♦ “The Salt Road” – Via del Sale ♦
The Via del Sale extends from Trapani to the Stagnone Lagoon to Marsala, including the island of Mòzia. Stagnone Lagoon is the largest lagoon on Sicily’s western coastline and when you reach Núbia and Saline dello Stagnone, you are greeted by a unique vista of salt-pans and ancient windmills…
Mòzia and Núbia’s salt-pans are worthwhile off-the-beaten-track destinations in Sicily…
The island of Mòzia was originally colonized by the Phoenicians around the 8th century BC. With its natural lagoons and high walls, it became a relatively important and easily defensible town. When the Phoenicians deserted Mòzia, the island fell into neglect until centuries later. (The ancient Phoenician causeway that once connected Mòzia to the shore is now submerged separating it from the shore and accessible only by ferry.)
Salt provided an industry that has flourished since Phoenician and Roman times and would be the mainstay of the local economy between the 14th and 17th centuries. The ideal conditions of the Stagno and Trapani salt marshes invited exploitation and reached the height of their importance in the 19th century when salt was widely exported.
♦ Of Windmills and Salt Pans ♦
These ancient windmills, however, were a medieval development. They provided a dual purpose: they helped to maintain the condition of the lagoon and island itself as well as the age-old tradition of salt extraction. Salt-pans were pumped by the windmills to drain the water, allow for evaporation, and ultimately for the salt to be extracted manually.
The last stages were refining and grinding the sale for export. Since the salt is 100% natural and contains a higher concentration of potassium and magnesium than common salt but less sodium chloride, the trace elements are maintained which greatly enhances its flavor.
After the Unification of Italy in 1860, salt production along the coast reached its peak; 31 salt pans produced over 100,000 tons per year. Much of the salt was exported throughout Europe and as far away as Norway and Russia.
The age-old techniques have changed very little. Sea water is drawn into the salt-pans in early spring (February/March) where it eventually evaporates in the warm sun with the help of the warm North African winds. By mid-summer (July/August), it is dry enough to be manually harvested into pyramids, covered with tiles and left to dry out before cleansing and packaging.
Recently the mills and salt pans (called the Ettore Infersa) have been restored by the owners and opened to the public. There is a museum and shop, Museo delle Saline (Salt Marsh Museum), in a converted windmill.
♦ Preserving a Tradition ♦
In 1984 the Lagoon was designated as a Regional Nature Reserve Islands of Marsala and the area is a WWF nature reserve thus protecting the habitat, wildlife, and sea waters from pollution and preserving this long time tradition of salt extraction.
Wouldn’t you love to come to Italy with me? Unique cultural immersion, authentic experiences with local experts, small groups…la dolce vita! Your trip of a lifetime! Let’s go!