The first news about Bronte have now almost a thousand years old. It was 1094 when, in a document that concerned the Count Roger Bronte is listed as the border between the two territories. But still, at the time, it was not nothing but human settlements scattered. With a name, yes, but without any units. To get it to wait until 1535 when Charles V, returning from an expedition to Tunis, he ordered that 24 houses, all in the same territory, would stop being separate entities and become one community. That of Bronte, in fact.
In a census taken in 1548, in Bronte, there were just over three thousand inhabitants. In 1570, the year of the next census, Bronte had already exceeded the threshold of four. Proving a country can continue to grow. And, therefore, to pay increasingly large tribute.
It is because of a history so impressive and ancient Bronte carries on his shoulders all the signs of its past. From the narrow streets that end in small courtyards that recall the ancient Arab domination, after the expulsion of the Byzantines, to the texts of the writer Giovanni Verga Catania, who immortalized the uprising of the peasants against their traffickers, landowners, protected by men in red shirt led by Garibaldi - charge, in those years, to make the unification of Italy.
Bronte can, therefore, be seen in layers. Level after level, piece after piece of the history of history, to discover the complexity of a city perched on the lava of Etna. Visit Bronte means through the stages of power and domination, in a route varied and never boring. Passing through churches, museums, castles and ruins.
They belong to the category of the ruins of the Castle Torremuzza, Cattaino in the district, in the valley of Bolo. A fortress that stood on a rock, accessible only by one of the four sides, hanging over a hill. Although the remains current dating of the building oscillates between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD, the signs of a tower on the terrace suggest a past much older, probably Byzantine.
Not far from that of Torremuzza, there is the Castle of Bolo, on top of a hill between Bronte and Troina. Dating from the twelfth century AD, the Castle Bolo had to be, in reality, a fortress, built right on top of a hill. Probably it served to control the paths of Bronte arrived in Randazzo. If the entire structure there are only a few badly hewn stones, nothing remains of the house that, in all likelihood, the stood around.
Another power structure - this time wonderfully restored - is the castle of Maniace, otherwise known as the Duchy of Nelson. It located about 13 km from Bronte and initially was but a small altar dedicated to Our Lady. He had wanted the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace in 1040 to commemorate his victory against the Saracens. The church in which there was the small altar was made to incorporate in a Benedictine monastery, built about a century later at the behest of the Queen of Sicily Margaret of Navarre, wife of William I. As convent for fathers devoted to the rule St. Benedict, continued to prosper. Up to two earthquakes of 1693 and 1705, which almost completely destroyed. The recovery came in 1799, when King Ferdinand donated it to the brave British General Horatio Nelson, who renovated to turn it into his residence.
Since the death of Nelson Unification of Italy passed just over fifty years. The Bronte voted the Unification in the church of San Giovanni, in Corso Umberto. It was in the parish of Corso Umberto - the main city street - that, the story said, unanimously, the citizens of Bronte decided he wanted to be Italian. It is said that under the Crucifix - by an unknown artist - Bronte were used to confirm the sanctity of agreements. Inside the church, a chapel dedicated to Santa Rosalia is one of the finest examples of Sicilian Baroque. According to historians, the church already existed in 1574. And in fact on the front of the lintel can be seen carved two dates: 1590 and 1799. That will likely result in years of rich amenities and renovations by the baronial family and of Sottosanti 'Abbot Don Francesco Sanfilippo.
But 1860 in Bronte is also remembered as the date of a murder. It was the dawn of August 10, when, in front of the whole country, by way 'of example, the general Nino Bixio had shot five men, the alleged perpetrators of the rebellion of peasants against the landowners, considered usurpers. In their memory, in Piazza San Vito - the place of execution - was asked two tombstones. In memory of the blood shed to make Italy and Italians.
Among the places famous Bronte who can boast, then, there is also the Real Capizzi College, overlooking the Corso Umberto. Its period of greater prestige is between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth century, when it was the most important cultural center in Sicily, after the one in Monreale. Initially the religious, the Capizzi College - named after its founder - became secular after the unification of Italy.
The construction of the College began in 1774 and ended four years later. A want was the venerable Ignazio Capizzi, from which it takes its name. Between the old and the newer wing of the structure is the Church of the Sacred Heart. Note, on the main front of the building, made the inscription carved on lava stone from Capizzi: "It is the work of the Lord, wonderful in our eyes." Not only the building itself, but the culture as such. Perhaps for this reason many famous men have been fascinated by the College. There he studied the famous philosopher Nicolò Spedalieri Bronte, which is still a self-portrait. Among the best-known alumni also the writer Luigi Capuana.
Moving away a little from the course Umberto you arrive at the mother church, the parish SS. Trinity, nestled between via matrix, via Santi and Via San Giuseppe. It was built in the first half of the sixteenth century and was the merger of two churches adjoining smaller. One of which, the church of Santa Maria, was probably of Norman origin. The original structure has been preserved the three aisles, supported by twelve sandstone columns decorated with Corinthian capitals.
To get out of Bronte, then, you can go to the discovery of the western slope of Etna. A slice of life in Sicily. The caves that open in the basement of the Volcano tell the story of neviere. Before the advent of refrigerators, they were used to store fresh fallen snow on Etna. The need, the compacted snow was collected and brought to the city, to be used to store food. And not only the richest purchased to produce the slush.
The snow cave, one of the most striking, takes its name from this practice. It is located about 1,160 meters above sea level, near Piano dei Grilli - starting point for all excursions in this territory - and its main feature is to have an arched vault, obviously lava, necessary to protect the snow accumulated for the summer.
In general, however, the area of Bronte Etna is one of the most unexplored. Outside the normal tourist trails, it is the most authentic and least known of the Mountain. In this area, the daily life and the strength of Nature show fully how they come together: the skiing, rough lava soil, planted with pistachio; farms that exploit the natural slopes of the volcano, the Etna forests that thrive and who save those who work in the mountain from the heavy heat of summer days.