Sunshine Gypsies :: Lake Iseo, Italy




























It turns out, September is the perfect time to travel in Italy. The crowds have dwindled, and it’s still warm and delicious.

Ten days ago, we left our beloved Granny Annie in Semriach, and headed south to Italy. We spent a night in Udine, then dropped by Verona on our way to Lake Iseo.

Verona was spectacularly busy, and beautiful. It was our first proper taste of Italy, and we trawled the old streets and piazzas, looking for coffee, pizza and toilets.

We’d pre-booked a campsite at Lake Iseo, at Camping Vela. Being off season, we scored the most incredible spot directly next to the lake {and the WiFi}. And to Franca!

Franca is the most wonderful elderly Italian woman who ever lived in a bright pink house, with canaries by a lake. She’s lived in her glorious abode for thirty years. We couldn’t speak much Italian, and she couldn’t speak any English, and yet we communicated through food and gifts. Almost every day, she brought us a home cooked meal and / or espresso coffee, and chocolates for the children. And she insisted we sit at her little yellow table setting directly by the lake. How did she know I love yellow? It’s funny how little things like getting a spot next to Franca can completely change your experience of Italy.

Also fortunate about our spot, other than being shaded by an olive tree, was the outlook. We were directly across from Monte Isola, said to be one of the most beautiful islands in Europe. Close by, was a tiny castle on a tiny island, blocking our view of the mine on the opposite side of the lake.

We spent days exploring the neighbouring villages. Our own village, Merano, had a patisserie bar, run by Joanna, whose sing-song intonation became more sing-song the longer our stay, and the more her affection for us grew. The number of lollies she gave the children also increased throughout the week. Oh, and the homemade gelato! Pistachio… We may or may not have eaten gelato every day of our stay.

We ate several times at the local pizzeria. The equivalent joint in Australia would be the local snack bar. But in Italy, everything seems better, and the pizza certainly tastes better than anything you’ve ever had. With kids, we liked eating surrounded by the bustle of comers and goers, rather than in a big restaurant.

Across the road was the local grocer. Again, the seller insisted on giving us gifts. Her store was lined with local produce – prosciutto, salami, cheese, fresh bread, marinated goodness… need I continue? I could live in that shop.

Lake Iseo feels like stumbling into a secret. The villages are so unassuming and quaint, away from busy roads. It’s only when you walk through them that you discover the cobbled streets, by the water, and see the detailed frescoes on the coloured buildings.

We ferried over to Monte Isola a couple of times, and fell in love with the villages rolling up the terraced hill. Over the course of a couple of days, we walked over fifteen kilometres through olive and chestnut orchards, overlooking the lake.

Elka meandered, telling stories much of the way. We entered the decadent churches, where they were open, and we stunned by the opulence, nestled within such small villages. Overcome by their beauty, Elka took to praying everywhere we went. She also collected flowers on the way, to leave offerings to her new God.

When at the campsite, the storytelling continued. I’d write a little, or read, while the girls sat on the pebbles below us, ‘telling Harry’.

Telling Harry began when I started reading Harry Potter to Elka a few months ago. Elka’s own place in the story is told in furious mutters, which last literally hours. ‘Elka, please put your shoes on.’ No answer. ‘Elka, please!’ ‘I can’t! I’m Telling Harry!’

Now Rosie’s Telling Harry too.

I suppose I did this too at some point, but I cannot get over their ability to spend hours literally kicking around, telling stories to themselves.

We said our farewells yesterday. Joanna gave the girls boxes of sweeties. The local grocer gave us jars of mint yoghurt. Franca wiped away tears. Bruno, the kind campsite director and Franca came to see us off.

I love how this little holiday unravelled so perfectly…

  • It sounds wonderful. I bet you’ll all have amazing stories to tell after this trip. I think staying with or near the locals makes such a difference to a trip. Dave and I stayed with an old Spanish couple in San Sebastian once and it felt much more authentic.