The beautiful and historic island of Sardinia is home to a wealth of wonderful towns and villages, and also to many traditions that are unique to the location. Oristano, a pretty and historic town in the western part of the island, is home to many wonderful buildings, important sites and fabulous restaurants, bars and hotels, and also lends itself as an excellent base for exploring the surrounding areas.
However, it is for something quite spectacular, and utterly unique, that Oristano is best known for: the Sartiglia.
The Sartiglia spectacle
A stunning and famous equestrian event, the Sartiglia (the official website is sartiglia.info/en), which is held in February each year (next one is to take place from 26 to 28 February 2017) and is said to have its roots in the duty to provide an army of horsemen more than 500 years ago by the local authority in the days when the Spanish had a foothold on the island, is a magnificent spectacle that has no equal each year.
As a result, visitors book their holiday to Oristano to coincide with this must-see event, and it really is worth the effort.
A carnival of colour, sound and revelry surrounds the Sartiglia, which forms the main event to the excitement and enjoyment that Oristano is home to for this wonderful week of festivities, and locals and visitors alike become involved in what can only be described as an unforgettable event.
Oristano has a history of horse breeding, so it is no surprise that horses are the focus of attention, but it is the way they – and their riders –are decorated in an array of spectacular and beautiful colours and costumes, each with significance to the ritual.
The Sartiglia follows a set theme that has been founded over centuries, with the central figure being Su Componidori, effectively the ‘King ‘of the celebrations who is adorned in a costume influenced by both Sardinian and Spanish traditions, as is his magnificent horse.
Riders train all year for their participation in the carnival, which involves some stunning horsemanship involving amazing skill. In addition, up to 120 horsemen on equally lavishly decorated mounts join the parades, riding displays and ceremonial performances, which are astonishing to watch and often breathtaking in their breadth.
The day of the tournament follows a set pattern which begins with a parade met by the Guild President, and led by Su Componidori. There follows a further parade, after a dressing ceremony in which the leader and his horse are adorned in their traditional costumes, then a series of toasts and proclamations.
Notably, the ceremony is prominent on both the Sunday and the Tuesday of the week. Jousting, including ceremonial and traditional sticks, and a display of acrobatics follow, and it is this that makes this quite outstanding spectacle just one great reason to visit the wonderful town of Oristano.
Getting to Oristano and the surrounding area
While there is no doubt that the Sartiglia is a major attraction, as with all of Sardinia Oristano and the area around the town has much to offer. The best way to make the most of the opportunity to explore is to rent a car in Sardinia, as this means you can take in the delights of the region in your own time. Visitors to Oristano will arrive via the airports at either Alghero or Cagliari.
From Alghero, the route is a simple drive of an hour and a half south on the SS131, while from Cagliari the route is North via the SS131, which should take around one hour in good traffic. Each offers a trip through some of the beautiful landscape that Sardinia is home to, on the way to experience not just the delights of Oristano, but to enjoy the memorable experience that is the Sartiglia, with all of its colour and excitement along the way.