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Sicilian estate that was once the pride and joy of British naval hero Horatio Nelson – even though he never set foot inside it – is on the market for a cool €7million (£4.8million).

Ian Harvey

Such is the status and grandeur of a British Naval legend Horatio Nelson that a crumbling Sicilian estate associated to his name is going on sale for a whopping 700 million Euros (£4.8 million). The peculiar fact about the whole affair is that Nelson never set foot in this estate, despite the fact he absolutely adored the mere thought of this place.

But the surrounding area resembles a ghost town, where the ruins of a rural village, colonial villa, medieval church and fortified Benedictine abbey have been left abandoned among fields growing pistachios. A team of Italian architects have conjured up a series of makeover ideas, including turning the Duchy into a five-star deluxe resort, a golf camp or a revamped private residence for the willing buyer, as the entire estate goes up for sale.But with such mammoth restoration needed, any investor will need deep pockets.

‘The current price today is roughly €7million but once it’s totally restyled its value would double to almost €14million and we’re interested in potential buyers,’ architect Luigi Longhitano, who is in charge of the project, revealed.

As the entire estate goes up for sale, the architects have been presenting a number of creative ideas for the renovation and improvement of the historic estate. There are plans for a five-star deluxe resort, a golf camp, and a lavish residence for the buyer. However, for these ideas to come to life, a handsome amount of money is needed hence only the most enthusiastic history lover would invest in such a mammoth project. (Mail Online)

Many people, if asked whom they consider to be England’s greatest hero, would say “Nelson” without much hesitation. But not all of them know that there is a corner of Sicily with which the great Admiral is forever associated – although he never went there. Nelson has several connections with Sicily: he watered his ships at the Arethusa Fountain in Syracuse before the Battle of the Nile, and he ordered Marsala wine for the fleet from the winery in the west of the island. But it was not until 1799 that he became closely connected.

In the terrible year of 1798, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the French armies were invading Italy and had conquered much of the north. In Naples King Ferdinand IV of the Two Sicilies, and his Queen, Maria Carolina, who was a sister of the executed Marie Antoinette of France, were forced to flee, and it was Nelson’s ship, HMS Vanguard, which took them to their second capital, Palermo. The Admiral, together with the British Ambassador, Sir William Hamilton and his wife, Emma, were great friends of the royal couple. Some months later the King and Queen returned to Naples, but once again had to ask Nelson for his help in getting away to Sicily. This time he took them on HMS Foudroyant, and it was very shortly after their safe arrival in Palermo that the King, in his gratitude, made Nelson a splendid gift: the Duchy of Bronte, with its castle and estate of Maniace on the northern flanks of Mt. Etna. Nelson, who was to die six years later, was never able to visit his property, but he signed himself “Nelson & Bronte” for the rest of his life.

The Castello Nelson and much of the Maniace estate, together with the title of Duke of Bronte, descended via Nelson’s elder brother, and are still in existence today. Viscount Bridport, the present duke, sold the property in 1981 to the Municipality of Bronte, who have looked after it with care. The house, barely changed since the Bridports left, contains many memorabilia of the family, including the decanter and glasses used by Nelson before Trafalgar, and family portraits and furniture. In the courtyard stands a Celtic cross, a memorial to “the Immortal Hero of the Nile”. The whole is a fascinating relic of times gone by, a small corner of England and a shrine which should be visited by every Englishman who cares about his country’s history.

The admiral, taken by a sort of frenzy, invested a fortune into making the castle a lavish summer retreat.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News