Bronte is the home of pistachio and if you want to eat this delicious nut on the spot, namely in this picturesque and ancient Sicilian village, you must read this travel guide, where you’ll find many interesting things about the town of Sicily’s pistachio.
The town of Bronte is a municipality of Italy located in the province of Catania. The village has less than 20000 inhabitants and lies on the slopes of Etna volcano, 760 meters above the sea level. Bronte stretches just on the west slopes of Etna and it is included in the Park of this mount and in the park of the Nebrodi mountains. Its economy is based on farming, especially on the growing of pistachio nuts, which, thanks to the typical climate of Etna have a particular taste and a particular green colour. I’ll discuss about Bronte pistachio in another post, in the meanwhile, I want you to better know this charming Sicily’s town.
Te city of Bronte was created in 1520, thanks to a decree of Emperor Charles V of Habsburg. Indeed, during the Middle Age, there were small 24 urban districts in this territory that belonged to a Benedictine Abbey in Maniace. Giorgio Maniace was one of the soldiers who defeated the Arabs in 1040, making flow their blood in a torrent near an ancient religious abbey, built with the shape of a magnificent castle. Bronte is also one of the first British Duchy in Sicily. In 1799, in fact, British admiral Horatio Nelson was appointed duke by Ferdinand I; the king of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The appointment was carried out through a relevant donation of lands, where, among them, there were the Castle, namely the former Abbey, afterward known as Nelson’s Castle, and the church of Saint Mary, in the surroundings of Maniace.
In the previous year, in 1798, the king Ferdinand was forced to leave Naples, in order to dodge the violent revolts of his enemies. He was helped just by admiral Nelson in this escaping. Nelson helped the King to move from Naples to Palermo. In 1799, always thanks the help of Nelson, the King regained his throne and thanked the admiral with the above mentioned donation. Nelson could choose among several lands and Sicilian places, but he preferred Bronte. The reason of this choice has not clear, yet. Maybe it was because Nelson had an only eye, as the Greek Cyclops Polyphemus, where Bronte took the name after, or because of the magnificence of Etna mount that towering on the town, or because of the healthy climate of this place. It is probable that the admiral identified himself with the Cyclops. Indeed, Nelson lost an eye in 1794, after a battle. Bronte was also partially damaged by several volcanic earthquakes caused by Etna mount, but fortunately, this village has always been succeed to survive and thrive and be the picturesque town you can visit in every season. As regards the history, the town is also remembered for a bloody fact called the massacre of Bronte, occurred on August, 8, 1860, during a local revolt followed to the Landing of the Thousand. That is a very controversial episode. During this revolt, 16 people were murdered. The troops headed by Nino Bixio, were in charge of establishing back the dictatorship of Garibaldi. Indeed, they made summary arrests among the villagers of Bronte and, after a short trial, five alleged murderers were sentenced to the death and shot. The revolt blasted because after his arrival, on May 11, 1860, Garibaldi promised to free Sicilians from misery, starvation and poverty, but the promise was not kept, raising the rebellion of many Sicilians, including the inhabitants of Bronte. That is a very sad episode in the history of my beloved Sicily and proves that politics never keeps its promises, even the ones made by famous Garibaldi!
The origin of the name of Bronte
A legend tells that the town was founded by a Cyclopes called Bronte, which means thunder. Bronte and his brothers Sterope (flash) and Piracmon (burning anvil) served Vulcano god. They were convicted to work in the smithy of the god, inside the depths of Etna to build the thunders for Zeus and the weapons for the heroes. These Cyclopes were the first artisans of Bronte and one of them gave his name to the village.
What to see in Bronte
The village is plunged into a lush green. It seems nearly suspended amid the woods, so that it offers you a really awesome scenic effect. In Bronte, the points of interests are Nelson’s castle (see the image above), local churches, such as the capuchin church and the Real Collegio Capizzi. The castle of Nelson existed before the arrival of the admiral and was built like an abbey in the XII century by Queen Marguerite of Navarra as homage to the Virgin Mary. Outside, the castle is surrounded by a large park or courtyard, while, inside, it is enriched with many frescoes. According to a legend, one of them was made by Saint Luke. The adjacent cemetery also contains the grave of Scottish poet William Sharp who lived in the castle. The tomb has an entirely black cross in lava stone. The main street of Bronte is Corso Umberto. Stroll it and you’ll see the framed flagstones in lava stone that paved the street. Take you time to admire the downtown, it is really picturesque, then arrive in Spedalieri square, the most important one in Bronte.
