45 minutes outside of the Milan Bergamo airport there’s a charming place called Lake Iseo, the fourth largest lake in Lombardy. It’s shared equally between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, and seems to be the region’s best kept secret. Getting there is relatively easy, the drive is rather straightforward; even disoriented tourists can find the way without much difficulty. Seeing as it’s a Ryanair airport, it’s the perfect place for a quick, inexpensive, green-getaway when you’re longing for some nature-time.
Lake Iseo is a smaller scale, less commercial version of Garda. It’s got similar breath-taking views but less tourist-traffic; more locals, less celebrity mansions. The natural beauty and enchanting towns make it a great road-trip-worthy area.
STAYING IN LOVERE
The first thing that caught my attention amidst the preliminary-googling-phase was the name. Lovere -sounds kind of enchanting doesn’t it? A couple of clicks later my mind was made up. The little town, it turns out, is just as charming as its name suggests. There’s no wonder as to why it’s a part of I Borghi piu belli d’Italia, an association that notes small Italian towns of strong artistic and historical interest.
Waking up to the silence, clean air and the stunning backdrop of the mountains is uplifting. After a week of meandering through the narrow alleys of the old town, decorated with the pastel coloured houses and overhanging wooden roofs, I was in love with Lovere. While making your way through the cobbled streets in the centre of the old town, you’ll notice a number of medieval towers from the 12th and 13th centuries. The towers are called the Pumpkin Tower (Torre detta ‘la Zucca’), the Alghisi Tower (Torre degli Alghisi) and the Civic Tower (Torre Civica). Similar towers can be found in all of the villages surrounding Lake Iseo.
Staying in Lovere once the peak touristic season has ended promises a quintessentially Italian experience. The old town in Lovere is a hive of activity. The narrow medieval roads are bustling come 7am. Within a day, we were humming around the town first thing in the morning just like the locals. Iride Paris, a charming patisserie run by a passionate young lady (who also welcomes customers, bakes and serves), was always the first thing on the agenda, and more than one stop a day was usually made. Be sure to avoid the tourist traps like Cafe Wender and its neatly packaged, mass produced crafts closer to the old town. Within the old town there are a number of small family-run pasticcerias with small nibbles and an endless variety of bread products; you’ll surely be sated. If you’d like to balance out your diet, there’s also a small, yet resourceful, greengrocers in the centre of the old town. The produce is fresh, and plentiful. The owner will explain where each product came from and patiently describe the difference between the three shades of green grapes, and even offer a sample to help you decide.
If you thought that admiring mountains from afar is enticing, wait till you’re ambling through one. Monte Isola is the largest lake-island, not only in Italy, but in the whole of central and southern Europe. With a total area of 12.8 square kilometres, the island rises to a peak of about 600 metres above the surface of the lake. In every village surrounding Lake Iseo there are a number of docks where you can catch one of the regular ferries. It’s easily accessible, and the ferries go on till late. I do, however, recommend spending a night here, even though I didn’t get a chance to myself. It’s the finest form of escapism you could ever find.
An hour or so cruising through the misty lake is the perfect way to unwind, by the time you reach Monte Isola your energy will equal the tranquil, slow pace of the life on the picturesque mountain island. Yet with its complex simplicity, Monte Isola is the most fascinating place around Lake Iseo. It’s the ideal escape from the modern-world. There are only a handful of cars on the island, used to render services. Of course, in Italian style, you’ll spot plenty of motorinos or lambretti. Closer to the main dock on the Island there’s even a three storey parking lot, especially for the bikes; it’s by far the coolest (and perhaps oddest) thing I’ve ever seen.
© 2016 – VIDA Magazine – Andrea Said