Floating art lets people walk on water at Italy's Lake Iseo

Well, sort of.

The Floating Piers, an artwork which moves with the waves, stretches across the lake linking two islands to the mainland -- transforming the otherwise tranquil island of Monte Isola into a tourist hot-spot for 16 days this summer.

The free installation opened on June 18, but its popularity has exceeded organizers' expectations.

Some 270,000 people turned up in the first five days, meaning that the attraction has had to be closed between midnight and 6 a.m. to allow for cleaning and repair of wear and tear.

Made by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the golden walkway is made from floating polystyrene docks topped with 100,000 square meters of shimmering golden yellow fabric, a stark contrast to the green mountainous landscape that surrounds the lake.

"We chose this lake because of its marvelous location, the islands reach hundreds of meters above the sea and only 2,000 people live there," says Bulgarian-American artist Christo, who conceived of the idea back in 1970 together with his now late wife, Jeanne-Claude.

Tranquility and elements of nature

There are few cars on Monte Isola, which is the largest island on Lake Iseo.

Here, people use bikes or Vespas, or simply walk.

A ferry service connects its only town to the mainland -- an apt choice for the open-air installation which the artist hopes will encourage the simple joys of taking a walk amidst all the elements of nature.

The installation connects the lake's two islands to the mainland.

The installation connects the lake's two islands to the mainland.

"It's the real thing. And it attracts people who really appreciate that," Christo tells CNN.

"For two to three kilometers there will be real wind, real sun, real water. It is all real. Jean-Claude and myself loved that," he adds.

He says their goal was always to create beautiful and joyous art which is free and open to the public.

And it certainly looks like fun.

Visitors can step onto the piers at the mainland, take a brisk walk over to Monte Isola island, then hike up the hill and see the installation from above.

The more adventurous can descend on the other side of the island and continue across the water out to San Paolo, a tiny island with only one house, now framed by the installation.

New perspectives

After the sensory experience on the lake, the view from the mountains also gives the landscape new angles and perspectives.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have had projects in Italy before.

In the 1970s they wrapped a 820-foot-long section of the Aurelian Walls in Rome in rope and fabric for the installation The Wall.

It's always been Christo and his late wife's policy to fund all their public projects themselves and take no money from grants or the state.

"There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone," says Christo.

The sleepy village of Peschiera Maraglio on Lake Isola.

The sleepy village of Peschiera Maraglio on Lake Isola.

The 16-meter-wide installation extends for three kilometers across the lake and continues along 2.5 kilometers of the narrow pedestrian streets in the lakeside villages Sulzano and Peschiera Maragl, on Monte Isola.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

Just like all previous works by Christo and Jean-Claude, The Floating Piers is a once in a lifetime experience.

On July 3, the material will be recycled into something else -- a short but sweet way to present what could be 81-year-old Christo's last work.

"Our works are nomadic, just like people. They appear somewhere for a short time and then they are gone forever."


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