Exploring Bronte: In the Shadow of Etna
It could be said that many towns and villages lie in the shadow of the dramatic and imposing Mount Etna in Sicily. While this may be true, Bronte is a town that keeps on rising above the demands Etna has put upon it over the centuries. Bronte itself has existed ever since Charles V made it so from a couple of dozen small hamlets that were dotted around the area in the 1500s. In 1520 he decided to bring them all together to form the town of Bronte that we know today.
Some 130 years later the town was nearly buried under a deluge of ash and lava from Mount Etna, but it survived. It would be nearly 200 years later before it would happen again, but once again Bronte refused to be consigned to history. Etna tried again just 11 years after that but as you can see from any good map of Sicily, Bronte still remains with us today.
Today, Bronte is known for far more than its refusal to be cowed by the likes of Mount Etna. Indeed, it is a veritable hive of activity with regard to the humble pistachio. Sicily is the only part of Italy that grows the pistachio, with the Etna region (and more specifically Bronte) responsible for some of the finest specimens of all. There is even a so-called Green Pistachio of Bronte, and if you are staying nearby in a villa you must surely visit the area to taste them for yourself. The Bronte pistachio is far more than just a local quirk – it is world-famous and has been recognised for its uniqueness in this region.
Just as Bronte refused to wither and die under the onslaught of Mount Etna’s explosive shows, so the humble pistachio refuses to die too. Indeed the plant that produces these nuts can live for centuries. It may be a slow-grower but there is plenty of it and thousands of tons of the pistachios are harvested every couple of years to the delight of those who love to eat them.
Farming is the main source of income for many in Bronte. Of the items that are regularly farmed, the pistachio tops the list. If you are partial to pistachios you can try them shelled and chopped or pop them out of the shells yourself. You may also get to try various pistachio-flavoured delights in and around the town of Bronte. Pistachio paste is quite commonly-available here, and is added to such dishes as ice cream and even assorted pastries. Pistachio ice cream… now surely with Sicily’s track record for producing sublime ice cream this has to be a winning dish when you add locally-grown pistachios to it too? Try it for yourself and see what you think. Personally I believe you would have to go back for seconds!