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Old Ficocle and New Cervia foundation

Old Ficocle and New Cervia foundation

Ficocle and Cervia Nuova, a tale of salt, culture and history

Pianta Cervia VecchiaThe history of Cervia can be traced back centuries. It has always been wrapped in a veil of mystery, considering that the documents and findings connected with it are scarce.

Scholars agree on calling Cervia "the town of three sites", since it has been reconstructed three times in three different historic periods.
At first the town was known as Ficocle, which was probably of Greek origin. There is little clear evidence regarding this period, but we know that it definitely lay near to the coast, presumably half way between present-day Cervia and Ravenna and its closeness to the sea was also confirmed by its name, Ficocle, which in Greek means "place made famous by its famous algae". We also know that it was completely destructed by Esarca Teodoro in 709, guilty of being an ally with Ravenna against Constantinople. After such a disaster the city was reconstructed in a safer place, at the centre of "Prato della Rosa", within the Salt Pans.

It was a strong city which had three entrances connected to the mainland by draw-bridges, a Prior's Palace, as many as seven churches and a fortress, which according to legend was to the order of Barbarossa.

It was during this period that the name was changed from Ficocle to Cervia.

The new town certainly enjoyed a geographical position which made it unconquerable, but at the same time it could not however guarantee its inhabitants of that period ideal environmental and hygienic conditions. In fact, the Salt Pans were nothing but marshland and within just a few years the decisively unhygienic air in the area decimated the population.

In 1630 people began to think of moving Cervia to a more hygienic geographical position. However, this did not take place until 9th November 1697, when Pope Innocenzo XII, who was then the Head of the Papal State, decided to sign the Document which contained the order and the formalities to reconstruct the new town.

The document indicated the exact number of the houses to be built, the position of the cathedral, of the Bishop's Palace and the prisons for a total cost of 35-40,000 scudi. Ample space was left for the two Salt Storehouses and the defensive San Michele Tower, which had been built since 1691. The storehouses presented themselves as solid buildings, with only a few entrances and particularly spacious inside so that enormous quantities of salt, about 130,000 hundredweight, could be stored there.

Cervia: origin of the name

They say that when the town was completely surrounded by woods and forests, one of the most frequent visitors of this verdant setting was the Bishop of Lodi and one day, while he was taking a walk in the pinewood, a deer, recognising him as a representative of God, bowed before him as a sign of devotion.

Since that very day it seemed natural to call the town Cervia, not only to remember that extraordinary event, but also because there were large numbers of deer in the pinewood.
However, another version says that the name of the town probably comes from the presence of in Cervia of "Acervi", which were enormous piles of salt deposited at the margins of the Salt Pans after the gathering of salt.

Anyhow, the local people are more convinced by the first version, in fact the town's coat of arms represents a golden deer kneeling down on verdant ground

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