From Franciacorta to Lake Iseo
The proposed itinerary will take you from Brescia to Lake Iseo, crossing the gently rolling Franciacorta area. This itinerary is best completed in two days; you can select a hotel in Franciacorta or a hotel on Lake Iseo for a stay characterized by relaxation and charm. For those who prefer a different lodging arrangement, Franciacorta has comfortable bed & breakfasts or holiday farms. Franciacorta is the sunny, morainal amphitheater that extends south of Lake Iseo. It is a territory of gently rolling hills, cultivated with vineyards and dotted with medieval villages, ancient abbeys, castles, Renaissance palazzi and 18th and 19th-century patrician villas that, today, often house wineries. In effect, from the 17th century on, Franciacorta has been the privileged summer resort of the Brescian and Milanese nobility, which built scores of villas here, surrounded by marvelous gardens.
Franciacorta's history is also linked to the presence of great monasteries, which in the Middle Ages owned vast estates and reclaimed and cultivated the land. The name, "Franciacorta" seems to have been derived from “Francae Curtes,” i.e., the medieval villages under the protection of monasteries that enjoyed an exemption from taxes.
Wine: the cultivation of grapes on these hills has very ancient origins, as evidenced by prehistoric discoveries and the writings of Latin authors. In 1570, Brescian physician Gerolamo Conforti, wrote in Libellus de Vino Mordaci about a wine “with little bubbles” produced in Franciacorta.
Rodengo Saiano, a village of Roman and Lombard origins is worth a visit for its magnificent Abbey of San Nicola. The abbey was founded in the 10th century by Cluniac monks. The three large cloisters, refectory and a gallery with works by great 16th and 17th-century Brescian artists are all worth a visit. Inside, there is a wrought iron museum, a typical Franciacorta craft, and the production of liqueurs made from herbs grown by the monks. In Ome, not far from Rodengo, we recommend a visit to the Maglio Averoldi an ancient forge, now a museum, where you can learn the history and methods of working iron.
Passirano, a castle completely surrounded by countryside, is the best preserved fortification in Franciacorta. It was built in the 10th century to defend against Hungarian invasions and has a trapezoidal plan and cylindrical side towers. Today, it belongs to the Marchesi Fassati di Balzola house the winery's cellars. The inside is not open to the public.
Bornato: Villa Orlando is a Medieval fortress with crenellated walls, towers, moats and drawbridge, inside of which a Renaissance villa was constructed. There is an admission charge.
Provaglio d'Iseo the monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa is one of the most interesting Romanesque complexes of Brescia. It was founded by Cluniac monks in 1803 who came to cultivate the land. The monastery was an important center for swamp reclamation and the spread of culture. It was also a refuge for travelers and the needy. The Church of San Pietro and the cloister are worth a visit. The monastery is a jumping-off point for visiting the Torbiere del Sebino, a nature refuge that was gradually created, beginning in the 18th century following the extraction of the peat. The excavations created numerous water basins and hundreds of swamp animals and plants made it their habitat. To visit the peat-bogs, just follow the routes consisting of marked trails, bridges and bird watching stations.
Just a short distance from the peat-bogs, you will find Corte Franca, the heart of Franciacorta, a municipality consisting of four villages: Borgognato, Colombaro, Nigoline and Timoline. You can see vineyards surrounding patrician villas that house famous wine cellars. Some of these can be visited, such as Palazzo Lana-Berlucchi in Borgognato and Palazzo Torri in Nigoline, with its frescoed rooms and period furnishings. You can only see the outside of Palazzo Monti della Corte in Nigoline, with a rustic façade decorated with wrought iron, and Palazzo Ragnoli in Colombaro.
A few kilometers from Corte Franca, you will find romantic Lake Iseo. The road runs along the lake to the town of Iseo, that in the past was the market port for the entire lake. It is pleasant to stroll through the medieval lanes of the center, past stores and restaurants, without overlooking the Romanesque parish church of Sant'Andrea (12th century).
Monte Isola - From the dock of Sulzano, it only takes the boat a few minutes to reach Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Europe, with an elevation of more than 400 meters above the surface of the lake. The tiny village of Peschiera Maraglio is its main port, but all the island's picturesque villages have maintained their past fascination intact, with narrow lanes and interior gardens. On Monte Isola, you can follow charming itineraries on foot or circumnavigate the island by the bus leaving from Peschiera Maraglio. The island prohibits automobile traffic. All the island's hamlets have good trattorias specializing in serving lake fish, like sardines, chub and tench.
From Iseo, you can take an excursion 60 km north along the lovely Valcamonica to the Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri in Capo di Ponte. Protected by listing on UNESCO's World Heritage list, the Capo di Ponte rock carvings are the largest open-air museum of rock art in Europe. Over 30,000 figures are carved onto hundreds of rocks ranging from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. If you want to stay overnight in the area, we recommend Boario Terme, one of the largest spa resorts in Italy, with many hotels and a modern 140-hectare facility in a park.
Photos courtesy of: Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta
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