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The legend of the saltpans

The legend of the saltpans

When shepherds and nymphs used to live in the pinewood, there were two wonderful young people: Iole and Liscari. Jesuit poet Pietro Antonio Zanoni (1723-1786), born in Reggio Emilia, came to Cervia in 1773. In his poem "De Salinis Cerviensibus", published in 1786, he wrote verses in Latin and in Italian about this inspiring legend.

According to Abbé Zannoni in the times when shepherds and nymphs inhabited the pinewood, two wonderful young creatures used to live there: Liscari, a gentle and kind-hearted shepherd, and Iole, a charming and cheerful girl.
She had been pasturing her sheep on the grassy banks of the Ficocle Valley, right in the middle of the salt fields, although it was forbidden to desecrate with livestock that land sacred to the gods. One day at dusk, while she was coming home with her sheep, she slipped into the water and drowned.
The salt workers rushed to her help and tried in vain to rescue the poor girl. They buried her in the bank and laid a big stone to mark her tomb. They also spread garlands of flowers all around, after dipping them into the salt water, so that the salt crystals looked like shining filigrees.
They say that that memory did not fade with the passing of time. It became more and more popular, giving rise to traditional celebrations where festoons, twigs and flowers decorated with salt laces.
As soon as Liscari the shepherd heard about this tragedy, he ran to the place hoping to be still able to help his beloved Iole. Upset by grief he fell lifeless on the stone and never moved again.
And then the magic change took place. His toes grew longer, started to branch and penetrated into the ground turning into roots. His beautiful golden hair turned into green stems with small fat needle-like leaves.
That is how the gentle Liscari became the plant that now bears his own name. His desperate grief had turned him into a bush and had rooted him to his lover's tomb so that he could stay forever by her side.

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