High above the terracotta rooftops of Varenna, the imposing Castello di Vezio offers magnificent views over Lake Como. The 13th-century building was once part of a chain of early-warning medieval watchtowers. Get there by taking a steep cobblestone path (about a half-hour hike) from Olivedo (the northern end of Varenna) to Vezio. You can also take a path (around 40-minutes' walk) along the Sentiero Scabium, reached by taking the uphill ramp just opposite the Villa Monastero.
You can clamber up the stairs to check out temporary exhibitions – a curious display on the lariosaurus, a diminutive dinosaur that once resided in the area, was on display when we were there. Today's animal residents are birds of prey. The castle hosts regular falconry displays in the afternoons – daily except Tuesdays and Fridays. Call for times (usually between 2.30 and 4.30pm, depending on the day and season).
A few steps from the castle, the tiny hamlet of Vezio is thought to have Etruscan origins. It's worth having a poke about its narrow lanes.