Lake Iseo has a rare fascination. By the will of the people, who still consider it a place to inhabit, it has remained off the tourists' beaten track. This becomes immediately obvious as you stroll through the village streets, which lack tourist shops yet are animated by a genuine sense of life, with daily encounters, shopping in the market square, a glass of wine with friends before dinner, and little inns, some awarded stars, in which to linger and enjoy some freshly-caught fish and a glass of fine wine from Franciacorta.
Iseo is considered to be the main town on the lake, with its tiny ancient streets, romantic squares and peaceful votive chapels. A regular ferry service operates between Iseo and Montisola, one of the lake's great surprises.
It appears at first glance as an imposing mountain on the opposite shore, but from the boat you soon see that it is actually an island rising from the lake, what geographers call Europe’s largest and highest lacustrine island, with a surface area of 4.28 square kilometres, rising to a height of 599 metres.
An island with 11 villages, 1,830 inhabitants, a castle, 8 churches, 9 springs, 16,000 olive trees, a handful of vines, and chestnut woods everywhere. Cars are banned and only the residents can use motorcycles.
Visitors are allowed to explore the island on foot or by bike, or using the public minibus service. An ecological paradise with a vocation for agriculture and handicrafts.
The island has earned itself worldwide renown for its fishing-nets and two-bow rowing boats, the fishermen’s naèt, which can change direction without going about.
Perched on the mountaintop is the 5th century sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola, not only the island’s oldest church, but also an excellent belvedere and an interesting museum of local history, written in the votive offerings left by grateful believers.
In the 19th century Montisola witnessed the love affair between a Polish musician and a French writer, both destined to future glory. Her name was Aurore Dupin, but her nom-de-plume was George Sand.
He was christened Fryderyk Franciszek, but he preferred to be called Frédéric François Chopin. The lived together in the little village of Sensole and their love story was turned into a book that Sand set here and entitled Lucrezia Floriani.
From literature to nature, everything invites one to enter a magical dimension, well worth coming back to.
Photos © Brescia in Vetrina