Spaces that dilate to infinity, immersed in dazzling light that add to the evocative atmosphere. This is not a poem, but one of the many places that nature has generously given to Sicily: Trapani’s and Marsala’s salt pans.
The history of Trapani’s and Marsala’s salt pans
The nature reserve of the salt pans of Trapani and Paceco, protected by the WWF since 1996, covers an area of about one thousand hectares and is one of the most important wetlands on our planet, offering shelter to numerous species of migratory birds. This landscape rich in history and tradition extends along the stretch of coast that goes from Trapani to Marsala and is linked to the ancient activity of the salt extraction, the white gold of Sicily.
Windmills and salt pans, the trade of salt extraction in Sicily
A white, crystalline dust that, under the rays of the sun, makes enchanting flashes of light. A sacred, precious dust, used in ancient times as a bargaining chip. Already at the time of the Phoenicians and the Romans, Sicilian white gold played a role of primary importance in the economy of the island and beyond.
But extracting sea salt isn’t as easy as one might think. It is a hard, demanding job that saw men, women and young boys, under the scorching sun of July and August, engaged in mining. Armed with shovels, wheelbarrows, pickaxes and buckets, they gave decisive blows to the crystallized slabs.
With the patience of those who know how to wait and build, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, they transported the salt and made the typical white salt dunes that still today can be seen when arriving in this magical place. We almost seem to see them, the “salt workers“: foreheads beaded with sweat, tanned arms, heads covered to protect themselves from heat strokes, a few sips of water to refresh the body, repeating the ancient traditional rhymes.
The current process of salt extraction
The salt, still today, is cultivated through the passage in three different tubs. In the first comes the sea water, now transported by modern hydraulic pumps. Here, it meets the residues of the previous processing and the bacteria that eliminate the inedible components. The extraction activity continues in the other tub until one can see the salt, in the form of a white crust, which the salt workers break, taking care not to break the mamma caura, a clayey layer essential for the tanks themselves.
After harvesting, generally carried out in the summer, the salt dunes are covered with tiles, sheltered from the first autumn rains. Here, the salt continues its silent process, in a laboratory where man and nature establish a relationship of collaboration. The sea water is no longer carried by the windmills but their ancient charm survives along the Via del Sale, an itinerary that offers one of the most evocative landscapes in Sicily.
From Trapani to Marsala along the ancient Via del Sale
The Via del Sale is a road that leads from Trapani to Marsala and which runs along the Stagnone lagoon. An ancient itinerary, whose landscape preserves the echo of the sea and the many men who, with their work, have kept intact one of the most important resources of the Sicilian economy.
To travel back in time it is enough to take a little road that runs along the Strada Provinciale 21 with the silhouettes of old windmills and the white dunes that look like snow but which, in reality, are sparkling, tiny crystals of salt. The beauty of the salt pans is best seen at sunset, when sea and sky are tinged with red. The mirrors of water, with different shades of pink, reflect the landscape and the sky above them, welcoming the light flight of herons, seagulls and flamingos in their basins.
The first stop is the Nubia Salt Museum, housed in an old house. Shovels, mill gears, toothed wheels, pins and work tools tell the story of a profession that was handed down from father to son.
As second stop, one can have a swim in the crystal-clear waters of Marausa Beach and then reach the Stagnone di Mozia, the largest and most evocative lagoon on the island. While driving along the road, the superb vineyards of the Trapani area can be admired. Another must-see are the Ettore and Infersa salt pans, with their old windmill with its characteristic red conical roof.
Your itinerary along the Via del Sale can end with a visit to Mozia, the floating island of the Stagnone which also houses a small museum.
Where to sleep near Marsala’s and Salina’s salt pans
If you choose to follow an itinerary along Trapani’s and Marsala’s salt pans, here is our exclusive selection of splendid villas in Trapani, Marsala and surroundings: perfect locations to experience an unforgettable holiday in Sicily among colors, scents and unique landscapes.
Lovers of villas with panoramic views can have a look at Villa Cielo, a property that boasts enchanting views of the Egadi Islands and the salt pans. The villa offers an amazing infinity pool and welcoming interiors on three levels.
La Pigna Bianca
Large panoramic terraces and a swimming pool surrounded by a garden with lawn make La Pigna Bianca the ideal retreat for a relaxing holiday in the open air. The interiors, carefully and tastefully furnished, also include a wellness area with a sauna, a whirlpool tub, a multi-sensory shower and a bathroom.
Corte del Sale
A few kilometers from Trapani awaits you Corte del Sale, a fully renovated historic dwelling. Its aristocratic beauty is ready to welcome you with refined, elegant interiors and with outdoor areas where you can relax, perhaps sipping a good glass of Marsala wine by the pool.
Dimora al Duomo
Tastefully furnished in an elegant, refined style with attention paid to every detail, Dimora al Duomo in Trapani is an exclusive apartment with panoramic terrace. Only a short walk away are the seafront, the port (hydrofoils to the Egadis), Corso Vittorio Emanuele with its shops, cafés and restaurants and all sights and attractions of this town.
Arangea is a beautiful villa with pool near Marsala. It features spacious, well kept interiors and amazing outdoor areas. The location of villa Arangea is also ideal for exploring the charming surrounding area: from the beaches and the historical centre of Marsala, to the salt pans and the historic local cellars of the renowned and award-winning Marsala wine.