saline-conti-vecchi-hero.jpg

The Ing. Luigi Conti Vecchi company

Our subsidiary that manages the Assemini salt pans.

White gold production in Sardinia

The Ing. Luigi Conti Vecchi company is 100% controlled by Eni Rewind. It manages the salt pans of the Santa Gilla lagoon for the production of sea salt. The production potential is around 400 thousand tonnes per year, of which 150 thousand are for food and livestock use and 250 thousand are for the industrial and de-icing sectors. Given the qualitative and organoleptic characteristics of the salt obtained, the company is committed to certifying it according to the sustainable sea salt standards and towards market valorisation.

An important contribution to biodiversity protection

The Conti Vecchi saltworks play a significant role in stabilising greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Since 1977, they have been protected by the Ramsar Convention. This includes around 2,200 wetlands that are of strategic international importance for the protection of the world's biodiversity. The nature reserve is also a Site of Community Interest (SCI) and is included in the Natura 2000 ecological network.

The history of the Conti Vecchi saltworks

Located in one of Europe's most important wetland areas, the salt pans cover a total area of approximately 2,700 hectares between the municipalities of Assemini, Capoterra and Cagliari. The area was swampy and malaria-infested in the late 1920s. Engineer Luigi Conti Vecchi carried out an ambitious and innovative project to remediate the lagoon and set up impressive saltworks. He also created a “salt community” with a residential village for employees and workers, with houses, schools and recreational facilities. A concession was granted by royal decree in 1921, the salt pans opened in 1931 and became a solid industrial reality within a few years. In 1974, the family heirs sold the Ing. Luigi Conti Vecchi company to the SIR group and, ten years later, it was legally transferred to the Eni group. In 2019, the Sardinia Region renewed the concession until March 2046.

Types of salt

Salt cultivation is an ancient art that is strongly linked to the cycle of nature and the seasons. The process involves pouring sea water into large, shallow basins known as 'evaporation ponds' between April and May each year. Each stage requires the skilful intervention of salt workers who, depending on the effects of the wind and the sun, determine the route and flow of water from one pond to another to encourage its evaporation and, consequently, the precipitation of sodium chloride. The salt harvest begins in September and culminates two months later with a special festival believed to bring good luck for the coming season.

  • Fleur de sel is a fine salt crust that forms on the surface of the water in the salt pans in the absence of wind and is harvested by hand by expert salt workers using a special sieve. It is a very valuable and rare variety of salt that retains all its organoleptic qualities. White in colour, low in sodium and sweet-tasting, it is particularly popular as a gourmet salt. Its harvesting is regulated by a special technical production regulation.
  • Fior di Salocca is a white sea salt, rich in trace elements and sweet-tasting, that forms on the edges of the salt pans where it is accumulated and shaped by the mistral wind. It is a gourmet salt that comes in medium-sized crystalline formations and is harvested by hand by experienced salt workers using shovels. Its harvesting is regulated by a special technical production regulation.
  • Whole salt is obtained from a crystallised layer at the bottom of the salt pans and is harvested by hand using a pickaxe and a shovel. It is a gourmet salt that comes in the form of coarse crystals and retains all its qualities because it is not subjected to any processes other than natural draining and drying in the sun. Its harvesting is regulated by a special technical production regulation.
  • Common salt for human consumption is mechanically harvested from the bottom of the salt ponds and washed at the salt storage facility. It is sold to local and international refiners or sent to the in-house refining plant for further processing and packaging in 10kg, 25kg and 1,000kg bags. It is then destined for the food industry, mainly for dairies, delicatessens and canning factories, or to be used as a raw material in animal husbandry.
  • Salt for industrial use is mechanically harvested from the bottom of the salt pans and destined for the de-icing market and certain facilities such as electrolysis plants.
  • Magnesium sulphate, also known as English salt, is obtained from the so-called mother liquor that is drained from the salt pans once the salt has settled on the bottom. It is obtained by means of precipitation at a special recovery plant and is used both in the textile and rubber industries and as a fertiliser in the agricultural sector.
  • Magnesium chloride, also known as sea oil, is a dense solution consisting of magnesium and chlorine components. It is the last product from the natural cycle of the salt marsh and is also obtained from the mother liquor. It is a versatile product that is used in thalassotherapy, as well as in the food industry and for de-icing roads.

Partnership with the Fondo Ambiente Italiano

In 2015, Eni's environmental company entered into a partnership with the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) for the historical, cultural and environmental revaluation of the Conti Vecchi saltworks. This unique experience included the renovation of the historic buildings, after which the area could be opened up to the public. It has been possible to visit part of the historical salt-pan complex since 2017. Some parts were restored to their 1930s appearance, so as to allow visitors to relive the atmosphere and events of the “salt community”. The tour includes a train ride through salt pans and evaporating basins, white mountains of salt and wildlife. The nature reserve is an ideal habitat for many species of aquatic birds: the area is home to a large colony of pink flamingos, as well as herons, falcons, ducks, sultan chickens and moorhens. The different water salinity results in many different environments and a rich and heterogeneous flora. Without a doubt, the Conti Vecchi salt pans are a special place where the work of nature and man have been able to blend together in harmony. 

The Conti Vecchi saltworks are open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, ten months a year. Information on how to book a visit is available on the Fondo Ambiente Italiano website.