|Trapani salt pans from the town of Erice (Èrici)|
Sicily is one of these impossibly fascinating places to visit. The topography is dramatic, the people are friendly, the food is sublime, and the culture is an amazing interplay of Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Norman, Arab, and Italian influences. How could you not love an exploration of the culture and food?
The Phoenecians settled in the coastal areas centuries before Roman domination. Among their developments are the famous and still-operating salt pans, the Saline di Trapani e Paceco, on the west coast of Sicily.
Kurlanski (2002) describes the salt pans:
South of Trapani along the coast, earthen dikes begin to appear and a few stone windmills. The dikes mark off ponds, some of which hold turquoise water, some pink. The stone towers of windmills stick out from these orderly pastel ponds. The saltworks are built out along the coast until towards the south, deep leafy green fields take over, which are the vineyards of Marsala wine. This is one of the oldest salt-making sites in the world - the one started by the Phoenicians to cure their tuna catch, and after the destruction of Carthage, continued by the Romans. When the Muslims were in Sicily from 800 to 1000, they wrote of the windmills of Trapani.Early in the year (in winter), the workers open sluice gates to let sea water flood the shallow ponds. As the summer develops, the sun evaporates the water. Workers flush the brine into different ponds, allowing the brine to become successively more saline.
The current windmills are based on a Turkish model that was adopted by the Spanish, who brought their windmills to Sicily and later to Holland. About the year 1500, windmills were built here by a man named Grignani to move brine through the ponds. His son was named Ettore, which is the name of these saltworks facing the isle of Mozia.
I love visiting places like this, where the ghosts of centuries - millennia - remind you that people have lived, worked, thrived, built, warred, and recovered on this land. It opens your eyes and soul. Do visit Sicily, definitely. Spend weeks - months - there.
These are digital images from a Panasonic G1 µ4/3 camera with various lenses. I processed the Raw files with PhotoNinja software.
Duncan, P. 1994. Sicily: A Traveler's Guide. John Murray, 244 p.
Kurlansky, M., 2002. Salt, A World History. Penguin Books, 484 p.