Salt production in Sicily has a long tradition. There have been salt pans along the island’s coast in various locations, but today the only active salt pans are near Trapani. The mineral is extracted during the hottest and sunniest time of the year from April to October. The salt is extracted by evaporation and several steps that make it edible. Seawater is collected in special basins that constitute the different stages of production: from decanting the water to release salt crystals, to collecting the salt ready for being sold.

Salt production is a very long process: the basins allow the water to change temperature slowly in order to facilitate the extraction of salt crystals. The basins have different names according to their function: fridde are the ones in which the water is colder and stays for about a week; then water goes to the cultivu basin and to the caura basin. Caura is the last basin: here temperatures reach 25 degrees Celsius and the salt crystal formation is facilitated by bacteria. Windmills were once used to drive an endless screw to move water from one basin to another, and stone wheels to crush salt. The person in charge of controlling the mills was the mulinaru, a worker who has now disappeared as the mills have been replaced by other machines. Around May and June salt workers process the salt layer which hardens allowing it to be gently broken up before being harvested. Then salt is piled at the edges of the salt pans and left to dry. Salt is not immediately ready for eating: it must be refined through a washing process in order to separate mineral particles, such as magnesium and potassium. In the past, salt was carried on the shoulders of salt workers in baskets called carteddi, weighing around 25-30 kg, while now the process takes place through machinery.

Salt pans of Trapani and Paceco became an Oriented Nature Reserve in 1995 and are managed by WWF. The environment that men created with the salt pans became, though unintentionally, a suitable environment for some plant and animal species that populate them throughout the year or during the migratory phases in the Mediterranean (like the pink flamingo).

Buttitta A., Le forme del lavoro. Mestieri tradizionali in Sicilia, Flaccovio, Palermo, 1988
Giacomarra, M.G., I beni demoetnoantropologici in Sicilia. Itinerari di documentazione e fruizione delle testimonianze di cultura popolare, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2016
Giacomarra, M.G., Le saline del trapanese in Nobili A., Palmisano M.E. (a cura di), Ippocampo : tecniche, strutture e ritualità della cultura del mare : progetto scuola museo Regione siciliana, Assessorato dei beni culturali, ambientali e della pubblica istruzione, Dipartimento dei beni culturali, ambientali e dell’educazione permanente, Officine Grafiche Riunite SpA, Palermo, 2008
REI - Libro dei Saperi - Coltivazione del sale nella salina di Culcasi - (last visited 13/07/ 2022)
Riserva naturale orientata Trapani e Paceco - WWF (last visited 13/07/2022)
Salina Calcara di Trapani e Paceco (last visited 13/07/2022)
Saline Culcasi (last visited 13/07/2022)
Le Saline di Trapani e Paceco. Superquark del 29/07/2020 (last visited 13/07/2022)