The salt pans

Since ancient times salt has played an important part in the life of the island as when the deposit left by the evaporation of seawater was collected during the Phoenician era. The Carlofortine salt pans – whose disused installations can still be seen today just a stone’s throw from the town – date back to the years of the first colonisation of exiles from Tabarka. In fact, it was in the period following their settlement that modern production was launched, albeit based on techniques still very close to those of antiquity. More than a century had to pass before rational exploitation of this precious resource could take place on the island.

The salt season began in spring with the preparation of salt, entrusted to three or four workers, and continued with the extraction of salt between August and September. In all, six months of hard work under the summer sun saw men bent over raking the salt, collecting it in small piles, carrying it on their shoulders in large wicker baskets and unloading it at the edge of the basins, until it formed large white pyramids. This was the labour of yesteryear, compensated for on a piecework basis: never was the pay so close to its ancient name: ‘salary’ (salarius, from sal salis ‘salt’).
From the end of the 1950s, this same work was entrusted to mechanical means, and the demand for labour during the season fell dramatically. A whole world of anecdotes, characters, customs and objects was preparing to disappear.

Today, the salt pans are no longer in use: production ceased in 1998 and the area was returned to nature. Their management, which over the decades has passed from the State to the Region, is now entrusted to the Municipality, which is working to enhance them from an environmental, historical and anthropological point of view. On the one hand, therefore, the possibility of a small salt production is once again being considered, useful for the water balance of the ponds and the protection of one of the most important wetlands in Sardinia, a habitat of fundamental importance for many resident and migratory species. On the other hand, a museum itinerary is being planned to illustrate the methods of salt production in different periods and to preserve the memory of salt production for years to come, thanks to the machinery preserved in its original location and to the old workplaces.

The Via del sale nature trail