The Floating Piers of Lake Iseo

A weekend trip in a modern day VW Bus

The Floating Piers of Lake Iseo

It was my first trip to Italy. We left shortly after twelve noon from the small, southern German city of Ulm. Our group was an international one, representing four countries and four continents: Germany, Japan, Argentina, and the USA. Altogether, five new friends excited about a weekend away from the routine. We were ready to hit the road, traverse the Alps, and arrive in Italy to see an art installation constructed by Christo. At the time, I don’t think I truly appreciated the significance of what we were going to see.

NuNu is the VW Bus pictured here. He was our transportation, our accommodation, and he is somewhat of a local legend in Ulm. We arrived late the first night. A bit after 9 P.M. Rain started to fall on the roof almost immediately after arriving. In Germany, the sound of rain falling is something you get used to, but in Italy, we were hoping to be spared the rain. Luckily, it only lasted a few minutes.

We woke up early the next day (well, I didn’t wake up quite so early, but the girls did) and took in our surroundings in daylight for the first time. When you arrive at a place after nightfall, you don’t really get an idea of where you are. Everything is black. When you wake up, the sun reveals the whole place. There’s something about the smell of the crisp, early morning summer air that you can’t duplicate in any other season. Maybe it’s the smell of fresh lawn clippings, or morning dew. It’s one of those precious, simple pleasures in life. We ate breakfast, took showers, packed our bags, and off we went.

The idea to go see the “Floating Piers” came about casually. It was mentioned in passing, “Hey, what are you doing next weekend? Want to go to Italy?” I said yes, because who wouldn’t want to go to Italy? I had never heard of the artist Christo before the suggestion to take this trip. I know I wasn’t the only in the group who was surprised when we came upon this crowd waiting in line to enter the piers:

Estimates were for 200,000 visitors in total over the two week exhibition. 50,000 showed up on the first day.

Christo, the Bulgarian-American artist, first began planning this project 50 years ago. Originally he intended to locate the piers in Rio de La Plata, South America, then Tokyo Bay. After plans fell through in both locations, he decided on Lake Iseo in the Lombardy region of Italy. Once Christo decided on Lake Iseo, the piers took a relatively short 22 months to complete.

It’s not only the final, tangible result of this project that could be considered art. These floating walkways that resemble the saffron robes of Tibetan monks are a sight to see, that’s unquestionable. But dig a little deeper, and you discover that the entire process is an exercise in creativity. According to an article from FastCompany Design, Christo used “a team of engineers, French divers, and a team of Bulgarian athletes — working as literal manpower in an eccentric touch by Christo — to help construct the piece.”

Christo emphasizes the fleeting nature of his artwork, saying:

“The important part of this project is the temporary part, the nomadic quality. The work needs to be gone, because I do not own the work, no one does. This is why it is free.”

The five of us spent the entire day strolling around those piers, taking in the sun, and enjoying conversation. People from all over the world had come out to see this vision-turned-reality. I heard Italian, German, French, Spanish, English and a few other languages that my ear didn’t recognize. At the end of the day, we settled down in a small Italian restaurant on the roadside heading back to our campsite. The meal was delicious and the conversation equally as good. We hit the road the next morning lucky enough to have experienced this unique, impermanent, and visionary work of art.

I’ve been inspired by so many interesting people willing to share their thoughts. I want to do the same. I hope this writing makes you stop and say, “That’s interesting.” If so, click the green heart below and spread the interestingness.

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