Bronte's history

A short History of Bronte

The cards, the places, the memory ...

Bronte's  history, together

You are in: Home–› History–› The Circumetnea

Bronte's History

The Circumetnea Railway

The little train that goes around Etna

The realization of the railway that, going around mount Etna, was connecting Bronte with Catania and Giarre, was for the town an event of historical importance.

Was finally taken away from isolation a town of about 20.000 inhabitants, economically developed and with a prestigious college, the Real Capizzi college, which was lodging several Sicilian and Calabrian students (the boarders at that time reached the number of over three hundred ).

The brontese folks, the relatives of the boarding school students which normally came to Bronte, were forced to weary journeys on carriages or mule back to reach Catania or Giarre.

The commercialization and transport of the brontese products (pistachio, wine, almonds, cereals, whit and oil) toward Giarre o Catania was carried out travelling for over a day with small carts pulled by mules or horses, over terrible mountain roads with the added danger of being robbed of everything by the many bandits that infested the zone.

The railway was bringing wealth and releasing from isolation a country of 20.000 inhabitants with an agricultural very thriving economy, but his realization was long and tormented.

The idea of realizing a railway around Etna was born with the constitution of a Consortium Between Catania and the piedmont countries, stipulated with the Royal Decree of December 31st, 1883.

The first deliberation of our Civic Council regarding the building of the railway goes to January 9th, 1882:

Was establishing that the station in Bronte Of The Circum-etnea did not have to be distant more than 500 meters from the habitat and that the quotes of contribution for all the asso­ciated councils "must not exceed L. 60.000 for fifty years".

A year later, on February 22, 1883, the same Council accepted the distribution of the shares done by the Provincial Deputation, which for our council was amounting at L. 5.174,10.

Two years later, on April 7, 1884, the Civic Council, "knowing that good part of the population wanted the station of the Circumetnea to rise in Pietra Pizzuta district, below the old theatre, downstream of the habitat", decides to change the initial project moving, the station in the next district "Carcere Bovi".

Again two years later, the Council, with a deliberation of 23 January 1886, names the baron Enrico Grimaldi- Serravalle of the company Circumetnea representative of the Council.

The hopes of the brontese citizens to have the station "near house" however were disap­pointed.

Lively protests were raised, 26 October 1889, from the Civic Council against the conces­sionary company than with a new layout, established unilaterally, was placing the station upstream to a distance of about three kilometers from Bronte.

The concessionary company, pursuing only its economic interests, realized upstream (on the current place) the way and the station, very far from the habitat.

The first railway section inaugurated on February 2nd, 1895, was the "Catania Borgo-Adernò", "qualified for everybody indistinctly the transport travelers, luggage and dogs, goods to big and little speed, vehicles and cattle".

The Aderno-Bronte stroke was inaugurated on June 2 of 1895; the station in Bronte was built, very far from the lived center, in the high part of the town.

The Council, to make the marketing of the brontese products easier, was forced to a further expense of lire 50.000 to connect the station of the Circum "with a new road suitable for carriages".

The railway was completed on July 10 of 1898 with a total length of 114,90 km (same as today).

The speed of movement was very limited: it was absolutely forbidden to exceed the speed of 22 or 25 Km / h in certain sections (almost the entire line), it also involved immediate dismissal for the drivers.

Not much has changed since then.


An old "Littorina" of the Railway Circum-etnea, plod­ding along on the slopes between Bronte and Maletto, reaches its maximum quote (960 m.) among the woods of the Difesa district, a green valley at the feet of Etna and of "Rocca Calanna" (Calanna Rock).

The previous trains of the Circum, towed by steam locomotives, were climbing up with diffi­culty the Etna slopes: They were never exceeding the 25 - 30 km per hour. Only after the last war were gra­dually replaced by "mo­dern" locomotives called "Lit­torine" as tested in Littoria (in province of Rome).

Bronte’s railway station in the years 1920.

La Littorina in contrada Difesa (m. 976,04)

The Littorina Mod. Al-56 in Contrada Difesa

La Littorina alla Rocca Calanna di contrada Difesa

After more than a century the "Littorina" continues to trudge slowly and with difficulty to reach the 833 meters of Bronte; it has almost completely lost its function of "fast connection" with Catania, remaining in the end a vehicle only for "nostalgic" tourists.

In 2016 in the locomotive depot of the Bronte station, an exhibition space for its historic rolling stock was inaugurated by the railway, set up inside the former railway depot in Via Etna.

A small museum with vintage locomotives and littorine just to evoke the history of this railway and also tell a piece of history of the Etnea area.

There are the railcars, called "littorine", which for decades have brought millions of commuters up and down from Etna, one of the "HB" series closed wagons mainly used for the transport of animals and there is the historic steam locomotive of 1895, the No. 10 «Mascali» (produced in 1894 by Breda, photo above), renamed by travelers "a Caffittera", which hauled wagons and wagons with goods of all kinds: precious timber and railway sleepers worked in the Nelson Ducea sawmill and tons of pistachios and almonds, fruit, vegetables, wines, produced in the green valleys of Etna and sent to Catania or Giarre to be sold in the markets of the island or embarked on distant routes.

It is also possible to admire, in addition to vintage photos, the restored "Aln 56", the traditional and ancient "Littorina" produced by Fiat, which arrived on the Circum tracks in 1937, precisely to speed up the route covered only by trains at the time. steam powered.

With the Aln 56 the maximum speed of the route was increased to 70 km / h.

Read also La Circumetnea, the Bridports, Bronte and Maletto, a reconstruction by M. Carastro on the birth of the railway.
A detailed analysis made through the documents of the Nelson Private Archive, a historical, precise and documented description of the relationships, disputes and alliances between the Nelson Bridports and the municipalities of Bronte and Maletto, from the birth of the Consortium for the construction of the railway , the works, the layout and the inaugurations of the stations. Version only in PDF and in Italian.

Translated by Sam Di Bella

     Bronte's historyThe Honest Workers Circle  ITALIAN VERSION

HOME PAGEPowered by Associazione Bronte Insieme - Reproduction not permitted even if partial - Last adjournment: 11-2023