The salina at Margherita di Savoia on Italy’s Adriatic coast about 40 km. south-east of Foggia is reckoned to be the largest plant in Europe currently producing sea salt. Salt is made by evaporating sea water which passes through a series of basins in which its salinity gradually increases through evaporation, a basic method that has been used in southern Europe for many centuries, but the plant uses the most-up-to date technology. The salt is removed from the basins where it accumulates by mechanical diggers and carried away in heavy trucks to be matured, washed and packaged. The whole process is subjected to rigorous scientific control. The staff at the historical museum aim to create a dialogue between the scientific community, the engineers, chemists and ecologists who work at the salina, and the public at large.
The museum is an active cultural centre, offering not just scientific discussions and opportunities to take part in courses in workshops, but concerts and dramatic productions. The museum displays are centred on four themes: the properties of salt; the salina as it is at the beginning of the twenty-first century; the role of salt in the past, and the evolution of saltworking techniques through the twentieth century. The museum holds a collection of more than a thousand artefacts concerned with working salt, including instruments to measure rainfall and evaporation rates, and weighing apparatus of various kinds. A visit to the museum can be followed by a tour of the salina where workings 20 km. long and 5 km. wide produce more than half a million tonnes of salt per annum. One of the outstanding features of the salina is the Stock Nervi, a warehouse built in 1936 to the design of the great Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi, which has a single-span parabolic roof in reinforced concrete.