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Iseo, Lago d’Iseo & Franciacorta

susan

100+ Posts
I have visited the beautiful Lago d’Iseo (Lake Iseo), the town of Iseo, and have been driven through the beautiful countryside of Franciacorta with dear friends during many of my trips to Italy. In 2017, because of a gap in days between the dates of my stay in Modena and my planned weekend visit with my friends in Coccaglio, I finally booked a 2 night stay on my own in Iseo.

This is going to be a combination trip report, covering my stay in Iseo in 2017, a bike ride around Monte Isola in 2008, and a visit to an abbey and a monastery in Franciacorta in 2005. Many of the restaurants where we have enjoyed delicious meals together over the years are now closed, so I won’t include any of that info in this trip report.

2017 - 2 nights in Iseo

Thursday, June 8th ~ train travel & arrival in Iseo

I am starting this post off with my 3rd train ride of the day (Brescia to Iseo). Here is the link to my full post which includes my full 3 train travel day as well as more photos of Thursday in Iseo.

When we arrived at the Brescia train station, I was delighted to find an elevator on my binario (train platform). The final train I would be taking was another regional train. I went in search for the new green stamp machines that are now used at train stations to validate my ticket. I could not find any I but did find two older looking yellow ones. I was a little confused at first seeing that they said Trenord on them, but then realized that I was taking a Trenord train. I later found out that all regional trains that travel through this station are now Trenord trains. The Trenord railway company is now the company that operates all regional passenger trains in the Lombardia region.

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My tiny 2-car train departed at the Ovest area of this train station. It was already sitting there when I arrived.

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The train was pretty crowded with students. I was lucky to find a seat. As it left Brescia, it traveled through the beautiful Franciacorta area. I took a photo through the dirty train window of the vineyards.

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This train provided no info/announcements for any of the stops and many of the train stations were so small that it was impossible to know what train station the train was stopping at when looking out the window unless you happened to be seated next to the window right where the tiny sign on the station was located.

Prior knowledge of the area/train stops and a list of stops was pretty important in order to not miss your station. Even with the use of the Rail Planner Eurail/Interrail app, I still asked after every stop to make sure I did not miss my stop! The train was running later and later after each stop so I could not depend on the time that my train was supposed to arrive in Iseo.

As the train became more and more behind as it stopped at each station, I eventually went to sit in the area between the two cars. One guy got off at the wrong stop. He got on my train and talked to one of the train guys about his situation. He was told that he could either stay on the train until the last stop (about 30 minutes after my stop) when the train would return back to Brescia, to reach his stop OR he could get off the train and then wait for the train to finish its route and return back towards Brescia, get back on the train, and then get off at his stop. Either way, it was going to take about an hour to reach his stop! This entire exchange made me even more nervous about missing my stop.

I had not regrets sitting in the area between the 2 cars, and asked people the name of each stop as they got on the train and even poked my head out to be sure so I would not miss my train stop in Iseo.

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The Iseo train station turned out to be one of the bigger train stations on the route. Even so, there was no underpass. Instead everyone walked across the tracks after departing the train to reach the station.

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The train station did not even have a ticket machine. You had to go to the bar to purchase a train ticket. There also were not any taxis waiting at this train station. None of the cars in the photo below are taxis.

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I usually plan out my walking routes from the train station to my accommodation in advance, but planned to take a taxi instead this time. I never imagined that there would not be any taxis at the station.

I started down the main street from the station, using google maps on my phone to find my way. I did not get very far before a very nice woman with a little dog stopped her car and started talking to me. She insisted on giving me a ride. I really was fine with my bag on wheels/piggy back system with my 2nd bag attached to my main bag, but she kept insisting.

She was driving a little car and had a medium size dog with her. She crammed my bags into her car and off we went as she input the address of my accommodation into her GPS. We drove right by the pretty bushes with water fountains soon after we left the train station. I recognized this landmark and knew it was not far from the lake. If only she dropped me off there (as it turns out it was about a 2 minute walk from where I would be staying).

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From my previous visits to Iseo with friends, I could tell that she was driving away from the lake but she was from the area and so I figured she must have known where she was going. We drove all around the area and eventually she stopped the car and told me this was as close as she could get because cars were not allowed any further. She really was very nice to give me a ride.

I turned on google maps again and started to follow the little arrow. I could not have taken more than 10 steps when I met an older woman who wanted to help. She sent me up this big hill by the castle telling me this was the best way to go (it was not).

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As I continued on my way, following that little arrow on my phone, I ran into another man who wanted to help. He took out his phone and did a search and then gave me more directions, sending me another way. Everyone was so kind and seemed to be very concerned that I had so many bags (even though I did not and they were very manageable). I also was not in a rush except for the fact that I really needed to use the bathroom! I continued to follow the directions the man gave me and ended up running right back into him! Iseo really is a maze of streets. My apartment/hotel ended up being right near where we ran back into each other a second time.

