Lonely Planet Writer

Huge art installation allows you to walk on water in the Italian Lakes

Artist Christo and his team are finishing off an enormous art installation that promises to alter the landscape of Italy’s Lake Iseo for 16 days starting on 18 June: a bright yellow floating walkway linking two islands in the centre of the lake with the mainland.

Lake Iseo with the town of Sulzano in the foreground, the island of Monte Isola in the center and the island of San Paolo on the left
Lake Iseo with the town of Sulzano in the foreground, the island of Monte Isola in the center and the island of San Paolo on the left Image by Wolfgang Volz

The Floating Piers art installation is 3km long, 16 metres wide and 50 centimetres high, made from 220,000 interlocking polyethylene cubes.

The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service
The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service Image by Wolfgang Volz

Christo and his team have been assembling the walkways since last November. Hot air balloons were used to move 190 concrete anchors into place at the bottom of the lake and divers connected the walkway to the anchors. Now the finishing touches are being added, with special sewing machines used to cover the walkways in swathes of deep yellow fabric.

Workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes before the yellow fabric is installed
Workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes before the yellow fabric is installed
Image by Wolfgang Volz

When it opens the installation is expected to draw half a million visitors to the little known Italian lake. Entrance is free, with the €15m cost of the project paid for by the Bulgarian artist. Christo is most famous for wrapping Berlin’s Reichstag building in silvery fabric and filling New York’s Central Park with 7500 saffron-coloured gateways.

Workers start to encircle the island of San Paolo with the first floating elements, April 2016
Workers start to encircle the island of San Paolo with the first floating elements, April 2016
Image by Wolfgang Volz

According to the 80-year-old artist, strolling along his paths will feel ‘very sexy, a bit like walking on a waterbed’ or like ‘walking on the back of a whale’. He chose Lake Iseo for its calm waters and beautiful setting amongst the foothills of the Italian Alps.

One by one, workers install the 100 by 16 meter sections to connect the island of San Paolo with the island of Monte Isola
One by one, workers install the 100 by 16 meter sections to connect the island of San Paolo with the island of Monte Isola Image by Wolfgang Volz

The shimmering yellow pathway extends through the streets of Sulzano on the mainland, across the water to Monte Isola island and then branches towards the tiny island of San Paolo, which is completely encircled.

Workers start to encircle the island of San Paolo with the first floating elements, April 2016
Workers start to encircle the island of San Paolo with the first floating elements, April 2016
Image by Wolfgang Volz