Being Dutch, going on holiday when I was young mostly came down to this. You would head for a sunny Southern European destination whilst dragging this big “thing” behind your car. Travelling like a snail, your own little house on your back, having to be extra careful when coming down a mountain…
I never enjoyed a summer holiday more than the one at a campsite near Malcesine. Where a hammock, Italian ice cream, plenty of sunshine, a pebble beach, an air mattress and my new best friend Cardia van Bemmelen provided all the fun a 7 year old could wish for, back then the main tourists in those days seemed to be mostly Dutch.
Early seventies Lake Garda was as beautiful as it is today, with charming villages, lemon trees and exotic flowers everywhere and crystal clear blue waters – perfect for swimming. But it had yet to be discovered by mass tourism. I would say that Lake Iseo today reminds me of those times.
When my husband and I decided in 2010 to look for an apartment in Italy we focused on Lake Garda. After visiting it only once, he was smitten too and could see us spending many a holiday there. It did not take me long to find Madeleine Morgan’s Dreamhomes and then our journey really took off. And it was Madeleine who introduced us first to Lake Iseo.
Like many people, I had visited all the larger north Italian lakes (Maggiore, Como, Garda) but not Lake Iseo. Each lake has a personality of its own. Compared to Garda, Iseo is much smaller, more secluded and less polished. It seduces you quite differently. If Lake Garda is the extravert spontaneous girl, Iseo is her more serene, mysterious sister. It was its “inspiring authenticity and grand beauty” that made world famous artist Jean Claude Christo select Lake Iseo as the location for “The Floating Piers”, earlier this year.
Lake Garda has a sub-mediterranean climate. This basically means lovely mild weather but a few more rain showers in summer than say, the Amalfi Coast.Lake Iseo’s climate is alpine, with olives and horse chestnuts rather than lemon groves and palm trees. Summers are very sunny but generally a few degrees cooler than Lake Garda.
Iseo also borders the Franciacorta wine region, famous for sparkling wine made in the Champagne method. Franciacorta was recently hailed by international wine connoisseurs as Italy’s best new sparkling wine, and chosen as the “Official Sparkling Wine” of the Milan Expo 2015. Needless to say that interest in the region is starting to soar.
Back to 2010. Madeleine showed us many appealing apartments, first at Lake Garda and then at Lake Iseo. And I cannot deny we were more than a little pleased to find that at Iseo, we could get substantially more for our money. Iseo has not got the star power of sister Lake Garda – yet. But the quiet beauty, authentic atmosphere and wonderful restaurants with both delicious and very affordable food, certainly made us fall in love with her.
Article by Elisa di Solto – 10th September 2016