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I gave the owner my passport and was given a tour of my suite. I was staying at this place called Apartment/Hotel Borgolago Suites. It was pretty much an apartment with a dishwasher, stove, dishes, pots, pans, etc., as well as a combined washer/dryer, but there was also someone in the lobby most times of the day to provide assistance and someone came to clean the suite every morning. It was huge and very comfortable.

The owner started to provide me with instructions on how to work everything. At one point, I interrupted her and told her that I really needed to use the bathroom. She went back down to the lobby to finish processing my paperwork and then returned with my passport. After that, we finished the tour. The most important part was the combined washer/dryer instructions (more about this later in my next post).
 
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susan

100+ Posts
Thursday, June 8th ~ Afternoon/evening in Iseo

After my tour and instructions were complete, I unpacked and then went back down to the lobby to inquire about a place to mail some postcards (one of those postcards just arrived last week!). She walked down the street with me and pointed out where a mailbox was located. I searched for it but could not find it. Instead, I decided to go look for the main post office in the town, which was turned out to be pretty easy to find, to mail my postcards.

All my visits to Iseo in the past have been with friends, so I never had to know how to get anywhere. I spent the next hour or so, trying to orient myself to the town. I also took a bunch of photos down by the beautiful Lago d'Iseo (Lake Iseo).

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I also took a bunch of photos of some precious little baby coots down by a boat ramp with a momma and daddy coot watching over them and feeding them.

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I love boat rides. I read about an interesting little town called Lovere, which was located at the top of the lake. I stopped in at the tourist information office to inquire about the boats to Lovere but found out that the only boat option would end up giving me just an hour or so in Lovere. That wasn’t too bad but I would also end up spending about 2 hours each way on the boat. That meant very little time in Iseo. I decided to skip the boat ride and spend the following day in Iseo instead.

I was given some recommendations for dinner options in Iseo but was craving pizza. I am very sensitive to gluten and eat gluten free at home. I found some supplements at the health food store before my trip to help me process gluten (which did NOT work/don’t believe the hype!). I did pretty well eating pasta and bread while in Italy (or so I thought) but did not do so well eating pizza.

I found a place in Iseo that served gluten free pizza. Because I needed to do some laundry, I decided on take out pizza. BAD choice for dinner! The pizza was HORRIBLE!

Back to my laundry… I followed all of the instructions as I remembered them. My laundry ended up being held hostage!

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The washer worked and I was able to get the door open at the end of the wash. That was a good thing as I had some things in there that I did not want to go through the dryer. I pushed a bunch of buttons to try to get the dryer to work.

Instead, the washer started again AND I could not open the door at the end of the wash. This happened two more times! Finally, I was able to get the dryer to start. My clothes were damp after the dryer finished (I did not choose the 2 hour dryer cycle). I did not dare try to do a second dryer cycle, fearing that the washer instead would start up again. I hung my clothes up to dry instead. It worked out. All of my clothes were dry the following morning. I still had a second wash to do and planned to have a second tutorial the following day.

I walked back down to the lake to take a few sunset photos while my clothes were drying. What a beautiful evening in Iseo!

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susan

100+ Posts
Friday, June 9th ~ Morning & Lunch in Iseo

I slept in a little longer than I intended, waking up at 10 am. Before heading out for the day, I asked for another washer/dryer tutorial and this time I wrote the instructions all down step by step in my notes app.

First thing – un caffè macchiato! I found a nice little place right near the lake for my morning coffee and then I went for a walk along the lake. I really did not have any specific plans for the day. I looked on my map and saw that I was not too far from the Duomo. I walked up a winding road and found a cluster of three churches. I spent time inside all three.

Pieve di Sant’Andrea (the Duomo) – a church dating back to the 12th century.

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Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista – smaller church across from Pieve di Sant’Andrea.

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Chiesa di San Silvestro – located to the side of the two above churches. The only part of this church that was open was a small space with some ancient frescoes.

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*I did a separate post on my blog where you will find more photos of the churches I visited in Iseo

Next, I headed to the hospital. Now why a hospital? Well, I read that there were some cool frescoes inside one area of the hospital. It wasn’t as exciting as I read, but I loved the views of the lake from there.

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As I walked back along the lake, I took lots of photos of ducks, swans, and coots.

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For lunch, I wanted to try l’Orto e il Mare, which was located on Vicolo Nulli 9. It took me over 30 minutes to find this restaurant. I walked up and down streets in the area using two different maps and google maps on my phone. I even asked someone who lived in Iseo. He couldn’t find it either. I almost gave up and then somehow I stumbled right upon it. It was on a little side street that was hidden.

