Sal de Cervia, also known as “the Pope’s salt”, is handed to him every year. The tradition suffered some interruptions until it was recovered by Bishop Mario Marini, who served in the Pontificate of John Paul II in 2003.
Oscar Turroni has been a salineiro, or salt collector, since 1974. He works in a salt pan in the small town of Cervia, Italy, whose multi-layered salt collection system dates back to Roman times.
The salt that Turroni and his companions harvest – the beer salt – it is one of the purest and has a very particular taste. According to the Obscure Atlas, the excellent quality and sweet taste of the salt have made it a highly coveted product, essential for local cuisine.
Along with longstanding papal geopolitics, it also earned him the honor of being the Pope’s salt, which is delivered to you every year.
In the past, whenever papal states took control of a region, citizens were subjected to heavy taxes on salt. In 1540, as part of a popular protest against the new tax, the regions of Tuscany and Perugia stopped putting salt in bread.
When Cervia became part of the Papal States, its salt became “Il Sale dei Papi“.
In 1444, Cardinal Pietro Barbo offered a “flower of salt” to Pope Eugene IV, his uncle, to thank him for his appointment as bishop of Cervia. When Cardinal Barbo himself became Pope Paul II in 1464, he dictated that Cervia would continue to be the official supplier of salt at the papal table.
The tradition suffered some interruptions until it was recovered by Bishop Mario Marini, who served in the Pontificate of John Paul II, in 2003.
O Obscure Atlas points out, however, that even if it’s not the Pope, you can find Sal de Cervia on sale in the city’s stores and sprinkled on menus in restaurants ranging from catering establishments fine-dining to small restaurants by the sea.