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The salt works of Trapani

The Salt Works of Trapani and Paceco is a nature reserve in the western part of Sicily: in the province of Trapani. Established in 1995, which covers almost 1000 hectares in the territory of the municipalities of Trapani and Paceco. The reserve, inside which the ancient salt extraction activity is carried out, is an important wetland that offers shelter to numerous species of migratory birds. It is managed by the WWF Italy.

The History

Of Phoenician origin, the Arab geographer al-Idrīsī documents the presence of salt pans already in the period of Norman domination in Sicily for the Salt Works of Trapani. Under the reign of Frederick of Swabia, the state monopoly on salt production was established, which also continued during the Angevin domination. The Aragonese later sanctioned the return to private property, but it was under the Spanish crown that the salt production activity reached its peak, transforming the port of Trapani into the most important European trading center of the precious element. The salt pans from Trapani, arrived to the islands of the Stagnone.

From 1861 with the Unification of Italy these salt pans were not nationalized, and were the only ones to overcome the salt monopoly by the state, exporting it to different countries. After the first world war with the competition of the industrial saltworks of Cagliari began the decadence of the salt pans from Trapani, accentuated by the outbreak of the Second World War and by the foreign competition with the rock salt. Many of the salt pans were abandoned or abandoned.

The characteristic wind mills remain, used over time, for a dual purpose: some for salt milling, others for pumping salt water from one tank to another.

windmill in Trapani Salt works
Typical Windmill in Trapani Salt Works


But after the establishment of the Reserve, which took place by decree of the Councilor for the territory and environment of the Sicilian Region n. 257 of 11 May 1995, and its assignment under management to WWF Italia, there was a new relaunch of production activities and salt processing, by Sosalt, which is the main producer, with the approval of interventions restoration and recovery of abandoned plants. Trapanese sea salt is now included in the list of traditional Sicilian food products recognized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, which in April 2011 also recognized the IGP under the name “Marine Salt of Trapani”.

In 2011 the salt pans of Trapani obtained the recognition of the Ramsar wetland, with the decree of the Ministry of the Environment.


The saline environment, strongly salty, is home to numerous herbaceous or shrub species adapted to the extreme environmental conditions that this area presents. Along the banks of the pools, in particular, several species of Chenopodiaceae of the genera Salicornia, Arthrocnemum, Halopeplis, Halocnemum, Suaeda, Salsola, Atriplex and Beta thrive; among them the salicornia strobilacea (Halocnemum strobilaceum), a suffruticose species described in a few other stations in Sicily and Sardinia, and the salicornia amplessicaule (Halopeplis amplexicaulis) deserve a special mention.

typical flower in Trapani
Typical flower in Trapani

Other significant species include: maritime flowering (Calendula maritima), a rare endemism whose range is limited to the coastal area between the Stagnone di Marsala and Monte Cofano; the marine enigma (Limbarda crithmoides); the so-called Malta mushroom (Cynomorium coccineum), a parasitic plant present in Italy, as well as in this area, in narrow coastal areas of Sardinia and Basilicata. Other endemic species worthy of mention are the saloni limonio (Myriolepis ferulacea), the Balearic euphorbia (Euphorbia pithyusa subsp. Cupanii), various species of Limonium (L. densiflorum, L. lojaconoi, L. avei), the cressa (Cressa cretica), the panellina of the saline (Aeluropus lagopoides), the spiral-chervil grass (Ruppia cirrhosa) and the limoniastraus bush (Limoniastrum monopetalum).


The area of ​​the Reserve in Salt Works of Trapani has a particular ornithological interest as it constitutes a rest area on the route of migration to Africa. Considering both the breeding species and the wintering species, 208 different species of birds have been registered, including the avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), chosen as the symbol of the Reserve, the flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), the spatula (Platalea leucorodia), the white heron greater (Ardea alba), the egretta (Egretta garzetta), the bittern (Botaurus stellaris), the rosy gull (Chroicocephalus genei), the kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), the stilt of Italy (Himantopus himantopus), the friar (Sternula albifrons), the fratino (Charadrius alexandrinus), the calandrella (Calandrella brachydactyla) and various species of anatidae.

Avocet in Trapani
Avocet – symbol of the Natural Reserve

There are also numerous species of rare insects such as Cephalota coleopterans circumdata imperialis, Cephalota litorea goudoti and Cephalota maura cupreothoracica, three subspecies of the subfamily Cicindelinae (Carabidae) that colonize dry and salt-encrusted surfaces; the tessellated tessellated orthoptera, Platypigius platypigius, Pterolepis elymica and Incertana drepanensis; the butterfly Orgyia dubia arcerii, moth of the subfamily Lymantriinae (Erebidae), closely linked to the coastal environment of the salt pans, and in particular to the salicornieto where its nourish plants grow; always linked to the salicornieto the presence of some species of heteroptera of the family Miridae (Phytocoris salsolae, Orthotylus divisus and Orthotylus roseiceps).

Finally, the presence in the salty pools of Artemia salina, a small crustacean of the order of the Anostraca, adapted to extreme living conditions, object of numerous scientific research.

Salt Production

Despite being a reserve, the salt works of Trapani are the historic-traditional activity of saliculture is still carried out. In fact, a large part of the reserve consists of privately owned salt pans, where the cultivation and production of sea salt is permitted. Salt production is constantly increasing: from the establishment of the Reserve to today it has increased from about 50,000 to about 80,000 tons / year, and a new saline is also being set up. In addition to those that belong to the Sosalt, there are: Salinagrande (the oldest of Trapani), the salt Galia Teresina, the Salina Culcasi, the saline Calcara (around the Isolotto of Calcara), the salt Galia.

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