Salt extraction is an ancient tradition, the origins of which date back to Roman times and to the Ligurian and Celtic people who lived in these lands in even more distant times.
Following this path you enter places that still today will take you back to the origins of the land inhabited by "Salsi": the millennial Scipione Castle, the San Nicomede Parish Church, the Farnesian Saltworks and the Pumping Station in which, in 1900, the bromine-iodine saltwater was extracted.
Finally you reach the Rio Gardello path and the museum: experiences that immerse you in nature and in the geological and paleontological richness of a unique landscape.
In the ancient past what is now known as an elegant liberty ville d’eaux was a little salt village on the banks of two streams, around a thick network of saltwater wells. Its Bromine-iodine saltwater has been used since the Pre Roman period for salt production to store food, and only after the year 1839, thanks to doctor Lorenzo Berzieri’s studies, it has also been used for medical purposes. The first spa building “Stabilimento Vecchio” was built in the historic centre, right where the salt factory stood. It was demolished in 1923 to make room for the magnificent Berzieri thermal spa, symbol of modern Salsomaggiore.
Following the ancient industrial history of Salsomaggiore, leave the city centre to reach the nearby village of Salsominore. It still preserves the remains of the old Pumping Station where the water extraction was done with a technique highly innovative at the time: the Gas Lift technique.
A curiosity: the site we are now standing had been one of the oldest and most productive oil wells of the Emilian Apennines, named for its exceptional productivity: “Triumph Well”. Between 1882 and 1884 the well was drilled up to 308 meters in depth by the Marquis Guido Dalla Rosa, and it originally produced up to 3750 kg of crude oil per day.
An imposing and unusual former industrial building stands a few steps further, at the entrance of the new dirt bike path that connects Salsominore to San Nicomede: the Farnesian Saltworks of Salsominore. It’s the only sixteenth-century architecture left, in a wider system of production sites, that during the Farnese domination was made up of at least three factories: the one of Salsominore, another along the road to Tabiano in the small village called Cento Pozzi, and the biggest one in the center of Salsomaggiore where the Institute of Chemistry at the Berzieri Thermae stood. The landscape's history is closely linked to salt extraction, because the activities of water extraction, the use of the waters first to produce salt, and then for thermal treatments, have had a lasting effect on the landscape's transformations over time.
Continue beyond the arcade of Ancient Saltworks, along the dirt path of the naturalistic walk along Rio Gardello that introduces us to the lush nature of Stirone and Piacenziano Park. In the ancient past, the area around the shore was not productive because of the salt deposits and crusts that spontaneously formed by evaporation of salt bromine iodine water from the subsoil, which appeared at the ground level due to the gas emulsions, making the fields barren. According to legend, salt was extracted in this area from the Pre-Roman period and there were numerous wells in Roman times. For this reason, the path of Rio Gardello could be identified as one of the oldest streets built by the Romans for salt transportation, but there are no documents attesting to this remote origin.
Walking a few kilometers in the luxuriant nature of the Rio Gardello path, you reach the Farm Millepioppi. Here stands the new museum MuMAB, which houses and brings together in a modern form, technologically advanced and captivating, the contents of two previous museums: the museum “Mare Antico” (the Ancient Sea), housed previously at the Conference Centre in Salsomaggiore, and the Stirone Park Naturalistic Museum, in Scipione Ponte before.
With your eyes and head full of images and history, continue along the Park area, in the direction of the magnificent Scipione Castle. On the way you meet San Nicomede Romanesque Parish Church, an ancient Royal Basilica, whose history is documented since the 9th century but whose origins are based in the legend of the healing powers of a spring called Fontana Broccola. It is said that, in ancient times, pilgrims afflicted by headaches carried a stone or a brick on their heads to the spring, then drawing on that water, with the hope for a recovery.
Finally abandoning the valley bottom you start to climb the slope towards the oldest stronghold of Pallavicino. The first official document recording the existence of the Castle dates back to 1025, when the Castle was founded by Alberto Pallavicino. Built as a military fortress, the castle was part of a major system of defence devised by the Pallavicino family to protect and control their feudal estate, which extended over a vast area between the municipalities and the dioceses of Parma, Piacenza and Cremona, from the river Po to the Apennines. Legend has it that the Castle takes its name from a pre-existing Roman villa built by relatives of Scipio Aemilianus, the General who destroyed Carthage.