Monte Isola, the largest inhabited lake island in Europe, is a green mountain in the middle of Lake Iseo, described by the Italian law as an “area of particular natural and environmental interest”.
The current municipality was formed in 1928 following the unification of the ancient villages of Peschiera Maraglio and Siviano (carried out by the Fascist government) under the name of Comune di Siviano (Municipality of Siviano). The current name (Monte Isola) was given in the 1928s. The municipality of Monte Isola also includes the two islets of San Paolo (south) and Loreto(north). The island has 11 inhabited areas, some of which are very close to the lake and link the island to the mainland, such as Peschiera, Sensole, Porto di Siviano and Carzano. Others are located along the flat, mid-hill area, i.e. Siviano and Menzino; others towards the top of the mountain: Olzano, Masse, Cure and Senzano. The island has a resident population of about 1800 people. The inhabitants move around the island on their motorcycles and a thirty-seater bus that links the island’s hamlets and the two main moorings.
The island is linked to the mainland by two main routes: Sulzano-Peschiera and Sale Marasino-Carzano.
The ferry service runs 24 hours a day. In the summer there is also a direct ferry service from Iseo (run by the navigazione Lago d’Iseo, with ferries running every half an hour and stopping in Peschiera, Sensole, Porto di Siviano and Carzano. It is also possible to go for a boat tour of the three islands and the lake.
Motor vehicles have always been restricted on Monte Isola. <strongare the ones in charge of special services, i.e. ambulance, doctor, parish priest, traffic wardens. Motorcycles may only be used by residents, whereas tourists can only use the public bus or bicycles.
During the tourist season (April to September) it is possible to rent bikes or tandems in Peschiera and Carzano.
So many places to visit and discover
A one-hour ride around Monte Isola will give you the chance to start getting to know the island. You can also walk around the island or along the paths leading from the lake up to the top of the mountain, where you can visit the Madonna della Ceriola Sanctuary, which is also served by a special bus service, from March to October. The sanctuary, which hosts the most ancient church on the island, is
a point of interest for the whole lake, not only for the environment and scenery, but also from an artistic point of view. While walking ￼￼￼to the sanctuary don’t forget to stop and visit the ancient hamlets in the heights of the island, where the ancient rural traditions remain intact: artistic churches surrounded by small squares, large houses made in white, local stone, wooden farming tools, porches, courtyards, wonderful views. A rough and simple architecture makes Senzano, Cure, Masse, Olzano and Novale “true historical centres” full of picture-postcard views.
Siviano, the island’s main village with the highest number of inhabitants, hosts the Town Hall, primary and secondary schools and post office. The village, opposite Tavernola Bergamasca, is typically Medieval and is lit by the sunlight from dawn to dusk all year round. You can also reach Siviano by lake, getting off the ferry at Porto di Siviano.
- 16 b.c.: most of Lake Iseo, then called Sebinus, was under the Roman dominion and joined to the Res Pubblica Camunnorum. The Romans started cultivating vines, chestnuts and olives.
- 8th cent.: the Lombards entrusted the inland area of Lake Iseo (the ancient Sebino) to the Benedictine nuns of San Salvatore for it to be reclaimed.
- 905: in Monte Isola, which belonged to the Convent of Santa Giulia (previously San Salvatore), there were four houses, some arable land, vineyards, a wood, a
harbour and some farms.
- 1091: the Cluniacs from Provaglio founded a monastery on the island of San Paolo.
- 1248: Brescia, after being defeated in Parma by Frederick II, occupied once again the lost lands in the province, including the area of Lake Iseo.
- 1300 approx.: beginning of the building of the Rocca Martinengo.
- 1390: Matteo II Visconti visited the Oldofredis to go duck hunting.
- 1411: Pandolfo Malatesta extended his dominion on Lake Iseo and started receiving duties from Iseo, Monte Isola and other villages of the area.
- 1426: the Republic of Venice started ruling on the Lake and continued until 1797. The deregulation of the fishing right and the abolition of ancient feudal privileges, carried out by the Venetian Senate, gave a boost to fishing and net manufacturing.
- 1497: Catherine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, visited Monte Isola.
- 1717: some fishermen from Peschiera decided to ask the Venitian Senate to forbid certain types of nets considered dangerous for fish. By the end of the century Monte Isola’s reputation as net
manufacturing land had been well established.
- 1834: introduction of steamboats
in Lovere. The first steamboat travelled on the Lovere-Iseo-
- 1922-23: introduction of electricity into the island.