In 1520 Charles V united the twenty-four hamlets of the surrounding area, which formed the town of Bronte. Mount Etna nearly destroyed the town three times, in 1651, in 1832, and finally in 1843.
In 1799, King Ferdinand III created Bronte as a Duchy, and rewarded admiral Horatio Nelson with the title of Duke for the help he had provided him in bloodily repressing the revolution in Naples and so in recovering his throne. As well as being made a Duke, Nelson was given as a fief the Castello Maniace, which at the time was the remains of a Benedictine Monastery. The Castle passed into the Bridport family when the 1st Viscount Bridport married the then Duchess of Bronte, who was Admiral Nelson's niece. The Bridports continued to live in the castle until 1982 when the current Viscount sold the property to the Commune of Bronte. A recent book has been written about the Duchy: Nelson's Duchy: A Sicilian Anomaly by Michael Pratt. Today it is a local tourist attraction in Maniace, and has been carefully restored (down to recreating its distinctive ceramic-tiled floors) by the Commune. It is an English country house (complete with formal garden) incongruously set down among the bare hills of eastern Sicily. In 1860, during Garibaldi's Expedition of the thousand, there was a riot. The peasants had hoped for – and did not get from Garibaldi – an immediate relief from the grievous conditions to which they were forced by the landowners. They revolted in several localities, and at Bronte, on August 4, 1860, Garibaldi's friend Nino Bixio bloodily repressed one of these revolts with two battalions of Redshirts.
Castello Nelson, c. 13 kilometres (8 miles) outside the city centre, dating to 1174. It is an abbey turned into a museum, with a notable Gothic-Norman portico and a Byzantine icon which, according to the tradition, was painted by St. Luke himself.