Pistachios are one of the key ingredients of the centuries-old culinary traditions of Sicily: from appetisers to pasta sauces and desserts, myriad recipes feature this legacy of the Arabic domination of the southern Italian island.

Nestled on the slopes of Mount Etna, the island’s famed volcano, is the world-famous capital of pistachios, where an annual festival to celebrate the nuts takes place at the beginning of October.

Pistachios are a gastronomic jewel of Bronte: grown in the mineral-rich and fertile volcanic soil of Etna, they’re widely considered to be among the best in the world and they boast DOP status.

Pistachios are harvested between late August and September, once every two years.

During this time, the entire town come together to gather the pistachios.

The pistachios are still harvested as they were centuries ago: laboriously, by hand, one-by-one.

Video: YouTube/Marco Restivo

The following month, in October, locals celebrate the fruits of their labour (even in the years when there’s no harvest).

During the festivities, Bronte becomes a vibrant cultural hub and all the typical traditions of the Sicilian countryside are brought back to life.

The historical centre is packed with stands where local producers, farmers and artisans showcase their products and handicrafts. 

Tasting sessions of pistachio-based dishes take place throughout the weekend, as well as live cooking demonstrations, seminars, shows and entertainment.

The most sought-after specialties are the typical “pesto” and the sweet paste – the former as a condiment for pasta or fish, and the latter as a delicious treat, best enjoyed when spread upon a slice of freshly baked bread.

During the celebrations, Bronte is abuzz with live performances by street artists and roving musical bands.

There are also free guided tours through the town, during which you can visit the Church of Annunziata, built in the 1500s with beautiful paintings and a unique lava-stone window inside. 

The festival has an exotic and magical flavour, and attracts people from Sicily, Europe and all over the world.