The Cervia Salt Pan is the smallest and northernmost in Italy. It covers 827 hectares in a natural park, now the southern gateway to the Po Delta Regional Park, and has always been a natural breeding and nesting reserve for many animal and plant species.
The salt pan is one third of the size of the entire municipality of Cervia and consists of more than 50 salt ponds, surrounded by a canal stretching over 14 kilometres, which allows water from the Adriatic Sea to enter and leave the salt pan. Collection takes place in the heart of the salt pan, in ponds called "rango" and divided into three basins, a total of one kilometre long and 160 metres wide. This is where the salt is formed and collected, in a traditional way, just as it was in the past, but with the help of a conveyor belt and a trolley, which is very much like a small train. The use of machines for collecting salt dates back to 1959, and since then - except in the Camillone Salt Pan, a living section of the Salt Museum, Musa, where collection is still carried out by hand, using the so-called multiple collection method - every year from the beginning of August, for about forty days, the ritual of "cavadura" takes place.
“Cavadura” is the term used for the collection of salt. The sea water enters through the tributary canal, located in Milano Marittima, at the first crossing, and is circulated in the canals that run through the entire area of Cervia. From one passage to the next, the seawater is allowed to drain away and, through the action of the wind and sun, it evaporates and becomes concentrated to the point where salt is formed.
When the salt is collected it is wet and very heavy. Its characteristic pink colour comes from the presence of dunaliella algae, rich in lycopene and beta-carotene, in the salt pans. The water reaches the basins through a kilometre-long network of canals. From the tributary canal, which is located in the centre of Milano Marittima, sea water enters the salt pan through a system of locks and sluice gates. The waters of the salt pans emerge from the canal that runs along the shaft of the canal port, next to the Magazzini del Sale (Salt Warehouses), where salt was once stored, and the San Michele tower, which watched over the precious white gold. This is why it is known as a tributary canal.