The more popular Lakes Maggiore, Garda and Como pull the world's rich and famous. But an increasing number of overseas househunters coming to Italy are ignoring the herd in favour of the undisturbed banks of Lake Iseo, an unknown haven in other countries but one that is just as alluring as the area's more high-profile stretches of water.
Iseo boasts just as enticing villas and apartments, in particular those that have breathtaking views overlooking the serene expanse of water. But they are much more affordable, with prices barely half of those in Lake Garda, just over 30km away. As an example, US$135,000 may get you a flat with a couple of bedrooms, a terrace or garden and a view of the lake, while US$270,000-US$300,000 should pay for a three-bedroom villa nearby.
Additionally, no fewer than four airports lie less than 60 miles away – Milan Linate and Milan Malpensa, Bergamo's Orio Al Serio and Gabriele D'Annunzio in Brescia. One indicator to the rising allure of this hidden treasure is evident in the growing number of cars displaying foreign registration numbers on Iseo's charming streets in the holiday season.
Stefania Russo of Italian property finders The Property Organiser said: “We're advising our clients who are considering buying in that part of Italy to certainly consider Iseo. It's an area that is somewhat unknown, unspoilt by mass tourism and within easy reach of several airports as well as the Swiss border. We believe the market here can only rise over the coming years. "
To back up the point, property prices across the country's Lakes region fell by 4.2% – reaching nearly 9% in some towns overlooking Lake Maggiore, a study last year by property conglomerate Tecnocasa revealed. But Iseo was the best-performing lake, with a less-than 2% contraction.
The lake, also called Sebino, is found between Lakes Como and Garda and a few miles north of Brescia and Bergamo. Milan is some 50 miles south-west of the lake, or an hour by train and an hour and a half by car.
It is Italy’s seventh largest lake, some 24km by 5km and runs north to south. It is a relaxing retreat for swimmers, divers, sailors, windsurfers, water-skiers and anglers.
Iseo's waters enclose Mt Isola, home to 2,000 people and Southern Europe's largest inhabited lake island. The two-mile isle is linked to the shore by ferry services from a number of towns. With virtually no motor vehicles, Mt Isola is very tranquil and is tailor-made to be seen on cycle or foot, especially the paths that lead to Santuario della Ceriola, the church perched at the summit of the island. The island is also renowned for its net-making industry, which started with fishermen's nets but has now expanded to include sporting nets for volleyball and tennis.
Returning to the lake's shores, the eastern banks house the prettiest towns and villages, such as Sulzano, Sale Marasino and Iseo, with a steeper, rockier landscape on the opposite shores. Iseo is home to the greatest number of things to see, including an unfinished 900-year old church.
The surrounding countryside has several charming medieval buildings that can be found on foot, bike or horseback. And in winter, Montecampione is famous for its skiing. Take into account that this bordering an Alpine region, some riding and trekking trails are steep and can be daunting for non-experienced trekkers and cyclists.