You have to really want to see the ruins of this 13th century castle because the hike is straight uphill along an old mule path, then (still uphill) on stone paths winding around houses inhabited by the town’s 50 residents. The good news is that it’s worth it.
If the terrific views won’t get you up there, how about a rare, enormous great horned owl named Artù? It’s sad to see him in a cage, but he is incredible to look at, especially when he spreads his wings.
Artù is not the only bird of prey in residence. Many birds live on the grounds as part of the falconry care and training center, whose daily 4:30 demonstration is a popular draw. We arrived too late to see them, as they retire to their nighttime area after the show ends.
Not much is known about the castle’s history. It was part of a chain of fortified watchtowers built around Lake Como in the Middle Ages, and was originally connected to a wall that extended to the lake. Back then, every village was surrounded by walls, and castles and towers served as lookouts.
Though the castle was not mentioned during the Ten Years’ War between Milan and Como (12th century), it existed. It survived upheaval in 1244 when Como invaded and defeated Varenna, then four years later when Varenna reclaimed the territory. After French and Spanish domination, the castle fell into various families’ hands, the last being Serbelloni, who owned it until the 19th century.
The mild weather from the lake encourages lush Mediterranean vegetation. A vast olive grove has grown up around the castle grounds.
There’s not much to see inside the castle, but climb the turret for a panoramic view of the lake.
Open March – November 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.