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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Hiking to the Sanctuary on the Summit of Monte Isola

On our last full day in Italy, we decided to end it with a hike to the sanctuary on the highest point of Monte Isola. If you missed the post all about Monte Isola (Europe's largest lake island), you can read it here. While a relatively easy afternoon hike for Adam and I, the elevation and distance was going to prove to be a hurdle for our three year old. Our original plan was to take the bus most of the way, to the last stop on the island for the shuttle in the town of Cure. From there, it would be about a 20 minute walk along the trail to the sanctuary. 

Our plan started to get a bit muddled when we started to plan out the details. Information on the shuttle schedule is very confusing (remember, not a touristy place) and the sign on the ferry made it seem like the shuttle to Cure was a continuous thing. Turns out, we missed the first shuttle and then found out it would be over an hour for the next one. The real kicker? The next shuttle was also after the sanctuary gates closed at 6pm, defeating the whole point of the hike. The good news was that I had packed my Omnibaby kid carrier and we also had or Cybex Libelle travel stroller and just decided to hike a bit, enjoy the view, and turn around when we felt like it.


Once we started, the motivation kicked right in and we decided to keep going, and going, and going. Up we hiked, with Whitney on my back, Adam carrying the travel stroller, pushing him when the trail evened out enough. We laughed and sweat our way up the mountain, in disbelief we were hiking the entire way carrying Whitney, racing against the clock to reach the sanctuary before the gates closed.

About the hike
The trail starts near Peschiera Maraglio as you follow the set of stairs leading from the tourists office. Cross the road and from here, the trail is easy to follow as you follow a series of stairs and a dirt trail up into the woods. The trail is absolutely beautiful, climbing up the island with sweeping views of the lake as you go. The quiet trail eventually starts to switch back up the mountain, climbing to the village of Cure before heading back onto a mix of stone and dirt trail. 

The trail signage is clear, showing the time to the summit instead of miles which I found odd and helpful. There are two routes once you approach the village of Cure. The longer way is heading right up a "mule track" right before the village. The shorter way is crossing through Cure to a smaller mule track into the woods. We went up the longer way and back the shorter way and I can confirm both ways are clearly marked. At the end of the trail, you will be welcomed by the gates of the the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola. There are panoramic views of the island and a spot to have a picnic, use the bathroom (turkish toilets) or even grab a drink. The church was originally called Santa Maria de Curis and as the first parish church on the entire island, dates back to 1410.

Distance: 3.3 miles  *with a one way bus ride down from Cure and a loop at the top. All Trails has 3.5 miles RT as the quickest out and back

Elevation gained: 1,312 feet

We checked the bus schedule posted at the bus stations (the most reliable way to figure out any bus schedule) and ended up hiking back down to the town of Cure and catching the last bus down from Cure to the ferry area, happy we didn't have to lug the heavy toddler back down the trail. 

We loved this hike, taking in the beautiful views of the island as we climbed up the trail to the sanctuary. Every night, we saw the light on the sanctuary shining from the summit and it felt fitting to take in the view from the top on our last full day on the island. If you find yourself in the quiet lake area of Iseo, a trip to Isola is a must, and a trip to the sanctuary by foot or by bus is the best way to take it all in.

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