BRONTE, CITY OF NATURE AND CULTURE
"We must go to Bronte to enjoy the most wonderful view of Etna", wrote the philosopher and writer from Bronte Giuseppe Cimbali (1858 - 1924).
Widely known to be the "City of Pistachio", Bronte is situated in an area of extraordinary beauty, which falls within the Etna Park, the first Sicilian natural park established in 1987, and the Parco dei Nebrodi, the largest protected area in Sicily. There are several naturalistic attractions, such as the Bosco di Centorbi, an evergreen oak wood that surrounds the craters of the western slope of Etna, and the Forre Laviche del Simeto, gorges carved in basalt by the river Simeto.
The city of Bronte was founded in 1520 by the union of twenty-four farms of peasants and shepherds, ordered by Emperor Charles V. It has undergone two eruptions events of Etna: one in 1651, which partially damaged it, and one in 1843, remembered for the violent explosion caused by the contact of the lava with an aquifer, which caused the death of many inhabitants.
Its historical center preserves valuable historical and artistic testimonies: the sixteenth-century Chiesa Madre dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the oldest church in Bronte and the most important from an architectural and historical point of view; the Santuario of Maria SS. Annunziata of 1535, which houses a marble group dedicated to the Annunciation by Antonello Gagini; the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, with the seventeenth-century lava stone bell tower; the eighteenth-century Real Collegio Capizzi, which made Bronte the major cultural center in Sicily for over two centuries, and which houses the Library, with over 21 thousand volumes (including scientific, literary, philosophical and theological texts), and the Pinacoteca "Nunzio Sciavarrello", a famous artist from Bronte who donated to the Collegio his precious collection of graphic and pictorial works by the great masters of the twentieth century.
Do not miss a visit to Nelson's Castle (or Ducea), about 13 km away from the center. Dating back to the Norman period (1174), it was donated in 1799 to the British admiral Horatio Nelson from Ferdinando I delle Due Sicilie, together with the title of Duke of Bronte. Sold to the City of Bronte in 1981 by the last heir of Nelson, the English Castle is now a Museum and is located inside the big Benedictine Abbey of the twelfth century, with the ancient Church of Santa Maria di Maniace, whose remains include the aisles, a splendid Gothic-Norman portico and the Byzantine icon painted, according to legend, by San Luca. Behind the church there are two Medieval towers of the ancient castle, and a large English park, which houses a real "museum en plein air", an avenue of art full of sculptures, accessible through thematic itineraries. In the park, there is also a small cemetery, where a Celtic cross in black stone of Etna stands out, which indicates the burial of the Scottish poet William Sharp (1855-1895), an exponent of English romanticism. In addition to the stately apartments of Nelson, it is possible to visit the whole complex, which is also seat of a multi-purpose cultural center of studies, congresses and exhibitions.
Visiting Bronte allows a real immersion in ancient colors and stories, of which even today its territory shows evident signs. In Cantera district, for example, there is the Museo del Carretto Siciliano “Gullotti", dedicated to one of the most famous and important symbols of the island’s folklore, which exhibits a collection of wonderful Sicilian carts, carriages and calashes, as well as about 300 pieces including various parts of the cart, ornaments for horses, plumes and all the necessities of the "Sicilian carter". Starting from the founder Don Carmelo Gullotti (professional carter), the Gullotti family has been taking care of this collection for more than sixty years, providing visitors with their experience and knowledge of techniques, anecdotes, habits and customs concerning this unique means of transport that, in 1885, Guy De Maupassant defined "a moving rebus".
IIn Piana Cuntarati District there is the Ethno-anthropological Museum (also called the Museum of the ancient local civilization), which is housed in the eighteenth-century large farm Masseria Lombardo, where domestic environments of the agricultural world and small artisan shops are reconstructed (the blacksmith, the farrier, the shoemaker , the carpenter), and which exhibits objects, furnishings and work tools used by farmers between 1700 and 1900. Inside the farm, you can also admire a building of the Arab era, which was used as paper mill, for wool processing and tannery leathers, brought to light in the seventies of the last century, as partially overwhelmed by the lava flow in 1651.
Bronte is the birthplace of the philosopher Nicola Spedalieri (Bronte 1740 - Rome 1795), the first in Italy who talked about human rights and proclaimed the sacredness of the principles of equality and freedom. During the Risorgimento it has been the scene of many events aimed at affirming the principles of independence, including "The Facts of Bronte". In August 1860, during the Expedition of the Thousand, after the landowners occupied the lands, some Bronte people killed sixteen "hats", members of the local nobility and bourgeoisie. The revolt was suppressed by the commander of the Garibaldi troops Nino Bixio and, after a trial, five alleged perpetrators were shot.
Bronte is well-known in the world for being, above all, the homeland of the famous Pistachio of Bronte P.D.O., characterised by unique organoleptic properties. Every year, between September and October, the Pistachio Festival is an unmissable opportunity to taste the sweet and savory delicacies made with the precious "green gold" of Etna.