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My hard life as a salt worker

My hard life as a salt worker

The interview with salt worker Sergio Dallamora

A direct testimony

Sergio Dallamora recounts the world of the saltworks, the hard work of his father and grandfather and remembers that, when he was a child, he used to go and help them, pulling the wheelbarrow full of shiny grains.

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"I'm a salt worker," says Sergio, 82 years old, known to everyone as 'e fiol' (the son) of Alvaro d'Ope, where Alvaro was his father, a salt worker, and Ope was his grandfather, also a salt worker.
In fact both Sergio's maternal and paternal families worked in the salt pans and he discovered from a very young age those shiny grains of salt and how they were gathered with the wheelbarrow.
"My father was in the Montanari barge - Sergio begins - and we lived in one of the salt workers' villages, the Aurelio Saffi suburb.
When I was a child, I used to go to the salt pans to help my mother with the harvest, pulling the wheelbarrow.
Then, as I grew up, I learned the techniques because it was important to know how to do the job well.
Before going into the military, I was a deputy salt worker, I would go and work in the salt pans in place of people who were sick or who had asked for a leave of absence, and later I also worked in the salt pans but after the restructuring of the entire salt complex, I looked for another job".


What was life like for a salt worker in the artisanal salt pans?
We used to go to the salt pans early in the morning and return home at sunset.
In the salt pans, it is 40 degrees Celsius, the clay is hot and it was tough.
It was a hard life.
At the end of the campaign, the salt workers came out thin, burnt...
When the salt was ripe, it was pushed towards the edge of the basin and then collected and transported with a wheelbarrow.
Once drained, the salt was ready.
There was also a prize for whoever made the most beautiful, whitest salt.
In late September, when the end of the salt campaign arrived, the salt marsh was full of flowers, we called them the 'settembrini'...

The salt pans have gone through different phases. How did it work when your family worked there?
Before processing, there was artisanal harvesting on 149 small salt pans.
Each family had one and worked it.
Everyone helped the salt worker, the mother and children used to go when the salt had to be collected.
Then the salt was taken to the Storehouses by the "burchielle", it was time for the salt to be put away and from there it would leave by train.

Then things changed...
That's right, in 1959 the State Monopolies decided to transform the entire structure and also the production techniques.
A single annual harvest using mechanical means was introduced, and the salters' habits also changed; at first they felt like fishes out of water.
The Camillone salt pan, where salt is still harvested every day, bears witness to the ancient trade.

You are a member of the Cultural Group of Saltwater Civilisation, which was set up in 1990 precisely to prevent this knowledge from being lost. What do you do?
The idea was to bear witness and enhance a history and a tradition that otherwise risked to disappear.
Musa, the Salt Museum, has collected documents, tools, and photos that bear witness to the environment and the production of salt and the Camillone salt pan has become a kind of classroom so that tourists can see how salt is processed and harvested.
We do guided tours and initiatives with direct experience of salt harvesting under the sun.
I also go to schools to tell the story of the salt tradition to young people because it has been the story of the hard work of many families and generations of Cervia.

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