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Docks on Monte Isola,
Lake Iseo

Walking on Monte Isola,
Lake Iseo

Welcome to Monte Isola
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 1,766 (2004)
Official site:
Monte Isola

Visit our Lake District Portal

The largest island in any of Italy's lakes is Monte Isola in Lake Iseo.  At its longest point it is 3 kilometers and its center peak is about 600 meters off the lake surface, making for a very dramatic appearance in all seasons.

To the north of Monte Isola is a much smaller island, Isola di Loreto with a 19th century villa occupying most of it, and to the south is the Isola San Paolo upon which used to sit a monastery built in the 12th century but later demolished.  It also serves as a platform for a stunning villa.

More information
about Lake Iseo

As for Monte Isola, which features a couple of good hotels if you want to stay a night or two, is accessible by ferry from the town of Iseo and the town of Sulzano, and draws a lot of tourists in the summer and shoulder seasons, although most are Italians and other Europeans.  Like most of the other sites on and around Lake Iseo, Monte Isola has not been "discovered" by North Americans.  It is, however, a great place to stretch ones legs with a fabulous walk or bike ride around the edge of the lake and up its meandering paths and roads to its very peak.

Except for a very few authorized vehicles and buses, no cars or trucks move on Monte Isola...adding to its quiet charm and breathable air.  Travelers must use their feet or a bicycle to get around.  You can not bring a bicycle on the ferry however; they  must be rented in local shops in Carzano, Peschiera and Sensole.

The backbone of the mountain on the Island divides it into two halves.  The south eastern side is steep and heavily wooded while the western side has gentler slopes, many of them terraced and cultivated mostly with olives, vineyards and chestnut groves.  The small population is concentrated in the towns of Siviano, Carzano and Peschiera Maraglio, but there are other, smaller villages and a smattering of single farms and homes.  The peak of the mountain is surmounted with a shrine - the Madonna della Ceriola.

In the village of Porto, the main attraction is the a Villa built by the wealthy Ferrata family during the 16th century but recently restored.  At its back it has a large vineyard and olive orchard, and inside it boasts a private domed chapel and a handsome loggia.

Above Porto is the larger town of Siviano where you will find a Baroque style parish church finished in about 1745 dedicated to Santi Faustino e Giovita.  Its interior is light and harmonious, illuminated with frescoes, paintings and other decorative elements.  The town, complete with narrow alleys and staircases that navigate the slopes, is dominated by a square tower built by another wealthy family, the Martinengos.

Siviano is connected by narrow roads to other towns and villages including Masse, Olzano and Cure - from which the path to the shrine of Madonna della Ceriola comes and goes.

In Sinchignano there are a couple of villas worth noting and just south of the village is a villa with parts dating from the 15th (the portal), 16th (portico, courtyard and cottages) and 17th (stairs and ballustrades).

The fortress at Martinengo (15th century with work done in the 16th century) is easily accessible from Menzino.  It features a square plan in the midst of which stands a cylindrical tower or "keep".  Once in a serious state of dilapidation it has now been refurbished as an elegant private home.

Sensole sits on the shores of a small cove.  The cafes and gelaterias attract tourists and locals alike, and their pleasant chatter comingles nicely with the tackle tinkling on the boats bobbing on docks in front of the town.

One follows the asphalt path south to the old fishing village of Peschiera Maraglio, along the lake mostly, but sometimes swerving inland interior between light-dappled olive groves.  There are some lovely 16th century homes and buildings here and small church, consecrated in 648, and dedicated to Santo Michele.  From here the ferry shuttles people and goods between the village and Sulzano on the eastern shore of Lake Iseo.

Heading north along the eastern shore of Monte Isola you will eventually arrive at Carzano whose main streets parallel the lake shore.  Along the main street, toward Siviano,  the Baroque church of Santo Giovanni Battista sits on its octagonal foundations.  The two storied Villa Martinengo,  built by the powerful Martinengo family, has a portal surmounted with the family coat of arms.

Moving uphill from Carzano one finds the villages of Novale, Olzano and Masse (again).  Remember, one is moving in a circle!.  Novale is a nicely concentrated little village where the locals are not nearly so curious about the tourists as the tourists are about them.  Not quite jaded, but amused.  Same goes for Olzano and Masse.  In the latter, the parish church, also Baroque is dedicated to Santo Rocco.

Higher still is Cure, and walking along the path to get there will take the traveler to places where lake views disappear and one feels as though on the mainland.  Here there are small valleys, fields, vineyards and,  inevitably, olive orchards - all of which makes for a spirit-raising euphoria.   You can also take a bus to Cure, but the euphoria you feel may not be as profound.

Cure, of course, is impossible picturesque - with its houses clustered around narrow, paved streets and alleys.  The houses have arched doorways and balconies.

Yet further up is the shrine of Madonna della Ceriola at 600 meters above sea level.  The shrine dates from the 16th century, although it was enlarged in the 17th and a bell tower was added in the 18th.  It has a barrel nave, an altar of inlaid marble, images of Mary and infant Jesus and luminous frescoes by unknown artists.  The shrine is very much in use a place of worship, as a place where people make vows, or repent for vows made and broken.

The precincts of the shrine offer jaw-dropping views of the downward falling slopes of Monte Isola, of Lake Iseo and of the bounding countryside on all sides of the lake.  If you've walked to the shrine and are tired, your energies will be replenished and the journey down will be easy.  If you've bused up... well, the views are still tonic for the soul!

By Vian Andrews, December 27th, 2006

Region of Lombardia

4543′N 1005′E


Iseo - 10 km:
Brescia - 36 km;
Bergamo - 61 km;
Bardolino - 96 km:
Verona - 102 km;
Milan - 112 km;
Venice - 213 km

Lake District Travel Portal
Places to stay

Tourist Office: Lungolago Marconi 2
Mon-Sat 9AM-12:30PM and 3PM-6PM; Sun-9AM-12 Noon (closed Saturday after noon and all day Sunday during winter)
Tel: 030-980-209

Ferry services on
Lake Iseo
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