The salt pans of Trapani, everything you need to know

When we speak of salt pans, we are referring to facilities used for the <strong>production of sea salt</strong> from seawater through a process of concentration and subsequent natural evaporation of the water.

Salt pans are nothing more than tanks in which water tends to evaporate due to exposure to the sun and its radiation. The first vats are called evaporating vats and are concerned with the concentration of the solution. At the end of the process, in the salting tanks, the final separation of the salt takes place.

As far as the salt extraction process is concerned, it consists of the first phase, in which water, called virgin water, is put into a tank in order to increase its density. Next, a transfer is carried out to increase its concentration. After a series of processes, the salt is ready to be put on the market.

In Italy, the main salt pans are located in Trapani, Sicily. In the next few lines, we will find out everything there is to know about them, providing interesting background information on the main salt pans in southern Italy, which include those in Puglia, the largest in Europe, those in Cervia, on the coast of Romagna, and those in Cagliari, Sardinia.

The salt pans of Trapani in history

It spans two millennia of history. The salt pans of Trapani are a true marine oasis, today designated for salt extraction, thanks to a perfect balance between human intervention and the natural environment. The conformation of the land has allowed human activity to proliferate with balance, thanks to constant interventions aimed at not unbalancing the environment.

The birth of Trapani’s salt pans dates back to the 5th century B.C., when the Phoenicians began working the coast in search of commercial expansion and economic power.

In Norman times, salt became a state monopoly and Frederick of Swabia contributed greatly to the development of the salt extraction process through targeted and profitable policies. The salt trade reached its peak under Aragonese rule, when the salt pans were privatised and salt production became the prerogative of the wealthy entrepreneurs of the time, who contributed to the commissioning of old and new plants.

The salt pans of Trapani, as we know them today, were born at that time.

They reached their highest and most documented point in the 17th century. In 1600, in fact, Trapani became the largest Mediterranean port for the salt trade. Today, Trapani’s salt pans extend all along the coast, reaching as far as Marsala. At the time, production facilities proceeded apace and at full force, offering not inconsiderable income to private individuals.

Salt pans in modern times

Even in united Italy, after 1861, salt remained one of the most flourishing trades in Italy. The salt pans of Trapani became the only salt pans in Sicily and Italy to remain in the hands of private owners, unlike the others that underwent nationalisation.

With the outbreak of the two world wars, unfortunately, the salt pans of Trapani ended up facing a process of decline, driven by the industrialisation of other competing salt pans in the country.

Many factories fell into disuse, also as a result of devastating floods and continuous trade wars for the market monopoly. Fortunately, however, over the years some private owners decided to intervene, take over and reclaim the area, bringing the Trapanese salt trade back into vogue.

Today, there are state-of-the-art factories on site, producing high quality salt, with an extra eye on protecting the ecosystem, in collaboration with WWF Italy, which has been involved in the Trapani and Paceco Salt Pans Nature Reserve project since 1995.

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