There, you’ll find the Real Collegio Capizzi, a cultural center created by priest Eustachio Capizzi in the XVIII century to fight illiteracy among the local population. Inside this monument, you’ll discover a magnificent library (see the image above). Unfortunately, the castle of Nelson is closed for renovation works and you currently can take images of the external park. For a guided tour to capuchin church and the external park of Nelson’s castle, the ticket is three euros, free for disabled people and for over 65 year visitors.
Always in Bronte, in a district called Cantera, you can visit the stunning museum of the traditional Sicilian chariot. The museum contains over 300 models of Sicily’s chariots (see the image below).
For more information about guided tours in Bronte, you can contact this phone number: 0039 095/690018. That is the phone number of the tourist office of Bronte.
The village also is in a strategic position to explore Etna Mount and visit the nearby town of Taormina. With only a few kms of drive you can easily reach the beaches of Catania and the wonderful shorelines of Taormina and Giardini Naxos. Hills, mountains and beaches are at your disposal starting just from Bronte. While you are there, you’ll enjoy a typical Mediterranean weather, and the healthy and fresh air of the mountain, the same air that lets pistachio grow. The waterfalls are the other interesting things you can see in Bronte.
The waterfalls of Bronte give rise to a nature reserve called Gorges of Lava or “U’ bazu a Cantira” in Sicilian. That is a chain of gorges originated by Simeto river. The reserve protects a long stretch of the river, where the lava of Etna overcame the same river and shaped stunning gorges made of lava stone. It is simply a deep bay that Simeto river dug over the centuries on the most ancient lava flows of the Etna hinterland, creating grottos, inlets, ponds and waterfall engraved in the black of the basalt, shaping a picturesque and awesome landscape. The zone of Bronte represents the initial part of the river. It is surely the wildest, where the waters creates wonderful games of balance ad mastery along with the dark lava of Etna and where the human gaze remains surely astonished by the power of this river, despite of the continual damages that Mankind caused to our environment. The reserve is bordered by a Norman bridge that rides an ancient mill and a small church, namely the church of Serravalle. Following this path, and the road climbing Reitano mount, you’ll see a breathtaking landscape in front of your eyes: the one of the large valley of Bronte and Etna mount. From the Norman Bridge in Serravalle and the one in Cantera, the namesake districts a few kms away from Bronte that you can easily reach by car, you can also see the initial part of the gorge (see the image above). The lava gorges start with a high cliff and a wild ravine called by the locals “U bazu a Cantira (The leap of Cantera). There, under the bridges of Cantera and Serravalle, Simeto and Troina rivers fall foamy onto the lava and onto the blocks of sandstone, giving rise to the wonderful waterfalls of Bronte.
Restaurants in Bronte
In Bronte you can eat delicious local dishes seasoned with the famous local pistachio. You’ll find pistachios nuts in the ice cream, but also in steaks topped with pistachio flour breadcrumbs. If you want to taste the true local dishes of Bronte, I advise that you go to Il Fiorentino restaurant. This restaurant is located near Simeto river and the Castle of Nelson. The restaurant is a tavern, in reality. It is run by a local family. They offer you only delicious seasonal dishes with Bronte pistachio, such as macaroni with pistachio (see the image). For the owners of the restaurant, cooking is not only eating, it is poetry, above all! The tavern is also furnished with a rustic Sicilian style, to offer you the entire warm and the tradition of my beloved island.
Hotels and accommodations in Bronte
I know than many of you are looking for houses or apartment for sales in Bronte, but I advise that you visit this village before buying a property. Try to stay a bit of more than usual, to appreciate every corner of this town. Fortunately, hotels, apartments, B &B, guest houses and accommodations in Bronte are not so expensive and you can take advantage to visit this picturesque village in every season. By the way, at the end of September and the early days of October, you can also attend the festival of Pistachio. That is the most important autumn festival in the town and in Sicily. The festival could be a great occasion to visit Bronte and taste the delicious pistachio for free! Accommodations in Bronte have a terrace overlooking Etna mount, to enjoy the unforgettable landscape of this zone and the fresh scent of Sicily’s woods. In autumn, the reservation prices of Bronte hotels start from 46 euros per night, with an average price of 60-70 euros per night. To book your favourite hotel or accommodation in Bronte, click here, where I selected the best accommodations for you. On the link, you can also book hotels with external pool for your summer vacation in the town. To reach the village, instead, book a flight to Catania airport on the widget you’ll find on my blog. Once you are in Catania, you can also book a taxi that leads you to your accommodation in Bronte. As you can see, visiting Bronte is very easy. Start your tour now and send me a comment about your travel experience to Bronte. I’ll be happy to publish it.
Photocredits in order of appearance:
Bronteinsieme.it (2 images – Etna pistachio and library)
Ralf Deuster Flickr
Enrico Cartia Flickr
Booking.com Casa Etna Bronte