My experience on the Floating Piers on Lake Iseo was not the happiest. It was very tiring and a bit unsuccessful.
The Floating Piers is a work by the Bulgarian-American artist Christo on Lake Iseo. It consists in 3 kilometers of polyethylene boardwalk (covered in a yellow tissue) that connects Sulzano, a small village on the shores of the lake, to Monte Isola and another small and private island. The work of art is free, open to public and walkable for about 2 weeks, from June 18th to July 3rd, 2016.
I went there yesterday, Wednesday, in the afternoon, because I was told that it’s less crowded in the afternoon and on weekdays. Yesterday it was not. It was crazy. We could tell it from the traffic on the road to get to the Lake. From home it took us three hours instead of two. You can’t drive into Sulzano, from where the Floating Piers start, which is a very small village and couldn’t welcome all the people flocking to the work of art. So there are other options to get there: you can either drive or take a train to one of the other villages around the lake and from there take a bus, a ferry or a train to Sulzano or Monte Isola. But none of those ways of transport is simple (or guarantee you will be able to get to the Floating Piers); most ferries are booked, buses are slow, trains are irregular. We went to Marone, north of Sulzano, because I was told that from the northern part of the lake it’s easier to get to Sulzano than from Iseo, in the South, where most people go. Still, we had to wait for one hour for the train from Marone to Sulzano, because Sulzano was congested, and people were not allowed in for some time. Once we got to Sulzano, the situation was even worse. We had to queue for almost 3 hours before we could get onto the boardwalk. I admired all those kids that queued with us, they were very brave.
While on the queue, we heard some people that left Bologna at 7 am; they were queuing with us at 9 pm because once in Brescia they were told that Sulzano was closed. They had to wait various hours in Brescia before they could come to the lake.
We got onto the Floating Piers at 9.30 pm. And we could only stay for about 10 minutes, because it was late and probably the last train back to Marone was at 10.20 pm. I say “probably” because nothing seemed to be clear and certain. On the timetable at the station the last train was specified at 10.20, but the lady that sold us the tickets said the last train was at midnight. To be on the safe side, and not to have to walk 1 hour and a half back, we decided to take the train earlier. And anyway we had 2 more hours drive to go home, it was getting really late.
It was nice to walk on the Floating Piers. Nothing really exciting though; I think most people like the idea of being part of something that has been publicized so much. I like that you can walk to an island when normally you can only take a ferry there. But I would have liked to enjoy it for longer; the plan was to be there by 5 or max 6 pm, and walk a couple of hours.
Why are the Floating Piers so popular? Or crowded? Probably if they were there for more than 2 weeks, the visits wouldn’t be so concentrated. So, why is it available only for 2 weeks? Is it because it needs lots of maintenance? Or because the holiday season has started and the hotels by the lake need some quiet for their guests? I don’t know.
Anyway, I have just checked the live camera of the square in front of the city hall where we spent 2 hours yesterday, and there’s no queue at all today. So I was really unlucky. And I’m even more upset. I wish I had gone today instead. What I complain about is that there was not enough information. Yesterday, in the morning, before we started our trip to Sulzano, I checked the official website of the Floating Piers; there’s a “news” section and the last news was from June 25th (yesterday it was the 29th); no news about a congestion in town, so I thought that everything was fine. If I had been advised that it was particularly crowded, I wouldn’t have gone and like me I think many people. Probably not those that left at 7 am to get there, but those living a bit closer like me, I’m sure they would have preferred to go today and spend less time on a queue.
I also lament that after so many hours of queue you still had to wait to leave Sulzano. To go north it was ok, we “only” had to wait for 40 minutes (the train was actually at 10.40, not 10.20 as on the timetable ). But the queue to go to Iseo and Brescia was crazy. Why can’t you arrange more trains when you know that there are so many people that want to leave the town? I felt like the whole thing was really badly organized.
Maybe they weren’t expecting so many people, but they could have done something to improve the situation. They could at least have avoided more waiting for those that wanted to leave this unrepeatable (because it’s extremely exciting or extremely tiring, it’s up to you) experience, the Floating Piers.