Who has never dreamed that time flows less quickly to disconnect from today’s hectic life and experience the little moments in contact with nature? However, there is a place where this is normal. No fairy tales or magic, it’s called Monte Isola, an island-mountain (as the name implies) set in the center of Lake Iseo, in Lombardy, like a pearl kept in its shell. And indeed, it has a lot of value, starting with the fact that no cars circulate on this island, but only a few scooters of the approximately 1800 residents and the small public transport of the Municipality.
But not only that but also judging by the numerous awards that Monte Isola has obtained, especially in recent years. It was already known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and part of the European Destinations of Excellence (sustainable and environmentally friendly tourist places). Moreover, it was awarded in 2019 as the third-best tourist destination in Europe.
The town of Monte Isola, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy
Among the things to see in Montisola, there are churches, sanctuaries, castles, and the island’s small villages.
In fact, you should know that, despite the island having fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, there are eleven villages on its territory.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola
The most panoramic point of the whole of Monte Isola is the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola which overlooks Lake Iseo.
This church dates back to the 5th century, and its construction is linked to San Vigilio, then Bishop of Brescia. He converted the area’s inhabitants and decided to build a chapel dedicated to the Madonna on the top of the island to replace the cult with the Marian faith. Of the goddess Isis. Madonna della Ceriola is called so because, later, the effigy of the Madonna was carved in a stump of Turkey oak.
To get there, You can choose whether to take a long trek from Peschiera Maraglio or choose a short walk by taking the bus. At the top, there is the possibility of picnics.
Fortress of Martinengo
The Rocca Olofredi-Martinengo of Monte Isola is another piece of the island’s history and one of its symbols. Once the castle’s function was defensive even if it did not rise on the island’s highest point because it was already occupied by the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola.
However, there is a legend linked to the Rocca di Montisola. In fact, it is said that one of the castellans used to fire cannon shots on boats that did not drop the sails as a sign of homage. Therefore, to avoid sinking, someone decided to paint an image of the Virgin Mary – much venerated in Monte Isola – on the rock of Herf, and the cruel castellan died to erase it.
The road to climb to the Rocca di Monte Isola starts from Sensole, and at the top, there is an area equipped for picnics.
One of the most evocative villages to visit in Monte Isola is certainly Peschiera Maraglio. There is also Villa Olofredi – an ancient residence now private property – and the Church of San Michele with its frescoes.
This small fishing village has a beautiful lakeside promenade where you can stroll, narrow alleys, and restaurants where you can eat something. Fishing nets were once produced here: today, the production is no longer there, but walking through the two streets, it is still possible to see what remains of the ancient tradition.
Sensole is probably the most popular location for tourists who decide to spend a day in Monte Isola. This village is very charming, thanks to its picturesque views its olive and lemon trees. Here, you will also find several restaurants, a small beach, and hotels.
In front of Sensole you can see the islet of San Paolo, now privately owned and not open to visitors.
The mountain villages
Olzano, Masse, Cure and Senzano are the mountain villages found on this islet on Lake Iseo. They are imposing, and some much-loved parties take place here.
Cure is the highest hamlet of Monte Isola. Masse is located at an altitude of 400 meters and is linked to another legend. On the way to get there, you can see a large boulder and a “holy shrine” dedicated to the Madonna because it seems that witches met here to perform mysterious rites. This small village of Monte Isola is known for the fifteenth-century church of San Rocco and the houses built in stone.
Monte Isola Flower Festival and other festivals
Several parties are organized on Lake Iseo. One of the most famous is the Monte Isola Flower Festival.
This festival, also called the Feast of the Cross of Carzano di Monte Isola, is held every five years, and its origin dates back to the seventeenth century to commemorate the plague. The heart of the events is on 14 September when the procession with the Holy Relic of the Cross of Christ takes place in this village of Monte Isola.
Another festival to see in Monte Isola is that of San Rocco, held in Masse in August.