Sa Sartiglia, the carnival of Oristano

Oristano is a small city in the central-western Sardinia, which for two days in a year turns into a center of a colourful horseback tournament. Sa Sartiglia, celebrated for centuries by the residents of Oristano, is a performance which reflects the traditions, beliefs and a profound cultural and spiritual heritage of the inhabitants.

Origins of Sartiglia

The origins of Sartiglia are not certain. Some scientists believe that the tournament was brought to the island by the crusaders. According to other theories, the contemporary form of Sartiglia was shaped by the Spanish invaders, who adapted the Sardinian horse race to the standars from the Iberian peninsula. The Spanish roots of the race might be noticed also in the name of the festivity, which derives from the Castilian word sortija (ring).

Sartiglia: celebrations

The celebrations of Sartiglia last three days and start on the last Sunday before Lent. The key events of the carnival take place on Sunday and Tuesday, and are traditionally managed by two main guilds of the city – the farmers, responsible for the Sunday celebration, and the carpenters, in charge of the events on Tuesday. The guilds select also the main character of the event – Su Componidori, the leader of the tournament with a strong symbolic meaning.

Su Componidori
Su Componidori

Su Componidori: a human divinity

Su Componidori is the most important figure of the Oristano carnival. The leader of the race is an androgynous creature, whose costume includes both female and male elements. Some scientists believe that the figure might represent Dionysos, the god of vegetation. In a solemnly celebrated dressing ritual, the person chosen by the guilds to represent Su Componidori undergoes a real transformation: for one day he or she becomes a divine creature, able to bless, bring prosperity and fortune in the upcoming months.

Su Componidori: dressing ritual

The dressing of Su Componidori is an opening ceremony of Sartiglia’s celebrations. The knight sits on a chair which stands on a table. The Massaieddas, young women in traditional Sardinian clothes, under the supervision of Massaia Manna, dress Su Componidori in a white shirt with colorful ribbons, waistcoat, mantilla and a black hat. The most important element of the costume is the mask, which on Sunday has the colour of earth and a white tint on Tuesday. After the dressing Su Componidori cannot touch the ground until the end of the celebrations, as it might harm his divinity. He has to get on his horse directly from the table.

Star Joust

After the ceremonial dressing, the carnival parade begins. Su Componidori, together with Su Segundu and Su Terzu, the two assistants whom he had chosen, follows the solemn procession while blessing the crowd with a bouquet of violets called pippia de maiu. In the procession participate the representatives of the guilds, inhabitants of Oristano in traditional costumes as well as other masked knights who will take part in the tournament. The parade stops at the cathedral square; the Componidori gives the bouquet to Oberaju Majore and receives in change a sword. He will be the first one to try his luck in the Star Joust, the aim of which is to insert the sword into a star-shaped ring while galloping on the horse. The next participants are Su Segundu and Su Terzu, followed by other knights selected by Su Componidori. Their attempts are accompanied by drums and applause of the crowd. After the sword tournament, Su Componidori and his assistants repeat the star heating with a wooden stick. The results of the Star joust have a symbolic meaning; the more hits the star gets, the better harvest will the farmers have in the upcoming year. The tournament ends with a ride called remada; Su Componidori lies down on the galloping horse’s back and blesses the audience with the bouquet.

Su Componidori and the star
Su Componidori and the star, source of the picture:

Le Pariglie: the acrobatic show

After the main celebration, the festivity continues outside the city center with the acrobatic show called Le Pariglie. The riders, dressed in masks and traditional costumes perform acrobatic figures while riding on their horses. After the closing ride of Su Componidori and the last blessing, the procession goes to the dressing place where Massaieddas take off Componidori’s mask. It gives an official beginning to the nightlong celebrations.

To discover more about the carnival celebrations in other Sardinian cities take a look at our article.


Turchi D., Maschere, miti e feste della Sardegna, Roma, Newton Compton Editori, 2011


Carnival in Sardinia

The carnival is a festivity celebrated all over the world. The most famous celebrations, which attract thousands of tourists every year take place in Rio de Janeiro, Cologne and Venice. However, also the island of Sardinia has extremely rich and still rather unknown carnival traditions, which strongly reflect the ancient rituals, cults and beliefs ingrained on the island over the centuries.

Origins and meaning of the Sardinian carnival

Despite the religious dimension of contemporary carnivals, the roots of Sardinian carnival date back to the pre-christian times and old pagan rites. The festivity begins traditionally in the night between the 16th and 17th of January, with the all-night-burning bonfires of Saint Anthony. It is believed that St. Anthony stole a spark from the Kingdom of Hell and gave fire to the mankind. He is also the saint patron of pastoralism and agriculture, which for centuries were one of the main activities on the island.

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The traditions of Sardinian carnival are reflections of the strong agro-pastoral culture of the island. The figures often wear stark, simple, wooden zoomorphic masks, costumes made of animals’ furs and other tools used in pastoralism. They reveal a close connection between the human beings and their animals, the pastors and the sheep. The carnival is not only a period before the Christian Lent, but also a celebration of the end of winter and the arrival of spring, a rebirth after death. Traditional rituals and dances aim at bringing good luck, prosperity and fertility in the upcoming months.

Carnival in Sardinian cities

The traditions of Sardinian carnival vary in different cities of the island. Some of the most interesting are the following:

1. Carnival of Bosa – Karrasegare

The culmination day of Bosa’s carnival is Mardi Gras (Martedì Grasso) and the main character of the event is Gioldzi, a puppet which symbolises the carnival. The celebrations start in the morning with S’Attittidu, the keen, during which the inhabitants of Bosa walk out on the streets wearing black long black dresses and funeral shawls, often with their faces painted in black. Each person brings a doll or a puppet, a personification of Gioldzi. They walk through the streets with the dolls in their hands asking for milk to keep the baby Gioldzi, the dying carnival, alive. In the evening the black parade turns into a white one; the participants wear white clothes and start looking for Gioldzi around the city. The night culminates in bonfires where Gioldzi puppets are burned and in this way give a symbolic end to the carnival.

2. Carnival of Mamoiada – Mamuthones and Issohadores

Mamoiada is a little town in the center of Sardinia inhabited by only 2,5 thousand people. The carnival celebrations start on the night of St. Anthony with a parade of Mamuthones and Issohadoers, figures from the very ancient tradition and still not certainly known origin. Mamuthones, mysterious beast-like creatures are dressed in black sheep furs, stark black wooden masks and bells of different sizes attached to their backs, which can weigh up to 40 kilograms. They proceed slowly in two rows, surrounded by Issohadores, light creatures, in white masks and joyful clothes. The origins of the ritual are not certain; some scholars state that the tradition comes from the ancient Greek dance for Dionysus, others that it might be related to the pastoral traditions of the island.

3. Carnival of Ovodda – Don Conte

The Ovodda carnival takes place on Ash Wednesday. The main character of the event is a human-size puppet, Don Conte, which symbolise the religious and politic power. On the celebration day the inhabitants of the city dress the puppet in a long tunic, put him on the back of a donkey and stroll with Don Conte around the streets while singing and making fun of him all the way long. In the evening the figure is brought to a symbolic trial, which always ends with a punishment: the puppet is burned and its ashes are thrown in an escarpement. After the ritual the inhabitants of Ovodda start a night-long celebration.

4. Carnival of Ottana – Sos Boes and Sos Merdules

Another Sardinian town which cultivates carnival in a strong connection with the pastoral tradition is Ottana. The main two figures of the carnival parade are Sos Boes and Sos Merdules, the oxen and the pastors. The characters of Sos Boes are dressed in wooden masks with long horns, furs and bells. Sos Merdules, the pastors, conduct the oxen tied with ropes and make sure that the beasts, despite their continuous attempts, don’t escape during the parade.

Title: Luci nella notte, Author: Atzori Roberto, Source:


Another fascinating Sardnian carnival, Sartiglia, takes place in Oristano. We will present in detail in the next article.




On 29 and 30 November 2019 (, organized by the Barumini Foundation, the Expo of Cultural Tourism in Sardinia will be held. It is one of the most important events for the promotion of cultural tourism in Sardinia and for the marketing of the Sardinian tourist offer in Italy and abroad.

It is an opportunity for exchange between cultural operators and other sectors and productive sectors of Sardinia related to tourism, aiming to go beyond the beauty of the sea, investing in seasonal adjustment and the historical value of the Region of Sardinia.

Tourism agencies, tour operators, travel agencies, accommodation facilities and services for tourism meet with the concrete objective of creating products that can be promoted nationally and internationally.

During the two days of activity, promotional stands dedicated to cultural heritage, artistic craftsmanship and food and wine open to the public; conferences, workshops, tastings and events and workshops are organized.






Goni is a small town in Sardinia, exactly in the eastern part of the south, composed of 500 inhabitants. It is a small village covered by countryside, oaks, rivers, two mountain slopes, and a site of excavations where there are graptolytes, fossils of the Paleozoic, a place not to be missed for those who want to be in the midst of nature. It is also one of the few villages where the oldest Sardinian traditions are still preserved. For those who want to go to Goni, the best time is in July, because it is held the Heritage Festival of San Giacomo Maggiore, the most important festival in the country. Goni is most famous for two details, namely the archaeological park of Pranu Muteddu and the Italian Stonehenge. Pranu Muteddu is one of the largest archaeological parks in Sardinia (200,000,000 hectares) surrounded by Mediterranean scrub and cork oaks. It is an agglomeration of nuragic complexes, to the south we find the necropolis at domus de Janas di Genna accas, in the middle the tombs of Pranu Metuddu and Nuraxeddu, while to the north there is a set of huts called “su Crancu“. Instead, the Italian Stonehenge is a nickname that is given to the set of Menhir (belonging to the neolitic age are stone megaliths with heights reaching 15-20 meters) found in the park, in total sixty, in pairs of two. In addition to the beauty of nature we can also admire the labor of the civilization of the nuraghi, admiring the tombs located in the park, consisting of 2-3 stone rings formed by internal circular cells, at the center  the chimney and corridors to slabs that connect the cells. In addition to the park in Goni you can admire a nuraghe, located on the high floor of the country, 8 m high and 10m wide where you can admire the lake Mulargia.


The nuraghic site Palmavera is located in Alghero, Sardinia, on a promontory of the same name, one and a half kilometers from the sea. This village is one of the most important buildings among the 8000 nuraghi left by the ancient people, consisting of two towers made of blocks of stone arena and limestone and about fifty huts. Surrounding the complex there is a pentagonal shaped boundary wall. The village has had several stages of construction, during the first was built the first tower dating from the fifteenth century BC, almost 8 meters high, with inside a room with tholos cover (dome) and a staircase leading to the upper floor and terrace. During the second phase the second tower was added, with a corridor and a courtyard connected to the first. Following the streets between the huts you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this ancient people who built majestic towers and numerous huts already 3500 years ago. One of the main attractions is certainly the hut of the Meetings, which symbolizes the will of the people to build a field of debate, there’s a round seat belonging to the village chief, a model of nuraghe, which contained some complexes of Sardinia, a copy visible in Palmavera and the original in a museum in  Sassari, finally there were found some furniture for the hut. During the third phase it was built the wall with four towers, forming two outer courtyards. Finally the village was destroyed by fire and then was frequented by the Punic and Roman people.

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The city of Tharros is located in Sardinia in the Gulf of Oristano, more precisely in the southern part of the Sinis Peninsula. Built between the seventh and eighth century BC by the Phoenician people in the Nuragic period. The city has become a real open-air museum, the main attractions are the temples, the “Tofet”, the baths, the city and the craft shops. Tharros is a natural amphitheatre overlooking the sea, limited by the isthmus of Cape S. Marco, the three hills of S. Giovanni and the hill “Su Murru Mannu”, located in the northern most area. In the city stands an ancient protohistoric village that contains the remains of two nuraghi, one in Cape S. Marco and one at the foot of the tower S. Giovanni, and also includes foundations of monuments. Since the protohistoric age are still in use two necropolis, the most famous is the one located on Cape S. Marco and the other located a few kilometers in the village of S. Giovanni of Sinis. On the hill there is also the “Tofet”, an ancient Punic sanctuary, consisting of a sacred fence, an entire open-air area containing ceramic artifacts, such as urns, stems, stumps or urns. The city is also surrounded by an imposing city wall. One of the most important places that attract many people is the Temple of the doric semi-columns, the most important feature of the temple is its grandeur, located in the center of the city, which was dismantled in part to build the “Temple K”, a temple crossed by a paved road that reaches an old Roman monument, it has two pillars and is accessible through five steps, inside is an altar with a Punic Egyptian throat frame. Tharros is also characterized by its funeral areas, containing Roman tombs with sarcophagi, Capuchin tombs and pits. The city is made up of several districts, one of which was specialized in metallurgical craftsmanship in the hill of “Su Murru Mannu”, where they were found all iron artifacts, with iron samples from Scano Montiferru. The city also preserves the remains of some spas, in total three, which included a dressing room, three heated rooms, two furnaces for heating the rooms and various service areas. An aqueduct was built for the operation of the baths, whose traces are still visible along the road leading to the archaeological site and along the slope that descends to the beach. Finally, the city offers a beautiful church near S. Giovanni, built in blocks of sandstone, with a spectacular general layout.


Bosa – a town full of colours

Bosa Sa Costa

The town of Bosa has medieval origins, located on the west coast of Sardinia, about 40 km from Alghero.
It stands out between hills and sea, dominated by the presence of the Malaspina Castle, dating back to 1112, which can still be visited today.
Characteristic are the streets that wind from the castle to the slopes of Colle Serravalle, between small alleys and stairways that wind in the characteristic SA COSTA medieval district, formed by all buildings with colorful facades, thus creating a fascinating image. Another valuable architectural work is the Church of Our Lady of Regnos Altos (1300) with its frescoes of the Tuscan School, dating from the fourteenth century. Not far from the city is the Romanesque-Gothic church of S. Pietro: founded in 1062 and modified in several phases, its construction was completed in 1073.
BOSA is crossed by the River Temo and is the only river city in Sardinia.

The Temo is the only navigable river in Sardinia. Bosa has a beautiful coastline from Bosa Marina, to the beaches of Turas, the coves of Sas Covas, Cane malu, natural swimming pool and the area of Sas Covas, where there is a small port that is worth a visit.
Bosa is also rich in paths and natural routes that allow you to appreciate its agricultural resources combined with beautiful country churches open only on the day of the saint that remember San Pietro, Santa Giusta, Sant’ Eligio, SS Cosma and Damiano, San Martino, San Giorgio, San Maria Turuddas, San Maria Salvada.

Bosa is connected to Alghero thanks to a fantastic coast road from qaule is possible to access other beautiful coves and beaches: S’abba druche, Cumpoltittu, Tentizzos, Torre Argentina, Managu, Torre Marrargiu.
The malvasia, the artichoke, the oil, the lobster and the local fishes make the kitchen of high quality, wherever you decide to go to eat in Bosa, you are sure to enjoy special and natural dishes, little elaborated, you always let the taste of the raw material emerge.
Bosa is also renowned for the processing of gold filigree and coral, as well as its precious and exclusive filet. In the agricultural production excels the malvasia grape from which is born the fantastic wine, known throughout the world.

The festivities in Bosa are very special. On the second Sunday of September, Our Lady of Regnos Altos is celebrated with a long procession that winds from the district of Sa Costa to the Castle where mass is celebrated. Characteristic is also the Bosan Carnival, whose most important moments are: Thursday “l’aldaggiolu”, Carnival Sunday (representing the birth of the carnival), Shrove Tuesday with “S’Attitidu” (crying for the death of the carnival – in the morning) and “Giolzi” (the puppets symbolizing the carnival are burned – at night). Finally, on the first Sunday of August, a spectacular procession of boats on the river Temo to Santa Maria del Mare and the summer carnival around mid-August, dedicated to tourists not to forget the carnival that can be considered if not the most important certainly one of the most important festivals for the Bosani. Another characteristic feast is the 24th of June, San Giovanni, with the too much and the galloping of horses in the city. Finally, the feast of St. