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Discovering the Conti Vecchi Salt Pans: a clean industry on the outskirts of Cagliari


Located 15 km from Cagliari, the Saline Conti Vecchi are a beautiful example of industrial archaeology in a fascinating environmental context that changes with the seasons. It is a true salt landscape that combines architecture, nature, industry and historical memory in a path of continuity between past and future.

Second in Italy for extension, after those of Margherita di Savoia in Apulia, the Conti Vecchi Salt Pans have known various managements, from that of Guido Conti Vecchi - son of the project's creator Luigi - to the current ownership of Eni, which, through an industrial redevelopment and reclamation project operated through the company Eni Rewind, since 2017 has entrusted FAI (Fondo per l'Ambiente italiano) with the valorisation of this immense cultural and landscape heritage.

Some history...

In 1919, engineer Luigi Conti Vecchi presented an ambitious project to the Cagliari City Council for the redevelopment and reclamation of the Santa Gilla area through the creation of a saltworks.

The project, considered too exorbitant and widely opposed by opponents who foresaw negative repercussions on fishing, was granted the concession in 1921, issued by royal decree.

Unfortunately, however, the engineer died in 1927, seeing his dream only partly realised. The start-up of the salt works took place between 1929 and 1931, under the management of his son Guido Conti Vecchi, who administered them until 1949, the year of his death.

From then on, various managements followed until 1984, when it was assigned to Eni (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi).

Today the salt pans are an asset entrusted in concession to Ing. Luigi Conti Vecchi, a young company controlled by Eni Rewind. Since 2017, when they were opened to the public, their valorisation has been entrusted to FAI.

Evaporating basins

The environments of the Conti Vecchi Salt Works

The salt pans cover some 2,700 hectares that include industrial buildings in the Decò and Artistic style Liberty, the dwellings of the workers of the Macchiareddu village, bridges, roads, canals, evaporating basins and salt pans.

Following the model of the industrial villages, the Conti Vecchi salt works were also organised as a true self-sufficient community. In addition to working areas such as offices, workshops, laboratories and salt collection areas, a true agricultural and industrial community was created, which was housed in the adjacent Macchiareddu village for the salt workers and their families.

Noteworthy are the office spaces, recently restored and fitted out with period objects and furniture: from the beautiful Olivetti calculators to the Decò lamps, from the photographs on the walls to the account books that tell the stories of different lives, but which are united by belonging to a growing community.

Accounting Office

The offices are located on the first floor of the building, while the workshop manager's office and the mechanical workshop are on the ground floor. The former is a small glazed room with a view of the workshop, characterised by the presence of an old employee card machine. Not to be missed in the workshop is the screening of a largely edited Istituto Luce documentary film on the history of the salt works. Another documentary, focusing on the naturalistic aspect and the salt cycle, is shown in the former carpentry workshop.

After visiting the historical buildings, a tourist train will take you to the outdoor areas of the salt pans: the evaporating basins, in which sea water is transported through the hydro-vessels, and the salt pans, in which the salt destined for collection is deposited. The evaporating basins are characterised by the presence of animals and plants and constitute a very interesting ecosystem, protected through the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands. Among the animals are the beautiful pink flamingos, which can be seen soaring in the summer evenings and colouring Cagliari's blue sky. Also significant is the presence of egrets, herons and black-winged stilts. Among the plants, however, the glasswort that grows along the banks is used in gourmet cuisine to add flavour to certain dishes.

Salting boxes

At the end of the visit, the lovely bookshop set up in the ticket office is worth a stop.

In short, if you want to have an unusual experience on the outskirts of the city and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of times gone by, the Saline Conti Vecchi are the ideal place!

Discover the Saline Conti Vecchi together with Roberta Carboni on 25 June 2023 at 18:00...BOOK NOW!

Bibliographic references

Enrico Pinna, Saline e villaggio Conti Vecchi: Macchiareddu

Paola Soriga, Sapore di sale: il viaggio di una scrittrice alla scoperta delle Saline Conti Vecchi

Francesco Frau, Le saline di Macchiareddu

Roberta Carboni has been a tourist guide and art historian for more than 10 years. She lives in Cagliari and is passionate about Sardinia, which she has loved so much, all her life, which is why she has chosen to tell her story through exclusive thematic tours. In this way, she contributes to making the island known not only to those who do not yet know it, but also to the Sardinians themselves. The tours take place both within Cagliari, i.e. in the historic centre and other parts of the city, and in the surroundings of the city, going also to the south and centre of Sardinia.

Join the thematic tours created by Roberta Carboni - Cagliari tour more!

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