In ancient times salt was the gold of the Romans; it was fundamental for preserving foods in a safe and healthy way. Salt was also used as a form of payment; salt paid taxes and even the Italian word salario (meaning income) comes from it just showing its important role over time.
Salt comes from water; a long process of evaporation where once it dries and appears on the surface, it may be harvested. The need for water limited the areas in which salt could be produced in addition to the fact that production processes weren’t the same and as a consequence, even the quality of the product itself was different.
Salt in the ancient times
When the Romans arrived in Romagna, crossing the Apennines towards the coast, they came across a very important production system (the Saline) which had been created by the Etruscans long before their arrival. This very large area was, and still is, organized in several basins, connected one to another. After a long period, the water evaporates and salt appears.
The Salina “Camillone” is the only survivor of the 150 original saline which had existed until 1959, when the process was industrialized. Yet the “Camillone”still produces 1,000 tons of salt per year. Small in size, but thanks to the expertise of the volunteers who had once worked as salinari (salt pickers), it produces a sweet salt which has now become one of the fundamental elements of every great chef and cuisine all over the world.
The “picking”is a very special moment; men, all strictly barefoot, move a sort of long rake gently over the surface where salt is beginning to emerge so they may separate it from the water mixed with mud that lies underneath. Once the salt is gathered, it is put into wooden wheelbarrows and then placed on an iron boat called a burchiella. Even today, after the harvest, a gift of salt is presented to the Pope in honour of the ancient tradition dating back to 1444.
The Salina Camillone in Cervia
The salt is harvested once a year (in August). It is left in its nature state, no bleaching, grinding nor the addition of any additives. Seawater is used for cleansing and the drying is done naturally.
Its sweetness comes from the purity of the sodium chloride and the low-level of chlorides makes it unique and sweet, which maintains its ability to “salt”. This sea salt dissolves easily thanks to its natural moisture. It is considered “raw”since it retains all the rich elements present in the water such as iodine, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Visiting a salina is like jumping back into time. Experience this unveiled and rich area called Romagna.