Location: Iseo is a middle size town of approx. 7,000 thousand people located in the wonderfully lush habitat of Lombardy in the central region of Northern Italy. Whilst situated inland it feels very open and majestic because of the large Lago d’Iseo nearby. The soil is very luscious and home to some of the great Italian vineyards and marries well with local manufacturing industries. It is one of those regions that you visit where tourists fit into the local community and landscape. I didn’t feel I had landed in some false ‘Disneyfied’ tourist product. There were plenty of overseas tourists, but I was very struck by the number of local Italian tourists, which is always a good sign.
Hotel: The Iseolago Hotel is a four-star resort style hotel, owned by a local company. It is not part of any hotel chain or conglomerate, as far as I am aware. The hotel itself comprises three stories so fits neatly into the landscape. My first reaction on arriving was very positive as the car parking areas were split up into sections, well laid out and with cobble paving. From the front door of the hotel, you could barely see a car. So far so good.
The lobby and reception areas were spacious with generous seating sections. There were good quality sofas in bright colours spread around so as to allow for small groups to sit together. It didn’t feel like the guests were all crowded together. There was one small dinky seating area with table and chairs, very suitable for anybody wishing to play a quiet hand of bridge.
The Dining Room with adjacent Buffet serving area was well laid out with good quality table linen and chairs. This room opened out to a long outdoor covered Veranda; a relaxing area for an aperitif/digestif as well as well as some outdoor dining itself; the landscaping again was thoughtfully designed so the nearby car park was almost invisible. Some small nest boxes were discreetly fixed in corners within the Veranda so watching the birds coming and going was an amiable and relaxing pastime.
Bedroom: The bedroom was compact and in good decorative order. Thankfully the air conditioning in the bedroom was excellent so we were assured of a good night’s sleep. The built-in wardrobe (with doors) was made of proper wood and not ply as in most hotels now. You just know a hotel is cutting corners when they don’t have wardrobe doors! The bathroom was well kitted out and included a bidet, which is such a European asset and not seen on too many other continents. There were plenty of good quality towels and extra pillows, so it was clear a hospitality professional was in charge of housekeeping.
Facilities: The outdoor swimming pool doesn’t open until 1 June, which was a pity as the temperature was 30°C and very hot and humid. The grounds are extensive with lots of places to hang out. Again, the theme being plenty of space for guests. There was free access to the Local Council’s Lido and swimming pool on the lake nearby so no excuse for not dipping those toes.
What to do and see: The nearby town of Iseo is literally a 15-minute stroll down the road. It is a pretty little town with lots of narrow streets and the centre of the old town is pedestrianised, which makes it a joy to wander around. The shops were a little on the expensive side so not much shopping done.
There was plenty of Italian history and heritage on to see and visit. Worth a visit is the Pieve S. Andrea whose Bell Tower dates to the 12th century. The nearby San Silvestro church contains a rare fresco of the ‘Danse Macabre’ which is quite spooky. My favourite was a tiny church adjacent to the Piazza Garibaldi with its unusual tuff-based statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, dating from 1883. Within the quaint Chiesa di Santa Maria del Mercato were large fragments of historic frescos, including one that appeared to be an apostle with the stigmata on his hands. I must do some further research here.
Many of the nearby towns and regions play host to museums and heritage sites, including the famous Place du forum et Capitolium and The Valle Camonica which boasts a UNESCO heritage site. Lombardy also has some remarkable parks and nature reserves. The highlight was a visit to the stunning Monte Isola which is the largest inhabited lake island in Europe. There are no cars on the island so either walking or cycling is best way to get around. The locals, though, mostly use scooters and as everyone knows Italy has a strong association with the iconic Vespa. The island rises to 600 m. where there is an ancient village Cure renowned for its salami. It has my vote as the best salami I have tasted. Another local dish worth tasting is the dried twaite shad, referred to locally as a sardine and which is dried locally on wooden racks. It was very tasty, if a bit on the bony side.
We dined in several local restaurants and pizzerias, all of which were to a high standard. We were guests at a wonderful wedding feast on one evening, which consisted of approx. 8 courses (I lost count), in the Radici Ristorante, which lived up to its reputation for innovative cuisine. I also drank a glass (or two) of the local champagne from the Corte Franca region and I have to say that it would give French champagne a run for its money.
I would have no hesitation coming back to this part of the world again and taking my time to visit more heritage sites and soak in further chunks of Italian history. The Iseolago Hotel is an excellent base and central to much of northern Italy. This part of the country doesn’t have the same footfall as the southern part of the country. In my opinion it is all the better for it.
Iseolago Hotel, Via Colombera, 2 – 25049 Iseo (Bs), Italy.
Tel: +39 030 98891 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: iseolagohotel.ie