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*When reviewing all of my trips to Iseo, I realized that the restaurant where we ate in 2001 - Ristorante il Gallo Rosso (located on Vicolo Nulli 9) was now closed AND the restaurant that is now (or in 2017) located in that exact same location is called l’Orto e il Mare! What an interesting coincidence!

I ordered the Calamaretti con verdure saltate e salsa al balsilico ( sautéed little squids with vegetables and a sweet basil cream sauce). It was very good.

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I decided on gelato for dessert. I texted my friend to find out where we used to always get gelato while visiting Iseo together – Leon d’Oro, which was by the lake. The gelato was just ok. We think maybe management has changed.

Here is the link to my full post which includes more photos of Friday in Iseo.
 
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susan

100+ Posts
Friday, June 9th ~ Afternoon & Evening in Iseo

Fridays are market days in Iseo, the kind of markets I am not a huge fan of. Lots of stands of clothing, shoes, and lots of junk. Not junk to everyone, but most of it seems like junk to me and the stands take up too much room. Fortunately everyone packed up by the time I returned to the center of town so I could take a few photos. There still was a lot of litter everywhere, but a street sweeper machine finally came by to take care of the mess.

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I decided to walk along the lake to the other end of Iseo. I took photos of more ducks, swans, and a mystery waterfowl along the way…

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I continued on until I reached a long walkway out towards the lake, where boats were docked. From there, one is treated to a view of what I suspect is another town on the lake.

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After returning to the center of the town, I decided to check out the the 13th century Castello Oldofredi - the castle that I saw when I first arrived in Iseo. Unfortunately it was closed. I believe that the castle now houses the municipal library. There may also be other things to visit in this castle. I have no clue! Here's a photo I took of the outside area of the castle

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All of the little food stores were closed for the afternoon, so I walked over to the big grocery store to purchase a large bottle of water. The grocery store was located a little further than the post office, While I was there, I decided to get some food for dinner instead of eating out.

I bought some tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella to make a caprese salad, some pesto, some tortelloni with ricotta and spinach (nothing like the yummy tortelloni in Modena & Faenza), a very delicious French crème brûlée for dessert and some yogurt for the following morning. I also bought my large bottle of water. Somehow I spaced out weighing the tomatoes. Fortunately, the man at the cash register was very nice and understanding. He had someone go weigh them for me.

I returned to my suite to put my food away and then spent some time in a bookstore. I also checked out a few of the little food stores in town.

As I was walking back down the road past the castle, I discovered an interesting church called the Santuario Santa Maria della Neve or Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Snow

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I also visited the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Mercato, which is located right near Piazza Garibaldi. I walked by this church a few times and am really glad I went inside. There were some amazing frescoes inside this church, including the cycle of the Passion of Christ.

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*If interested, here's the link to my post with more photos of the two above churches as well as a few more photos of the outside of the castle in Iseo.

After leaving the church, I went back down to the lake to take a few more photos. The baby coots were so so cute!!!

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I returned to my suite to make dinner. I also started my second load of laundry. In case anyone ends up using this same washer/dryer combo, here are the directions: Dry triangle, Shirt with sun, Start, Wash, 14 30 44, Clock with basin on the right, Thermometer for temp, Start, NO sun shirt. It still ended up being complicated and I had to set the dryer three times – 30 mins each – for the clothes to dry.

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I went back down by the lake to take some photos at sunset while my clothes finished drying and then went back to my apartment to pack. A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

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susan

100+ Posts
Saturday Morning in Iseo & a Review of the Borgolago Suites

I woke up early, excited to see my dear friends once again! It had been 6 years since our last visit and now they had 2-year old twin boys that I would be meeting for the first time!

I finished packing, had some yogurt, paid my bill and left my luggage in the lobby. Then, I went down the the bar near the lake for a delicious caffè macchiato.

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I also took more photos of the adorable baby coots and their momma and dad feeding them seaweed. As you can probably tell, I was a little obsessed with the coots. IF you want to see even more photos of these adorable coots, here's a link to my Saturday morning post.

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Katia arrived a little bit earlier than anticipated. I quickly went back to my suite to grab my luggage and met her at her car. We were so happy to see each other again!

*Review of the Borgolago Suites – Huge apartment steps from the waterfront, located on a quiet street. Clean, comfortable, well furnished with everything you would need, including a washer/dryer and fully equipped kitchenette. Air conditioning, secure wifi, comfortable bed, nice bathroom, good hairdryer, lots of closet space, fluffy towels and bathrobe. Very helpful staff. Windows can't be opened, but it was a scent free apartment so no problems there for me!

