Northern Italy’s largest lakes – Como, Garda and Maggiore – are stunning and glamorous, however crowded in the summertime. Smaller neighbours corresponding to Orta and Idro are beautiful, however lack grandeur and selection. “Good? That’ll be Iseo,” says Julia Buckley in The Sunday Instances.
Halfway between Milan and Verona, this medium-sized lake attracts comparatively few foreigners, but packs in all of Italy’s quintessential charms – nice vineyards, views of snow-dappled mountains, fairly cities, artwork, historical past, swimming and – partly as a result of it’s a widespread weekend getaway for the rich denizens of close by Bergamo and Brescia – an outstanding meals scene. It’s “funds pleasant” too, with good practice hyperlinks and “pint-sized” ferries that usually cost lower than two kilos.
The lakeside city of Lovere is paying homage to Venice, from which it was dominated for hundreds of years, with its “slim, zigzagging warren” of alleyways, its clock tower with frescoed lion, and its waterfront dominated by the lengthy neoclassical colonnade of the Accademia Tadini, which homes works by Bellini, Canova and others.
However the lake’s most charming spot is Monte Isola, an island whose steep however rounded sides give it the looks of a “large inexperienced panettone”, a church perches on its summit, and villages cling to its shores. The most important, Peschiera Maraglio, sits between olive groves and “dinky” pebble seashores, and has an important restaurant, Hostaria Milago, the place the antipasto platter of Iseo fish is “revelatory”.
Amid the Alpine foothills an hour’s drive north lies the Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri, the place there are millions of prehistoric rock drawings. And to the south is the wine area of Franciacorta. You may keep at one of many vineyards there – Corte Lantieri and Al Rocol are wonderful. And there may be good, reasonably priced lodging beside the lake itself, together with Agriturismo Forest, which has a “top-notch” restaurant, and the Ostello del Porto, a hostel in Lovere with “knockout” views.