Besides having been one of the fundamental mainstays of the local economy, the Cervia salt pans have always represented an extremely valuable landscape and naturalistic legacy. The historical importance of Cervia is tied to its “white gold”, something substantiated by lots of documentary evidence. The Cervia salt pan was established as a nature reserve and animal restocking area by a Ministerial Decree of 1979. And so it was that an 827 hectare nature site was preserved, with its flowers and animals typical of wetland areas, and which cannot be seen in any other natural environment. Among the “water fowl” that live in this environment are avocets, blackwinged stilts, bramblings, blacktailed godwits, terns, Kentish plowers, little terns, little ringed plovers, kingfishers, black-headed gulls and herring gulls, which nest here, and other birds such as herons, little egrets, flamingos, sandpipers, cormorants, spoonbills, ruffs, curlew sandpipers.
There are also more than 35 species of wading birds and 10 species of ducks, both diving and surface, such as Mallards, Teals, Widgeons, Long-Tailed Ducks, Shovelers, Common Shelducks, Garganeys, and numerous wild geese, easy to observe in the right season along the banks or flying from one part of the salt pan to the other. The spontaneous vegetation, called “Halophile” (meaning it loves salt), includes salicomia plants, suaeda maritima, sea purslane, sea lavender, sea aster. On the higher banks and along the carriageways thrive the beautiful autumn crocus, the lilac and white varieties of the cornflower, the bull thistle and the card thistle, the St. John’s Wort or klamath weed, the yellow bed-straw, the spiny restharrow, the pennyroyal, the melilot, the star-of-Bethlehem, the artemisa, the blackthorn, the tamarisk and many other.
The plants of the salt pan are well-known both for their beauty and for their culinary and medicinal properties – they are still used today in herbalist medicine – but also because they are “feeding plants” for beautiful butterflies. With the setting up of the Po Delta Park, of which the Cervia salt pan is a part, more opportunities exist of becoming acquainted with the area, thanks to information centres, observation points and specialised guides. The sweet salt of Cervia is known as a special “Sweet” salt for the purity of its sodium chloride and its low bitter chloride content; this makes it especially suited for cooking and for the production of dressed-pork products and cheeses. The Salt of Cervia is a pure sea salt, not artificially dried, that maintains its natural humidity. It is highly soluble and still rich in all the trace elements contained in sea water - iodine, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, calcium, manganese and potassium. This “sweet” salt is also used to make exquisite Salts with aromatic herbs, the famous sweet salt chocolate and many other products. From the berries of the wild salt-pan blackthorn, “prugnolino” and blackthorn jam are made, while from the surrounding districts come sand wines and pinewood honey. The Cervia salt pan is located to the south of the Po Delta Park and its products are protected by the Po Delta brand rules and regulations.