Fall is the period of Italy's 'sagre', or festivals, all of which to my knowledge are food related. Small towns throughout Italy celebrate their local specialties by hosting sagre. Local vendors put their goods on display and local and not-so local visitors come to sample the eats. Sagra hopping can become addictive (it has for us) and makes for a great incentive to get on the road, see a new town and indulge in good food. And kids love them too.
Bronte hosted its annual pistachio festival a few weekends ago, and, being pistachio lovers, we were not going to miss it. The town itself did not have much flair (i.e., no apparent reason to go to Bronte other than its pistachios), but once we had a bite of Bronte's pistachio gelato (WOW) we knew it was worth the trip.
That's not all we tasted. Don't you know pistachios can be put in just about every imaginable kind of food? We also nibbled freshly baked pistachio bread (yum), pistachio torrone (also yum), pastry filled with pistachio cream (not my kind of thing), pistachio arrancini (yum, even though its not my kind of thing), pistachio sausage (big yum for you meat eaters). As all this nibbling occurred before noon, that was about all the pistachio fun our stomachs could handle in one day. Only regret, not drinking the pistachio coffee!
Our bambino did not appreciate the pistachios as much as we did, but he didn't mind being strolled along the main festival street, closed off to traffic for the event, seeing other kids, watching the action, and pointing out all the things he wanted to examine up close. The kiddy car rides were a hit, as was the balloon man and the pet vendor who had bunnies, birds and even turtles on sale. No nice piazzas, parks or playgrounds were evident on our walk up and down the main drag--translation: no reason to dwindle in Bronte, on to the next stop.
The so-called Castle Nelson, a 10 minute drive from Bronte, is a destination of its own, is not really a castle, and is beautiful all the same. You can visit the remains of the former abbey and the still-standing villa surrounded by a lovely wooded park. Although it has a long history and changed ownership many times, the name of the British admiral it was gifted to for having helped quell a revolt has stuck. The interiors can be visited with a guide, who shares details about the little church, furnished (and heavily restored) rooms, garden and archaeological remains of the abbey.
After visiting the villa I would have loved to have gone for a leisurely wander through the park, but given that bambino was getting sleepy, we focused on the AMAZING kids playground in the park. It is BIG, full of nice wooden gyms and slides and other creative things for kids to walk and climb on. The little one loved it and did not want to leave.
I am not sure if it's the villa, or the woods, or the fresh, invigorating air that struck me most about this place, but it really is something special and I will definitely be going back as a family, with friends, or when visitors come to town. Next time I'll be sure to head to Castle Nelson first (with a good amount of time slotted for the playground), and then stop in Bronte on the way back for a bite to eat, or at least a pistachio ice cream!