The Ancient Salt Route

399-the-ancient-salt-route-0When you are in the City of Two Seas you ought to spend some time to visit the two extremely beautiful protected areas of Sicily along the coast between Trapani and Marsala – “Le saline (saltpans) di Trapani and Paceco” and the “Stagnone” Nature Reserves. These two territories which are dominated by natural salt marshes are home to about 170 various bird species (flamingos, storks, cranes and many others) and to a variety of plants (macro- and microscopic as well as endemic plants). They all exist on the milticoloured chessboard terrain starting from Trapani’s town gates and extending to Marsala.

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The landscape here is really extraordinary and peculiar since these large mirrors of saltwater, massive salt tanks, windmills and white pyramids offer breathtaking views at daytime and awesome sunsets at night.  What do I mean?  When night comes they become pink but actually, pink is followed by red and orange and these changing colours encircle the ancient mills and embrace the Egadi Islands.

399-the-ancient-salt-route-10Salt production dates back to the 15th century in this part of the Island of Sicily when the Argonese commenced it and laid out the large salt fields along the coast. This way it turned into one of the most sources of wealth for the whole territory for centuries. The late 19th century is thought to have been the period of the greatest development because Sicily exported its salt produced in its forty salts even to Norway. Most of the saltpans have been closed down and there are few nowadays and the obtaining of salt is on a much smaller scale.

399-the-ancient-salt-route-11Let me tell you a few things about the precious substance and its production which has been extremely valuable to the territory, as I said above. The sea salt of Trapani and Marsala is richer than the salt produced anywhere else because it contains more elements like magnesium, potassium, iodine,  fluorine as well we sulphur, calcium and a very, very lower quantity of sodium chloride. It is because salt has always been produced in a very natural way in this region. How exactly?

399-the-ancient-salt-route-12Numerous white heaps of salt are formed and they are covered with tiles which prevent them from blowing away and getting dry. Once the piles are ready, salt is produced by only evaporating sea water in big tanks. This happens in three harvests in summer months July and August (sometimes also in September). You might ask me why the landscape is dotted by so many 300-year old windmills. Well, in the past they were the major means for pumping water and grinding the salt.  Today they simply make the coastal views more beautiful, especially at night when their silhouettes are visible against the red-orange-pink sunset and one of them is turned into the Museum of Salt where one can learn more about the phases of salt production and get acquainted with some of the equipment used for extracting and collecting salt in the past.

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