Lake Iseo (also known as Lago D’Iseo or Sebino) is the fourth largest lake in Lombardy, it’s equally shared between the Provinces of Bergamo and Brescia. Being 45 minutes away from the Milan Bergamo airport, it’s easily accessible. The drive is rather straightforward, even lost tourists can find the way without much difficulty.
Lush green mountains and several medieval towns enclose the crystal clear lake. The natural beauty and enchanting towns make it a great road-trip-worthy area. There’s also an island in the middle of the lake, a sparsely inhabited mountain-island which is truly one of a kind: there are a handful of cars on the island, only used to transport goods.
Having explored all of the lake-side towns, none have impressed as much as Lovere as a base for the travels. The little town, it turns out, is just as charming as its name suggests. You can read all about that on a previous post: Lovere: The Ideal Place to stay & Explore Lake Iseo
So, here’s the basics you need to know: Getting there, staying there, what to do, the food, the shopping.
Milan Bergamo Airport is a 45 minute drive away from Lake Iseo. It’s the closest and most viable option. The tourist office in Lovere organises minibus transfers to and from the airport, which is probably the best way to go. I only found this out when it was too late and all my transfers were booked and paid for, but it will definitely be the most economical transfer. Taxis in the area are extortionate. Luckily for us, the owner of our hotel offered to take us to the airport himself for 50euros per trip. While this might seem steep, it’s more than half the price taxis request.
When I went to Lovere, I wasn’t that familiar with Airbnb (and upon searching now, there still aren’t any listings available). Some apartment rentals I emailed weren’t so quick to reply, and when one or two of them did, they weren’t that helpful.
So I turned to hotels. There are two hotels within 5 minutes from one another on the lakeshore: Hotel Belvedere Lovere (http://www.hotel-belvedere-lovere.it) and Hotel Lovere (http://www.hotellovere.it/). Geographically they’re in an excellent position. They’re a stark difference from one another.
Hotel Belvedere a budget (-ish) hotel for those who aren’t really bothered as long as there’s a bed and a shower (and a place to charge phones, cameras and the like). It’s where I stayed (€30 per person a night). The hotel itself is nothing impressive but it’s got all the necessary amenities: a bed (although the double bed was actually two singles pushed together), a large shower, plenty of plugs, a wardrobe equipped with hangers, and a stunning view. Breakfast isn’t really breakfast: for 2.50 you get a packet of cracker-toasties and little packets of jam and a hot beverage. But this isn’t really an issue as there are plenty of other options in the town. The owners of the hotel were the selling point – fluent in English, quick to reply to emails about the hotel and the area in general, picked us up from the airport, and helped us rent out a car (Called the place for us informing them of what we wanted in case we couldn’t manage to come to an understanding, and told us which bus to get). The hotel has deal with a restaurant underneath, which offers a daily 15% discount to residents. The food is amazing, I still dream of the freshly baked pasta with a home-made gorgonzola sauce. Yum.
Hotel Lovere is a more attractive option if you prefer comfort. This wasn’t an issue for me as I leave the hotel first thing in the morning and only return late at night. It’s more expensive. It’s also more aesthetically pleasing, The rooms are modern and they have a range of suites on offer, it also has a wellness spa and pretty classy restaurant with many Instagram-worthy dishes.
SUPERMARKETS, PASTISSERIES, GELATERIAS AND RESTAURANTS
Right outside the hotel, a 2-minute walk away on the right side of the road there’s a large, well-equipped and modern supermarket. It’s got a variety of fresh bread, an attractive deli counter and a colourful range of fresh fruit and vegetables. Oh and there’s also an impressive selection of wine and alcohol. Deliciously intesting wines that would cost you an arm and leg elsewhere sell for less than 10 euros in Italy. One which I particularly remember enjoying is a sparkly honey moscato.
Further down the road, closer towards the old-town centre, there’s s a lovely patisserie called Iride Paris which has a mouth-watering variety of freshly baked goods for very decent prices. It was usually the first stop every morning before setting off for the day’s adventure. Smaller-scale patisseries can be found around the town (avoid Café Wender: Tourist Trap like no other). There’s also a number of gelaterias, my favorite one is at the further end of the town, the one pictured.
While staying there we tried out 3 restaurants. We fell in love with two. One of the is the restaurant attached to Hotel Bergamo called Marconi 69, we ate there the most and the food was consistently delicious, and the daily menu was rather varied. Art Restaurant (http://www.artlovere.it/) is a modern-chic restaurant with a very unique menu. It’s got a variety of pasta and pizzas but the best thing on the menu was the pumpkin-ravioli dish: it’s sweet, served in oil, with cinnamon. I took that the two times we went. It was that good.
TOURIST INFORMATION SERVICES
It’s located right in the centre on the lakeside, just walk down the road on the right side of the hotel and you’ll reach it soon. Facing it there’s the main bus station, and right next to it there’s the ferry dock. The office is bright and modern, with plenty of leaflets to inspire adventures. The staff are all fluent in English, and extremely friendly and helpful.
Car Rental: There’s one place where you can rent a car in the area, but a choice is not needed as it’s all you could ask for. Sebino Auto: the family run business has got brand new cars, which rent out at around 30 euros a day, including all taxes and insurance. The owners are trusting and friendly, and the owner’s daughter is extremely fluent in English (American accent and all). You’ll pass this place on your way to Lovere from the Airport, so keep an eye out for it. It’s found in a town called Endine, to get there you need to get a bus from near the tourist office which is frequent, and takes 15 minutes to arrive. Parking is relatively easy, with a sizeable unrestricted parking lot facing Hotel Belevedere. Be careful not to park there on Sundays because of the market.
Busses: Busses are cheap and seem to be frequent, but I don’t recommend relying on them for the whole stay, if you do so you won’t get to see that much. The only time the bus was useful was to arrive at a mountain town called Bossico. You get one bus from the Lovere station (ask which bus at the tourist office), then when you’re on it ask the bus driver to tell you where to stop for the Bossico exchange, and then wait for a bus with “Bossico” written on it.
Ferries: There’s a ferry dock facing the bus station, next to the tourist office. There’s a route which takes you to Monte Isola, the mountain-island, which also docks at a number of villages on the way. Most importantly there’s a direct route to Pisogne, which is the town directly facing Lovere, and the town with a train station.
The shops within Lovere are all high-end. Apart from one or two decent local brands (in the likes of Bershka, Pull and Bear etc.), all other shops have items priced at a minimum of €50. Once a week (Sundays usually) there’s an open-market stocking typical items: clothes, phone cases, seeds, plants, cutlery, home accessories etc. It’s got the same items I’ve noticed in other countries and other parts of Italy but the sellers seem to be aware of the average prices in Lovere. The same items sell for around €10 more than I’ve seen them in Sicily.
If you rent out a car and drive towards the left side of the hotels you’ll encounter 3 malls. I don’t know exactly where they were but they’re quite easy to end up at by mistake. In the malls, you’ll find a number of mainstream shops (Tally Weijl etc) and also some china-clothing shops which have some pretty fashionable clothes at really low prices.