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susan

100+ Posts
2008 A Bike Ride around Monte Isola

Excerpt from my 2008 Iseo post ~ Weekend in Coccaglio & bike ride around Monte Isola

Saturday, July 12th

A special outdoor market of handmade goods was going on when we arrived in Iseo. There were lots of little tables set up in the town. We walked through the town browsing through the market and then headed to the boat area.

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We arrived just in time to catch the boat to Monte Isola. The boat made one stop in Sulzano to pick up more passengers and then headed to Peschiera on Monte Isola.

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We went to the bike rental place and rented 3 bikes. We did this ride together many years ago and had so much fun laughing and enjoying the views that we decided to do it again this year.

It took us about 90 minutes to ride around the island (mainly because I made lots of stops along the way to take photos). Both Katia and I got off our bikes at one point to walk when we reached the steep hill. The second half of the ride was down hill. Besides the steep hill, the biggest challenge was to keep to the side when the little motor bikes and cars went by. We rode up and down narrow paths, through little towns, and by the water. We saw grape vines and olive trees and two little islands along the way.

Photos of our ride around the island:

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After returning our bikes, we had lunch and then waited to take the boat back to Iseo.

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If you ever are in the area, I recommend this bike ride around Monte Isola!
 
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susan

100+ Posts
2005 - A Visit to an Abbey & a Monastery in Franciacorta

I have been so fortunate to enjoy views of the countryside and beautiful vineyards of Franciacorta when I visit Iseo with my friends. My solo travels include travel by train, bus, boat, but never by car - I have not yet been brave enough to drive in Italy!

In 2005, after our morning breakfast in Iseo and lunch back in Coccaglio with Katia’s family, we went for a drive through the beautiful Franciacorta countryside.

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Our plan this afternoon was to visit an abbey and a monastery, both located along the Cluniac road of Franciacorta.

We first visited the Abbazia Benedettina Olivetana di San Nicola / Olivetan Abbey of St. Nicola, located in Rodengo Saiano. This abbey was founded around 1050 by Cluniac monks. I believe it was under renovation at the time of our visit. We were only able to visit certain areas but did sneak into part of a tour while there. I would like to return some day to visit more of this beautiful abbey.

I only have a few photos of this abbey and did not write down any info I learned while there, but here is an excerpt about this abbey from a the Lombardia Facile… beyond desirability site:

“The Abbey was built around 1050 on an important Roman crossroad that soon became a resting and refreshment place for pilgrims traveling to the Holy City. Four centuries later, in 1446, Pope Eugene IV entrusted it to the Olivetan Congregation, which rebuilt it . In 1534 the Monastery became an Abbey; it was restructured according to the Renaissance taste and embellished with works by famous painters. Suppressed by Napoleon in 1797, reduced to a state of degradation by frequent military occupation, thanks to Pope Paul VI the Abbey saw the return of the Olivetan monks in 1969. Noteworthy are: the interior of the church, that was finely decorated between the 16th and 17th centuries; the chapels with 18th century paintings; the impressive Refectory hall; the magnificent 15th century Crucifixion fresco on the back wall, the library full of sacred texts and texts of art and the three elegant cloisters.”

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Next, we visited the Monastero di San Pietro in Lamosa / Monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa located in Provaglio d’Iseo.

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We were so lucky to get a private tour of both the church and the Sala della Disciplina where there are 16th century frescoes with scenes from the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion. You could see the layers of paintings on some of the walls.

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The very enthusiastic gentleman told us that this is the only church in the world with 4 arches built in 4 different ages and of different styles (two Baroque, one Gothic, and one Renaissance). *If my notes are correct!

Here's a photo of the kind man who gave us the tour.

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This church/monastery was amazing! I would definitely recommend a visit to this monastery, which is located not too far from the lake. Check first though to make sure it is open.

This completes my trip report of Iseo, Lago d'Iseo, and Franciacorta. I hope my information & photos will help trip planning to this beautiful area of Italy!
 
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Tim W

100+ Posts
I've just seen these now, and it brought back some great memories of a visit there about 15 years ago.
We stayed in an old blockhouse, in Zorzino above Riva di Solta. I just loved the tranquility of the lake, particularly at dawn and dusk.
 

susan

100+ Posts
Hi Tim,

Glad to bring back some nice memories for you. I have not heard about Zorzino and Riva di Solta before. I did a Googe search. Both seem like lovely places for a visit or stay. I will have to check them out the next time I am visiting my friends who live nearby.

I do love the tranquility of the lake at dusk and during the the evenings. I have never made out early enough in the morning to spend time at dawn but can imagine it would be beautiful.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Wonderful (and not totally unusual - off the major tourist trail) hospitality from the lady giving you a lift. It's something that is really endearing about Italy.
 

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