FOR SALE – A Des Res in Rural Sicily

May 11, 2016 / Local Interest
Maniace, Sicily

In the foothills of Mt. Etna, near Bronte, lies an English stately home. Curiously, it belonged to the family of one of Britain’s biggest naval heroes, Admiral Horatio Nelson, and it is now for sale.

Nelson
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The manor house was given to Nelson in 1799 as a token of gratitude by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, who reigned over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was a former Benedictine Abbey. Ferdinand made the area into a Duchy and Nelson became the 1st Duke of Bronte.

Nelson helped the king to repress a revolution brewing in Naples, keeping Napoleon’s army at a distance for a little while longer.  He also executed the Italian turncoat, Admiral Caracciolo, by hanging him on the deck of his ship and tossing him into the sea.  He then helped the king and Lord and Lady Hamilton to escape back to Sicily on HMS Foudroyant.

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With the help of Emma Hamilton, his ‘official’ mistress, furniture was brought from England and although his naval activities never allowed him to put foot into the property, he forever after signed himself as Horatio Nelson–Bronte.

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Bedroom

After Nelson’s death during the battle of Trafalgar, the property passed into the hands of his brother William who then bequeathed it to his daughter Charlotte. Charlotte only visited once, after what must have been an extremely uncomfortable journey all the way from Britain, mostly in a litter.   She only stayed 3 days deeming the surroundings to be too wild, the weather too torrid and the locals too uncouth.  As she had married Viscount Bridport, the property stayed in the Bridport family, and was actually lived in, until 1981 when the last Viscount Bridport sold it to the municipal authorities of Bronte for 1 billion 750 million lire (€875,000 euros).

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Today the house and gardens are a public monument and can be visited. It is a 160,000 sq.mt. estate with not too much land as during the 1950s, under the agrarian reform, a lot of it was redistributed among the local peasants. Entering the main court yard, you come face to face with the Celtic cross in the centre erected on Nelson’s behalf. Various out buildings, the church, a small museum and the main house can all be visited. The upstairs living area is quite unpretentious and in keeping with a typical English country house. A lot of memorabilia line the walls including an invitation from Queen Elisabeth II to the Bridport family inviting them to her coronation.

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A group of architects have outlined a project for transforming it into a luxury hotel complex and are hoping that the property will be sold to developers with deep pockets willing to transform it. Undoubtedly the property would then be worth double.

The main objective here is that the property should not be allowed to fall into decline as has happened in past years when thieves broke in and stole furniture and paintings of inestimable value. Certainly whoever buys it will not only have a massive renovation project on hand but will also be buying a piece of unique Anglo-Sicilian history which can only be found on this island. That alone will be worth the money.

Selling price:

£4.8 million GBP, €7 million euros, $8 million USD

Nelson's house corridor
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by Marian Watson-Virga

Marian has lived in Sicily for longer than she can remember. British by birth, Sicilian by marriage she loves all things Sicilian, even pani ca’ meusa!   For the past few years she has been collaborating with Carmelina Ricciardello of www.sicilianexperience.com, developing responsible tourism and discovering Sicily on walking and car tours. Marian’s blog page is here.

8 Responses to “FOR SALE – A Des Res in Rural Sicily”

  1. Maria Ingham

    A very interesting piece of Sicilian-English history. Although I grew up not far from Maniace, I never heard of this place. Thank you for sharing this historical article.

    Reply
  2. Victoria De Maio

    Grazie, Marian, for a peek into this quite beautiful property. As you say, let’s hope someone steps up to renovate and preserve it. A little out of my budget, however! LOL

    Reply
  3. Virginia Rowley

    I saw this property while on tour with my husband with Marian guiding. We spent a lovely afternoon here and could see that the property is well worth preserving. I hope someone snaps it up and saves this piece of history from the scrapheap.

    Reply
  4. Marian

    My apologies to the Queen for misspelling her name. It should of course read Elizabeth with a z and not an s! :)

    Reply
  5. Enzo Pollono

    Ammiraglio Caracciolo a turncoat? It must be the British version. Rather, a stain on Nelson`s career and personality. )(

    Reply
  6. Anna Retsker

    Thank you for a very interesting story! I wish I knew about it during my recent trip to Sicily….I would have visited the place!

    Reply
  7. The Viscount Bridport

    I sold the property. Is the commune di Bronte the seller? How much land comes with it?

    Reply

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