In ancient times, salt was collected from pools of seawater after the water had evaporated in the sun. This technique is still in use today in Italy’s marine salt production. A series of linked salt-water basins, enormous but shallow, are naturally filled with seawater, which quickly evaporates in the Mediterranean sun, leaving pure marine salt.
There are about 20 such marine salt basins in Italy, but only four of them are functioning using this ancient technique: Sant’Antioco in southwestern Sardinia, Trapani in western Sicily, Santa Margherita di Savoia in Apulia, and Cervia in Romagna. There was a time, however, when every important maritime city had its own sea salt basin: from Syracuse to Trieste, from Ostia to Venice. The Canal Grande is all that remains of the city’s old salt basins, covered in 1732.
Most salt basins were abandoned because it is cheaper to mine salt industrially. However, the four basins that are still in use survived thanks to the exceptional organoleptic qualities of their salt. Salts produced in those basins are not used just as plain salt but for their special flavor, which can turn a good common dish into an extraordinary gourmet experience.