlands. Farther along, culture and history buffs will find ample proof of the long local tradition, especially in Sale Marasino. This town can take pride in its splendid 18th-century cathedral, whose interiors are rich in works of art. Plus, Villa Martinengo, a delightful residence that looks out over onto the lake with a centuries-old park and the vestiges of an antique Roman villa. From Marone, with its parish church and two small chapels of S. Maria and S. Pietro, the visitor can take the road in the direction of Zone, with its spectacular pyramids formed by rainfall and erosion. Also on the banks on the lake stands Pisogne, at the extreme north of Lake Iseo. An important market of all the products that originate from the Valley Camonica, its pride and joy are its majestic town square and the frescoes executed by Romanino.