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Fiorano modenese, Italy

Salse di Nirano

Italy's curious field of mud volcanoes is named for being both gross AND salty. 

In the Italian Badlands, a field lures visitors with its siren song of strange burps and gurgles emanating from deep inside the Earth. 

Established as the first natural reserve in Emilia-Romagna, in the province of Modena, the so-called “Salse di Nirano” is home to a geologic landscape unlike any other in Italy. Tucked between rolling hills a few hundred meters above sea level, the area is known for its eruptive “salse” or mud volcanoes.

Born from the area’s clay subsoil, cones up to a three meters in height form thanks to a continuous supply of mud replenished by local rainfall and runoff, paired with methane gas forcefully expelled from below the ground by the Earth’s geologic forces. The feature and area’s name of “salse” refers to the presence (albeit minute) of salt in the materials ejected from the volcanoes themselves.

Visitors to the reserve traverse marked paths as they roam between the geologic surprises on all sides, from burbling mud pots and dried cones of dormant mud volcanoes to non-toxic gas vents littering the otherwise nondescript, bucolic landscape.