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Nelson's home in Bronte

The Nelson Palace

The Palazzo Ducale (as defined by the Duke) that the Nelson or their administrators until 1935 used in Bronte was impressive, gran­diose, with 35 rooms, large warehouses and in the underlying part a large cistern, laundry, charcoal, woodshed and henhouse, cellars for approx. 500 square meters, bakery and a park of about 2400 square meters circumscribed by a high wall of lava stone.

It comprised an entire block of nineteenth-century mixture from the Umberto course, in front of the convent of the Cappuccini fathers, to the road of the Madonna Riparo (now via Roma) and to the via Nelson (today via A. Spedalieri).

It had four entrances but the main entrance, of representation, was from Via Umberto.

In the ancient ducal records it is recorded in the "San Blandano Section, via Nelson National Road, in front of the Convent of the Capuchin Churches," in more recent acts in Via Umberto I, isolated no. 31.

Today the vestiges of the ancient structure, have practically disappeared. Of the ducal palace remain only few traces.

Some testimony of the ancient architecture is still visible in the buildings along Corso Umberto (including the late prof. Paparo’s house, the ex-Santangelo printing works, the houses Mineo, Parisi ect., till the ex Cinema Roma) and in the imposing cellar below where there is now the Deluchiana municipal library.

The actual areas occupied now by the Town Hall, those of Cap. Saitta street and adjacent to new new parking of Venia square were once garden of the ducal Palace’s.

The Palace of Via Manzoni

Another elegant residence belonging to the Nelson in Bronte is still nearly intact.

It was erected in Bronte at the edge of the ancient San Rocco district, today in the vicinity of the Capizzi College.

Solid and compact, looks on the narrow streets Placido De Luca and Manzoni and on the courtyard of the Zagare.

In the two photos above and to the right, houses that still con­serve part of the original ar­chi­tectural structure of the Palazzo Ducale

The current building was presumably realized by the heirs of the admiral Nelson at the beginning of the XIX° century, to use it as stores and as a residence for the Duke or his managers when coming to Bronte.
It was started as a restructure and extension of a pre-existent building, (the architrave of the principal entry door shows the date of 1642).

It is constructed in masonry with walls of exceptional thickness.

All the openings of the first floor have jutting frame and architrave opening on balconies in lava stone, of a varied profile, supported by sculpted double mantelpieces and worked to sixth or seventh century style drawings and banisters in wrought iron of particular interest (similar to the visible ones in a few balconies of the Dukedom Nelson).

The Nelson ex Palace is now in a very bad, abandoned state.

In the 1940s the building underwent heavy internal transformations with the purpose of establishing there the Carabineers local barracks (modification of the internal courtyards, building of cells, services and stables premises).

The palace passed to the Nelson after they won a long court case against don Vincenzo Meli Papotto, Baron of Pisciagrò (a feud near Randazzo).

The baron (and his heirs), also boasting some rights of property on the Ricchisgia estate that he had in lease, refused to pay the Gabella (the canon) nor to the Big and New Hospital in Palermo (that, had received in dowry, in 1494, by Pope Innocent VIII being a property of the Maniace abbey), nor to the Nelson (to whom it had been given, in 1799, by the King Ferdinand of Borbone ).

The long quarrel finished with the victory of the Nelson, which, besides the district Grangia of Ricchisgia (the ancient Cartiera Araba, Arab paper mill), also dispossessed the Baron of other assets: a citrus orchard in the Marotta feud, a baronial palace in Scafiti street, other urban houses, a feud in the slopes of Etna and even the palace of Placido De Luca street, built in 1642.

In these three photos, a side view of the Palazzo (seen from Via Manzoni) that the Nelson used in Bronte as a warehouse and residence of the administrators and some seventeenth-century balconies of the building. Note the elegant lava stone supporting shelves and the wrought iron railings with the belly shape.

Photo on the top right: in the background of the group that goes to the church for a wedding (1930-40) you can see on the right side the main entrance of the Nelson palace (corso Umberto, facing Piazza Cappuccini, see maps ). Note the new lava paving just made in Corso ("i barati") and the dirt road. In the other photos, some residual evidence that preserves traces of the original architectural structure of the Palazzo Nelson and, in the photo on the left, a vision of today's internal elevation (Palazzo Municipale side).
At the top left two cadastral maps of Nelson's property in Bronte (the Palazzo Ducale or "il Casermone di Bronte" as he defined it, in 1924, in his memoirs, the V Duke, Alexander Nelson Hood). The large garden, today the seat of the municipal building, is green in the 1875 map.

Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION

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