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Armèsa de sel - Cervia's salt storage reenactment

Armèsa de sel - Cervia's salt storage reenactment

A tradition linked to the harvest of the precious white gold. It's a time of celebration that allows to rediscover colors, traditions and flavors of Cervia's culture, as today as it was then.

The ancient sweet salt festival

The Salt Storage, also known as l'Armèsa de Sel in the original Romagna's dialect, is one of the most ancient traditions of Cervia linked to salt, the city's "white gold".

The celebrations the salt workers organized in the past during September at the end of the long working season are reenacted each year even today.

Historically the event was very demanding but also the year's most awaited, because after unloading and storing the gathered salt the families could peacefully prepare for the winter rest with the profit they had gained.

The parade of workers and barges gathered every year a crowd of curious people from the nearby villages, but also prestigious guests. It's the case of 1792, when the Archduke Ferdinand Karl of Austria-Este and his wife Maria Beatrice arrived from Milan to witness the event.


 Salt discharge during Sapore di Sale

The white gold journey

The salt transportation and its unloading were arduous tasks that needed very precise roles and tools to be carried out.

To deliver the salt from the inland to the storehouses it was used a particular barge called burchiella. They deployed 103 of them in this operation and each one was assigned to a pair of salt workers through a lottery. The burchiella was then attached to one or two ropes (reste) that culminated with a large lead ring (é ciap) that the salt worker wore cross-body from the shore in order to tow the barge. The other one, still on board, guided its trajectory using a long oar as a rudder.

The burchiella was filled up hastily and haphazardly, because the workers measured the exact amount of salt only during the unloading. Until 1943 the salt level had to be equal to the edge, to ensure this they used a wooden tool called rasena.

Once they reached their destination, the salt workers used a long flat shovel made of wood called paloncello (palunzèl) to fill the round baskets called corbelle. They had a capacity of 20 kg and were used as a unit of measure to store the salt. The corbella contents were then poured inside a burlap sack and handed over to bastasi, a squad with 48 members known as the "salt porters". They entered the storehouse with the bags on their shoulders and emptied them in return for a token to hand over to the salt worker.

After they emptied the burchiella, the family of the salt worker returned all the tokens in exchange for a receipt marked with the exact amount of salt they produced. In the meantime, inside the storehouse the "dla paja" squad properly stored the salt previously unloaded hastily by the bastasi.

All things considered, the salt storage was a very challenging and exhausting situation that used dozens of burchielle at the same time during the unloading phase and at least ten long hours of work throughout the day, where hundreds of thousands of kilos of salt were gathered. This process of unloading the salt by hand was carried on until 1959, when a conveyor belt was installed and the procedure was made considerably easier.


Salt shed - Salinaro and burchiellaThe salt storage today

The "white gold" remains now as then a valuable resource for the city and its identity, a symbol that is still celebrated every year during the first week of September with Sapore di Sale, a cultural food-and-wine festival that reminds the ancient celebrations.

Highlight of the event is indeed the reenactment of the salt storage. Since 1996 a single burchiella, faithful reproduction of the original barges used in 1925, reaches Piazzale dei Salinari loaded with about 10.000 kilos of salt to freely deliver to the crowd, as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

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