One hand on the earth, the other on the sea. This is Cervia, an enchanting coastal south from Ravenna, a shiny treasure of Emilia Romagna. This is a place inextricably linked to the salt, which is a sort of white gold here. We know how this precious mineral compound could please your palate; in Cervia Salt Pan, salt could please your eyes too!
This is the arrival point of the Salt Itinerary which can be travelled on foot or by bicycle. It is worth mentioning that the itinerary passes through enchanting landscapes, beautiful artistic monuments and historically meaningful parts of the city.
The ideal starting point is from the open space in front of San Michele Tower, a late seventeenth-century building erected for defending the city and its salt assets. Built by the count Michelangelo Maffei, treasurer of Romagna from 1682 to 1706, it is remarkable construction with a square plan of 13.5 m on the side and 22.5 m of height, for a wall thickness of 3 m! A most effective bulwark on top of which the parade ground was placed: such a perfect position for the guard intent to sight and report the arrival of pirates, brigands, looters and other enemy forces.
In a short time, it is possible to reach Piazza Pisacane, where the old fish market stood – which is a restaurant, today. This place can well pay homage to the importance of the sea and its precious inhabitants for the city. Close to the square, there is the Pietra delle misure, an ancient table made in 1636, on which are listed the units of measurement officially in force in the city at the time. Both residents and foreigners had to follow these ancient units during the trades.
Keeping on the itinerary, you will arrive to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a jewel completed in 1702 on a project by Francesco Fontana , son and pupil of the great Carlo Fontana, one of the greatest Roman Baroque architects. It has a Latin cross plan, six chapels and an enchanting high altar, made with refined polychrome marbles. At the top of the altar, there is a Giovanni Barbiani’s altarpiece representing the Virgin Mary with the saints Nicola and Bartholomew. Furthermore, there is a beautiful eighteenth-century baptismal font, a harmonious statue of Madonna del Fuoco with Child and another one dedicated to Saint Lawrence.
Then, it follows Borgo dei Salinari (The Saltworkers’ village), 48 flats for saltworkers and their families, built between 1790 and 1813 and remained for free use for their respective tenants until a 1953 reform. According to a circular progression, the “Salt Itinerary” next stop is Magazzino Torre (the warehouse tower), adjacent to San Michele Tower. Even this building was built by the will of the treasurer Maffei and today it hosts many shows and cultural events.
To cap wonderfully the itinerary off, it is time to visit the Salt Pan of Cervia, an immense expanse of 827 hectares, just a kilometre far from the sea. It was once divided into 144 small family-run salt pans, but in 1956 it was radically modified. All the previous smaller companies were brought together into a single industrial activity. The only exception is Camillone Salt Pan, which nowadays remains still independent and operates, protected by the commitment of the Cultural Association “Civiltà Salinara”. Camillone Salt Pan and Civiltà Salinara today produce very prestigious Slow Food salt. From the internal Visitor Centre, located into an old slaughterhouse, a lot of guided tours start. Many of them are by boat and we highly recommend them if you want to admire the vast expanses of salt and many beautiful birds, such as the flamingo, the shelduck, the avocet and the black-winged stilt, loyal “guests” of the Salt Pan during their Adriatic migrations.
This itinerary gives deep emotions and arouses great interest for the history, the culture and the traditions of a community with a strong and intriguing identity. This is an experience that cannot be defined in any other way than a true bliss for the eyes. A trip into the whiteness, looking for a blue horizon.