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Between past and present

Iseo_PiazzaGaribaldiIseo, on the south-eastern shore, is the town after which the lake is named. It also includes the inhabitants of Clusane and Cremignane to the south and Covelo and Pilzone to the north. Iseo is a small town which has developed round an old medieval village. The centre of the town is Piazza Garibaldi; in the middle of the square there is a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi standing on top of a moss-covered tuff base.

It was the first Italian monument (1883) to be dedicated to the “hero of the two worlds” and is the work of the Veronese sculptor,  P. Bordini. Overlooking the square is the austere town hall with its clock, which was designed by the architect, R. Vantini, and completed in 1833.

The building on the south side of the square with its portico reveals some frescoes which remind us of its medieval origins. The waters in the nearby harbour, which was once fortified, flowed into the present day square, lapping against galleries and walls.
Proceeding with your back to Garibaldi, the square leads into Piazza dello Statuto and, not far to the right of this square, you can see the Arsenal.

The building known as the Palazzo delle Milizie (the Hall of the Military forces) or dell’Arsenale (of the Arsenal) was initially a storehouse and later the residence of the Oldofredi family. It became the property of the municipality in 1619 and was adapted to be used as a prison from the early 19th century until 1980, when the ancient loggia and the 15th-century arcade were restored. Exhibitions and cultural events organized by the “Centro Culturale l'Arsenale” are held on the ground floor.

Back in Piazza Garibaldi, take the arcade to the north which leads you into Via Mirolte and on the left there is the 14th-century chiesetta di S. Maria del Mercato ( the little church of  St. Mary of the Market). Once the private chapel of the Oldofredi family, it was later entrusted to the Minorites from the Convent of St. Francis. Restoration in 1979 brought to light 15th-century frescoes which had been partially covered in 1700 by a Via Crucis, the work of an artist from Iseo called Voltolini.

Further up Via Mirolte on the right Iseo Castle can be seen. Of the original building, built before 1161, only the thick stone walls and the four towers in the corners of the rectangular floor plan remain. The castle used toIseo_CastelloOldofredi be enclosed by external walls but, after being demolished and rebuilt by different owners in a series of alternating events, it was turned into a convent for Capuchin monks in 1585 and so it remained until1797.

On the way back to Piazza Garibaldi you come to Via Rampa dei Cappuccini on your left and, turning into this street, you find the long flight of steps up to the castle entrance which was once protected by a drawbridge.
From the entrance, where there is a courtyard with a well in the middle, 17th-century frescoes can be seen on the surrounding walls. Going up the staircase on the left to the second floor there is a portrait of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. Today some of the rooms are used by the town library.
From the castle you carry on along Via Rampa dei Cappuccini as far as the shrine of S. Maria della Neve (St Mary of the Snow). The church is situated on the spot where, in ancient times, there was a shrine to the Madonna and where, during the plague of 1637, people used to worship an affresco of the Madonna and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood used to meet to recite the rosary and sing litanies. There are three marble altars and various relics to admire in the church, as well as a picture of the Madonna in a glass case over the main altar.

Going back to Via Mirolte and retracing your steps, you come to the crossroads with Via della Pieve which leads to the Pieve di S. Andrea (The Parish Church of St. Andrew). Tradition has it that the first stone was placed by the Bishop of Brescia, St. Vigilius (patron saint of Iseo), who took refuge here in the 6th century in order to escape from the barbarians.

The Romanesque bell-tower over the main doorway dates back to the 12th century and is a real architectural jewel.  It reveals the Lombard origins of its workers. On the right-hand side of the façade there is the Gothic sarcophagus of Giacomo Oldofredi, probably the founder of this family and lord of Iseo and Franciacorta, who had the walls of Iseo built. He died in 1325 and the inscription on the tombstone commemorates his feats.
The 18th-century Church of  S. Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) stands opposite the parish church. On the right, behind an 18th-century house, the church of S.Silvestro dei Disciplini (St. Sylvester of  the Flagellants*) is to be found (13th century).

Iseo_ArsenaleIf you carry on along Via Pusterla and then take the footpath on the left which runs alongside the stream called Curtelo, you come out at the hospital which incorporates the former Franciscan monastery. From the lakeside to the left of the hospital you can admire, from left to right, the Corno di Predore (the Horn of Predore) which plunges down into the water, the little island of S. Paolo (St. Paul), Montisola and the Montecolo peninsula. Monte Guglielmo (Mount William) soars up on the horizon, dominating the northern end of the lake with its 1948 metres.

It only takes a moment to walk along the lakeside as far as the harbour, porto Gabriele Rosa, where there is a bust dedicated to this illustrious historian and patriot from Iseo who wrote one of the first guidebooks about Lake Iseo in 1874.

Following the footway which runs alongside the waters of the lake, you come to the old spinning mill, now a court with shops and cafés, and then on to the refurbished secondary school complex.

*A medieval religious congregation that practised self-flagellation