Monthly Archives: April 2012

Stop the world I want to get off … and land on Monte Isola

If you ever feel like getting away from it all for a while, I can recommend a small lake island in northern Italy.

Peschiera Maraglio at the foot of Monte Isola

Peschiera Maraglio at the foot of Monte Isola

Monte Isola, in the middle of Lago d’Iseo in Lombardia, provides a real escape from the modern world, although it takes only a few minutes to reach by boat.It is the largest lake island both in Italy and in central and southern Europe, rising to a peak of about 600 metres above the surface of the lake. It is a spectacular sight from the shores of Lago d’Iseo and is a lovely excursion to make in either the spring or the summer.
You can walk all the way round Monte Isola in a day along peaceful footpaths at the side of the lake, enjoying unspoilt natural scenery and beautiful views of the smaller islands of San Paolo and Loreto.
There are some good restaurants where you can eat fresh fish caught from the lake and comfortable hotels if you want to stay the night.
With fewer than 2,000 residents, Monte Isola is a green oasis with hardly any cars, as only the doctor and the mayor are allowed to have them.
There are several points around Lago d’Iseo from where you can take a ferry to Monte Isola, but the shortest crossing is from Sulzano on the Brescia side of the lake. You can take a train to Sulzano from the city of Brescia and it is just a short walk from the railway station in Sulzano to the imbarcadero, where you can buy boat tickets and get tourism information leaflets. After a few minutes on the ferry you disembark at Peschiera Maraglio, an old fishing village with shops and restaurants.
From Peschiera Maraglio it is a comfortable walk to the other side of the island and Monte Isola’s main village, Siviano. From there it is a short walk down to the port below Siviano to the imbarcadero where the boats leave for Tavernola Bergamasca on the Bergamo side of the lake. From there you can take a coach to Bergamo .
Or, you can ride back to Peschiera Maraglio on the island’s tiny bus, which leaves from Piazza Municipio in Siviano and from there take the ferry back to Sulzano on the Brescia side of the lake.
If you would like more information about Bergamo and other beautiful places in Lombardia visit www.bestofbergamo.com.

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Easter celebrations in Italy

Easter is a lovely time of the year to visit Italy as the weather is beginning to warm up and the spring flowers are in bloom.
Many towns have processions on Venerdi Santo (Good Friday) when statues or crosses are paraded through the streets or displayed in the main square.
And while the world tunes in to watch the celebrations in Rome on television, special services will be held at churches all over Italy to celebrate la Pasqua(Easter Sunday).

La Colomba - traditional Italian Easter cake

Italy's traditional Easter cake - La Colomba

In the run up to the Easter weekend, many shops will have elaborate displays of chocolate eggs in their windows. Italian Easter eggs are usually wrapped artistically in coloured cellophane and tied with pretty ribbons. They often contain a toy, or in the case of Easter eggs for adults, a gift, which can sometimes be as substantial as a mobile phone!
Since Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, food plays an important part in the Italian celebrations. Restaurants are usually busy at lunch time and many will serve a special menu for families who are out for a meal together, so it is advisable to book in advance if you are hoping to have a good lunch.
A traditional Easter meal for Italians, whether they are eating at home or in a restaurant, is likely to centre on agnello (lamb) as the main course, either roasted or braised.
For dessert there will usually be la Colomba, the dove shaped cake that is traditional at Easter, in the same way that il Panettone is eaten at Christmas.
La Colomba is known as the bird of peace and there is a legend that says a cake in the shape of a dove was offered to try to end a siege at Pavia centuries ago.
There is also the theory that the cake was created in the 1930s by a firm in Milan who wanted to provide a cake for Easter that was the equivalent of Panettone.
La Colomba is now sold all over Italy but can also be made in the home. The traditional version has an almond and sugar topping, but these days the shops sell them with all kinds of fillings, icings and toppings.
For details of what there is to see and do in the northern city of Bergamo in Lombardia, visit www.bestofbergamo.com. To find out about the main sights and attractions of Sorrento , a seaside resort south of Naples in Campania , visit www.bestofsorrento.com.