Lake Iseo: Disaster or Delight? The Jury is still out.
Lake Iseo is one of the lesser known lakes in northern Italy. Most crowds flock to Lake Como, Garda & Maggiore which are all well known for their tourism trade, picturesque villas and quaint villages.
In June 2013 Phil and I were on our way to Lake Como in Italy’s north. We spotted Lake Iseo on the map & we decided it would be a cool place to stop before we headed to a tourist mecca.
We soon found out why the tourists go to particular places. As for Lake Iseo...well I can see why it is pretty quiet.
We decided to stay in the village of Lovere at the north of the lake. The guidebook made it sound like a pretty medieval town with lovely views of the water. Unfortunately it felt more like Serbia did in the 1980’s. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh. The town does have a lovely view of the lake which is beautiful, but the main road that runs around the lake goes right through the centre of the town. The serenity of the village is overrun by the sound of bikes & cars motoring along, drowning out the peaceful sound of lapping waters. The town itself was deserted, so we started to think we’d made the wrong choice in location.
We met up with our friend Andrew (who I’d convinced that Iseo would be great), and he’d already checked into our hotel...which represented the three big D's in the hotel world - dark, dingy and dirty. Not a good start. Although the lady with the buck teeth at reception was quite friendly.
At this point I was bordering on having a panic attack as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and Lovere was not living up to my Italian lakeside holiday vision. Phil and Andrew kept assuring me that the town was fine, and we were there to do some riding, not to be tourists. Andrew was even complimentary about his tiny room at the back of the hotel that looked out on rubbish bins...and had some odd looking stains on the sheets. Gotta love friends for being supportive when you have a guidebook fail.
With nothing to be done, we went and found some food. We sat in the deserted "piazza" which was just a concrete grey looking square that housed the only restaurant that was open & after a glass of vino (or three) the town didn’t seem so bad.
Montecampione - the saving grace
The next morning we got out on the bikes as early as was respectable. The sound of motorbikes woke us up.
Despite the town not being as glamorous or quaint as we’d hoped, the cycling in the region is top notch. The roads are quiet and well maintained, and there are many cycling options. The climb to Montecampione is a must do. From Lovere we cycled around the top of the lake to Pian Camuno where we started the climb. The climb itself was 20kms long at an average of 7.5% gradient.
The first ten kms were tough with not much reprieve. At around kilometre eleven it eased off a bit, then kicked back up again for the final six kilometres. As the gradient was quite consistent, it was easy to get into a rhythm and spin our way to the top.
The scenery was lovely, with great views back over to the lake and across the hills of Lombardy. I started to feel quite fond of our little soviet town. Maybe it was the altitude.
We reached the ski village of Plan di Montecampione at the top of the climb and we were rewarded with an espresso & panini, plus a brilliant view.
The descent was fast & fun, and we were back in Lovere in no time (sigh). We finished off a great ride with an aperol spritz & pizza at a pretty cafe by the lake. Not even the roar of motorbikes could dilute the endorphins that were raging after such a great day out on the bike.
However we checked out that day & got the hell out of there. Como here we come!