NAME: Castello Nelson
LOCATION: Si trova nel territorio di Bronte a 13 km dal centro del paese. In Contrada Erranteria all’ingresso del paese di Maniace.
ADDRESS: Viale Santa Maria di Maniace, 95030 Maniace CT, Italy
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: It is believed that the “Castle” is built on the ruins of an early Basilian monastery (a branch of the Benedictines) built in 1173 and commissioned by Queen Margaret of Navarre (1135-1183).
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE: When the Bourbon King Ferdinand decided to award Admiral Horatio Nelson for his services that had put an end to Napoleon’s revolution of 1799, he choose from among the available Sicilian estates in his possession. The choice fell on two well-known abbeys, Santa Maria di Maniace, and San Filippo di Fragalà which had been permanently united in 1491. In his concession, the king also included all of the land and structures that once belonged to the two abbeys. The first of Nelson’s heirs to visit the Duchy was his niece, Charlotte Nelson- Bridport in 1836. Although she showed some interested in the traditions of the area, the voyage had been long and difficult and the barren landscape of Etna’s slopes proved to be too much for the Duchess; in fact, she did not return. Over the course of the 1800s Nelson’s heirs transformed the abbey into a stately residence. They added new buildings and landscaped the surrounding park. In the years that followed the Castle remained a residence for the Nelson heirs, and therefore, private and closed to the public. In 1981, the last of the Admiral’s descendants finally sold the Castle (everything but the cemetery) to the city of Bronte.
INTERIOR: Over the years the noble apartments have maintained more or less their original style and decor, although it is possible to note elements that domestic reality of the heirs until the 1900s. From the moment that the City of Bronte acquired the property, it carried out restorations to bring the Castle back, as much as possible, to its original state. We can note the faithful reproduction of the antique ceramic tile flooring, wall papers and drapery. Nowadays it is possible to visit the apartments that display the various keepsakes and curios belonging to Horatio Nelson and his heirs. Of note are: the autographed letters from English royalty, medallions, naval battle plans, military orders, chests of exquisite craftsmanship, archeological objects found during the excavations for the restructuring of the Castle. Also of interest are two crystal glasses and a decanter that Nelson had used just before his death, during the Battle of Trafalgar. In the sitting-room, above the fireplace, there is an 18th century French clock.
EXTERIOR: The exterior of the Castle presents the typical flat facade of an 18th century residence. Upon entering, to the right, you can see the single-lancet window (monofore a feritoia) of the church. On the gate there is the monogram NB in iron, which has been interpreted by scholars as Nelson Bridport or Nelson Bronte as they often signed their documents. In the central courtyard there is a Celtic cross in honor and in memory of Horatio Nelson, placed there in 1888 by Sir Alexander Nelson-Hood, Fifth Duke of Bronte. Upon the cross is the inscription, “To the immortal hero of the Nile,” in honor of the battle won over Napoleon’s French troops.
The park surrounding Nelson’s Castle extends approximately 4 hectares (10 acres). In the garden there are several species of plants, some of which were imported from England in 1887 (plane trees and eucalyptus). The park is rectangular in shape and is divided by a central lane. The garden extends approximately 5000sq meters and is characterized by the presence of centuries-old cypress, palms, willows, ash, chestnuts, magnolias, and rose bushes. Surrounding the English lawn there are also pergolas of wisteria, pine trees and various plants. In 1990 the park at Nelson’s Castle played host to an international sculpture exhibition in which 19 artists participated with works made from local lava rock.
The descendant of Nelson used to stroll in the paths and lanes of the garden until 1981. Before it was given to the City of Bronte, the heirs of the English Admiral would spend their summer holidays at the Castle, with their closest friends. Visitors today can immerse themselves in the castle’s history as they stroll among the tall cypress, the manicured hedges and flower beds, among antique terracotta urns and vases, while enjoying the beautiful sunsets. With your back to the wall of the western facade of the central building, which is covered by luxurious porcelain berry creeper and surmounted by the several chimneys of the old wood stoves, one can enjoy the sweeping views from the mountains beyond the Saraceno River.
CONTACTS AND HOURS: tel: +39 095 690018
(Currently closed for restoration- Dec, 2016)
Winter hours (Nov-Mar): 9:00 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 17:00
Summer hours (Apr-Oct): 9:00 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 18:30
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Catania on the Statale 121: Drive in the direction of Paternò Adrano Bronte; once in Bronte, take the road for Maniace;
Autostrada A18 Catania – Messina: take the exit for Fiumefreddo toward Linguaglossa – Randazzo; follow along to the state highway statale 120 for Maniace-Cesarò. At the fork for Maniace, turn right.
There is plenty of parking for both cars and busses