The hidden venues of Piran, The town “made of salt” & Sečovlje salt pans
Upon arriving, explanations will be given about the organic development of the town tissue; framed by no less than three subsequent and larger town walls, among which the last two are well visible. We are going to see the church of Saint Rock and learn more about the epidemics of plague in the Middle Ages. Hear the story about the virtuoso violinist player Giuseppe Tartini and his devilish dream.
Enter the municipal building to see the original canvas of Tintoretto, representing the Town Fathers, and see the former measure system (measure sticks and quantity measures stone). Uncover the narrow passage that leads to the Jewish square. Notice the old olive press. Follow us to the convent of the Franciscans with an outstanding white Istrian stone courtyard from the early 17th century.
Excursus: In the friar’s library stands out a rare incunabula, a text book of astronomy “Tractatus de Sphaera” by Giovanni Sacrobosco (John Hollywood).
On the pavement of the church there is the tomb of the noble Tartini family. In two chapels in the north aisle you can see decorative “grotesque” carvings on the architectural frames and quality old Italian paintings. Enjoy the view from the terrace above the town in front of the church of Saint George.
Excursus: Inside the baptistery, closed most of the times unfortunately, a very remarkable stone block, part of a roman funeral monument – maybe from ancient Tergeste – with the rare image of an Eros riding a dolphin is kept; the chiseled out monolith was turned into the baptismal font.
Imagine the times when the Adriatic Sea was the highway and the magnificent theatrical scenery of the early baroque church façade, placed on a high arched pedestal was inviting the travelers to come into the proud and once glorious maritime republic of Piran.
Excursus: Tartini was also a writer of a musical treaty: the theoretical foundations of his work was the platonic theory of mathematic harmony, mediated by the music theorist Gioseffo Zarlino .
Sečovlje salt pans: the loving union of the sun and the sea gives birth to the flower of salt
We are going to visit the salt museum in the Sečovlje (Sicciole) salt pans and find out about the intricate procedure of salt making with the aid of the summer heat. Black organic mud (petola) brought by the Venetians from the island of Pag in the 14th century is (nowadays as in the past) the secret of pure white salt. Before this technology was implemented the extracted salt was rather turbid.
If we emphasize the poetic aspect of natural philosophy, the mud and the sea water are the all present prime matter needed to start the process. The heat of the sun enables the sublimation of the sea water and its coagulation: the water gets thicker and salinity increases. The final product is the precious white salt; the best quality of it is called the flower of salt because it floats on water.
Isn’t it a “cosmic agriculture” that we are describing in which the earth, the sea and the sky all collaborate to generate the pure “child”, the artificial gold? And indeed salt was a very precious luxury (roman soldiers were given a “salary” in salt) and smuggling it a means of livelihood for many. The agricultural metaphoric was used also by the “salineri” – the salt makers, when they would say that the product was ready to be “harvested”, and so they confirmed the unity of natural principles on the earth and on the sea. We continue the tour with the visit of the typical farm house “Tonina hiša” in Sveti Peter (some say the house is 400 years old) with an olive press in the basement.
Excurse: In alchemy the salt (you see it's simbol on the left) was one of the three base elements, symbolizing the body; the other two were Mercury – the spirit and Sulfur – the soul).
4 hours (or more)
- Tartini Square
- Tintoretto painting with Town Fathers
- Jewish square
- Franciscan Monastery with the tomb of the Tartini family.
- Church of sait George
- Fontanige, disused area of Sečovlje salt pans with the museum of Salt-making
- Centuries old farm house “Tonina hiša” in the village of Sveti Peter
Krkavče stone monolith with the carved image of a figure with a halo of rays, probably an image of the Roman god Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun)