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Oristano in Sardinia

In 1974, the city, located at the mouth of the river Tirso ,was named the capital of the youngest and at that time, the smallest, of the four provinces. In 2005, they were enlarged into eight Sardian provinces.

The quite idyllic Oristano, located north of the lagoon Stagno di Santa Giusta, developed itself into the most important Sardian centre of agriculture, after being occupied by the Spanish and later on after successfully combating against the black plague and malaria. Lemons, oranges, artichokes, almonds and sugar beets are flourishing in abundance here.


Some say: “Oristano is no tourist city - the tourists are mainly attracted by the excavation site Tharros that is located close to Oristano”. In this way, they influence strangers and keep the authenticity of the city alive, though still managing to retain its country-rural origins and thus being able to offer its visitors a typically Sardian atmosphere.

If anyone has a thought of duplicity, one would assume a smart marketing strategy of the tourism association is behind this. Because a wide range of attractions such as flying, skydiving, paragliding, horse riding as well as numerous restaurants and hotels, point it out as plain as it can be: the city, whose focus is still on agriculture and trading business, does not really say no to tourism.

In addition, Oristano has some very interesting historical and cultural places of interest. It offers the visitors superb swimming and strolling possibilities as well as exquisite fish restaurants such as the housing beach of Marina di Torre with its impressive Torre Grande at the shore, a couple of kilometres away.
What more can you ask for?

Even Oristano’s historic origins are quite impressive. The inhabitants of the already mentioned Phoenician-Roman harbour city Tharros, were sick of the frequent pirate attacks and lootings in their city and decided to move to a more secure location in 1070. This resulted not only in the construction of a new city-the inhabitants even took the buildings in Tharros apart piece by piece and rebuilt them in Oristano, which was then called Aristanis.

Thanks to the advantageous location and the agriculturally productive land, Oristano had, by the 13th and 14th century, achieved an important significance in the area and was named the capital of the judicatory Arborea at a time when Sardinia was divided into 4 judicatories. The inhabitants of this judicatory established and maintained, under the rule of the leader Marianus IV, Ugone and his sister Eleonora d’Arborea, the longest opposition to the Spanish occupation in Sardinia ever.

It is quite remarkable that Eleonora d’Arborea was allowed to take over her father’s judgeship as the first female judge ever. She performed it with such success that it resulted in her becoming an early symbol of emancipation and she is still up to the present day revered as a national heroine and is respected far from the borders of Oristano. She also enacted the popular civil- and criminal code “Carta de Loga”, which maintained legal authority well into the 19th century.

It is therefore hardly surprising that a life-size statue of the judge from the 19th century, on the Piazza Eleonora d’Arborea, forms the central point of the city. Beautiful old palaces, the palace of justice and the Palazzo Comunale (town hall), which was part of a monastery in the 17th century, surround the Piazza.
The Corso Umberto, Oristano’s promenade (also called Via Diritta by the inhabitants), starts from the Piazza and leads to the Piazza Roma. Here, shops, banks, bars and cafes form the social life. The Torre (tower) di Mariano IV, which is also known as Torre di San Cristofero or Porto Manna, dominates the Piazza Roma. Apart from this fortified tower, the only thing that has preserved from the city wall is the Torre di Portixedda.

The most important architectural attraction of the city is, with no doubt, the impressive cathedral Santa Maria with its wide perron. Very little of the original cathedral to this day remains (its construction started in the year 1228) due to numerous remodelling and rearrangements. The lower part of the octagonal bell tower and the Gothic chapel “Capella del Rimedio” are the only original remains. The Capella dell’Archivietto dates from the 16th century. In the 18th and 19th century the cathedral’s interior was designed in a Baroque- and the façade in a classical style. The cathedral contains a treasure, consisting of medieval works of art and hymnbooks from the 13th – 15th century, in addition to the Marian statue from the 14th century.

The bishop’s palace and the seminary surround the beautifully located cathedral place.

Opposite of the cathedral can be seen the Chiesa San Francesco which was designed by the architect Gaetano Cima (1805 – 1878) from Cagliari. In addition to the sacristy’s altarpiece by Pietro Cavaro from the 16th century, the church’s gem is the highly-venerated Nikodemus crucifix, from a Catalonian artist, which dates from the 14th century.

Not far from the church Chiesa San Francesco one encounters the Pinacoteca with important works of art from Sardian artists and the Baroque Chiesa del Carmine from the 18th century. The premises of the adjoining Carmelite monastery, along with a wonderful cloister, nowadays often function as event- or exhibition locations.

You should not waste your time by visiting the alleged residence of Eleonora d’Arborea in the Via Parpaglia. This house was built as recently as the early renaissance, a hundred years after the death of the national heroine, and has absolutely no connection with this famous person.

Something that should not be missed is a visit to the Antiquarium Arborense in the palace Parpaglia with its collection of remains from prehistoric times and early times in Oristano, the peninsula Sinis and the Phoenician-Roman city Tharros. Besides many clay figures, earthenware jars, Roman vases and fibulas from Byzantine times, the reconstructed model of the city is quite impressive. On the other hand, valuable table- and oil paintings of the 15th and 16th century, such as the Retablo San Martino (the display of Saint Martin who is portrayed lending his coat to someone for warmth) are presented in the Sala Retabli.

If you are interested in church architecture, you will find another example worth seeing and studying, only a few kilometres away. The three-aisled cathedral Santa Giusta from the 12th century, with its wonderful cross vault in the Roman crypt and the varying stylistic components from Pisanian-Roman through Lombardic to Classical.

The “Sartiglia di Oristano” should be mentioned at least once. It is an historical costume spectacle and horse tournament, which began in the 16th century and is traditionally celebrated at carnival time. As the locals know these folkloric festivities are very popular with the tourists, they decided to celebrate the Sartiglia twice a year and staged the second festival, to the delight of the foreign folklore fans, in the holiday month of August.

Now, we have come full circle and are at the starting point once again-
Oristano is no tourist city, maybe not yet, but would certainly like to become one, and surely has deserved the attention, because of its large number of foreign visitors.

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Titel dieser Seite: Oristano in Sardinia
Zusammenfassung dieser Seite: In 1974, the city, located at the mouth of the river Tirso ,was named the capital of the youngest and at that time, the smallest, of the four provinces. In 2005, they were enlarged into eight Sardian provinces.

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