Visit Monte Isola
Monte Isola is, as you can guess from the name, a mountain on an island in Lake Iseo, and also the largest inhabited lake island in Europe. It is the most visited destination on the lake because of the charming villages, the scenery and the monuments.
Cars are not allowed on the island (unless you are the local doctor or priest!) but mopeds (for residents only) and bikes are allowed, and small buses operate to enable villagers and visitors to move between the villages.
Explore Monte Isola on Lake Iseo
Italy This Way comment: Monte Isola is a lovely island and our favourite destination on Lake Iseo: even if you only have time to cross from Sulzano and enjoy an ice-cream before returning it is still worth a visit, although more time will enable you to enjoy more of the island.
Although it is the largest inhabited lake island in Europe, Monte Isola is only about five square kilometres and the mountain in the heart of the island is 600 metres high, so it is possible to visit all the highlights of the island in one day. There are 12 villages and hamlets scattered around Monte Isola: your ferry from the mainland will probably arrive in Peschiera Maraglio, the most important of the villages.
Peschiera is a charming village, and has various small cafes along the edge of the lake as well as a small historic centre to explore. The church of San Michele that dominates the view of Peschiera from a distance was built in 1648 on the site of an earlier church. It is in one of the narrow streets and as a result the baroque facade is rather hard to see properly, but the church has a very impressive baroque interior with gilded decoration and painted ceilings from the 18th century.
The best views of the village are from the lake - so have your camera ready as soon as you get on the ferry (the crossing only takes a few minutes).
There is a road around the circumference of Monte Isola that visits each of the coastal villages and is about nine kilometres long: an excellent walk that takes 2.5-3 hours although it can be rather hot in summer! If you follow this route in a clockwise direction the villages you will visit along this route are Sensole, Menzino, Sinchignano, Siviano and the trditional fishing village of Carzano.
Siviano is the most important village on the island (although less picturesque than Peschiera) and also has tall houses built in the 17th century along the narrow village streets to explore as well as small supermarkets and a post office.
If you lack the energy for a walk this long, a walk from Peschiera Maraglio to Sensole and back is a very pleasant walk and completely flat: Sensole is a very small and pretty village. If you continue beyond Sensole the road becomes steeper for the next kilometre.
A more difficult walk on Monte Isola starting from either Siviano or Peschiera leads to the hill villages of Cure and Masse, and from Cure another footpath leads to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Ceriola from where you have lovely views across the island and along both sides of Lake Iseo. Either route involves about 400 metres of altitude change. This shrine was built in the 13th century - it is the oldest church on Monte Isola - and has a 12th century wooden sculpture.
The other main historic monument on the island is the Rocca Oldofredi-Martinengo near the village of Menzino: this small castle was built in the 14th century (by the Oldofredi family) and converted into a residence during the renaissance period (by the Martinengo family).
The main way to reach Monte Isola is on the passenger ferry from Sulzano: see the Sulzano guide. Ferries to Carzano in the north of the island operate from Sale Marisano, and you can reach the west coast at Porto di Siviano on ferris from Tavernola Bergamasca.
For more sights and villages around the lake see our Lake Iseo guide.
Map of Monte Isola and places to visit
Places to visit near Monte Isola
See more places nearby in the Lombardy guide