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Walking on the lake with Christo

Elisabeth Lang, special to eTN, reporting from Italy  Jun 21, 2016

ITALY (eTN) - More than 500,000 visitors are expected, and many of them drove all night to get there in time for the official opening of artist Christo’s most spectacular and latest installation on Lake Iseo, Northern Italy. But they all had to wait. Italian Minister delle Rifome Maria Elena Boschi arrived after a 90-minute delay for the Inauguration of the Floating Piers, and she was greeted with a lot of boos and whistles, and she preferred not to speak to journalists.

The big art project on Lake Iseo, near Brescia in Northern Italy, opened Saturday and is made out of 200,000 plastic floating cubes covered in yellow nylon. It is called the Floating Piers.

One-hundred-and-ninety concrete anchors were flown in by hot air balloons, and these anchors were then dropped to the lake to hold the bridge together.

The work of the gigantic installation started in November. After looking at various venues in Japan and around the globe for some years, Christo decided to have the installation set up in Italy in the rather remote location of Lake Iseo in Northern Italy. There was a lot of support for his project here.

The Floating Piers, built on water, connects Montisola and the island of San Paolo to Sulzano. It is open 24 hours a day and entry is free of charge.

The installation, which cost about ‚ā¨ 15 million, has been paid for entirely by Christo. He has something of divine status on Lake Iseo, but he is not exactly a benefactor, since he will make money from the sale of sketches and plans which were exhibited, along with all his books and sketches at the international art fair, Art Basel. The work is dedicated to his wife and muse, Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009.

Now that the ‚ÄúSunset Boulevard‚ÄĚ has arrived on Lake Iseo, Hollywood celebrities are due to arrive, such as Leonardo Di Caprio (unconfirmed), and Brad Pitt, who at this time of year usually visits the Art Basel fair, as well as many reknowned international artists that are in Europe right now for the Art Basel fair.

They are rumors that Princess Caroline of Monaco may take a walk over the lake’s waters on Sunday, and is expected at Monte Isola the day after the opening of the walkway. The list of VIPs who want to see the Floating Piers also includes Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Christo‚Äôs magic installation is 3 miles, or 4.5 km, long and no more than 10,000 visitors are allowed on the Piers at the same time. Right at the beginning of the Floating Piers, a ‚ÄúConta Persone‚ÄĚ (a people counter) is in charge of counting to make sure that this number is not exceeded.

No high heels, no umbrellas, and no skates are allowed, and it is best to walk barefoot, suggests Christo.

During my visit on opening day, June 18, from midnight on Saturday into the early morning hours of Sunday (6 am), over 4,000 people had walked on the water of Lake Iseo.

Christo’s miracle and magic Sunset Boulevard will remain open 24 hours a day until July 3, 2016. On Sunday in the early evening, there were torrential rainfalls, and the exhibition was off limits, with people being evacuated. There is no problem with walking on the water on Christo’s work of art, but certainly no walking under water!

This Bulgarian artist living in New York has covered the German parliament in silver fabrics, and his sensational orange arches in New York’s Central Park brought glamour and color during the cold winter days of the famous city.

Italians are already praising him with ‚Äúgrazie Christo!‚ÄĚ which is not a religious claim but a great thank you to the grand artist Christo (age 81) for his fabulous idea and its realization by his own expense ‚Äď a truly artistic miracle!

The interest in Christo’s Floating Piers is simply magic. It is already at a much higher level than Milan EXPO last year - where hotels and restaurants showed less occupancy and foreigners avoided traveling to Milan.

Today, due to bad weather conditions, the Floating Piers had to close early on Sunday morning for 2 hours but then with triumphant applause the Floating Piers opened again to visitors coming from all over the world, but reportedly mainly from Europe hotels in the region.

This is a monumental experience for the hotels, restaurants, and most of all for the vineyards which are seeing huge numbers of guests and buyers due to the draw of the Floating Piers. With good weather to arrive in the coming days, there is hope that the infrastructures can cope with the great march on Lake Iseo. A hint for visitors: to avoid the long lines for chemical toilets, it might be a good idea not to drink too much water.

How to get there?

The best way to get to see Christo’s master work is by train. The Italian regional Trenord (Lombardy) has added more frequencies and is selling special tickets to the Floating Piers, Sulzano. The ticket cost per person is very reasonable to get from Milan to the art installation (110 km) or any other railway station served by Trenord.

Going by car is less fun, but there are huge parking lots and shuttle buses to the venue, although it is no fun getting to these parking lots, as one has to endure countless traffic jams, narrow roads, and long queues.

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Walking on the lake with Christo
Artist Christo standing on his Floating Piers / Photos courtesy of

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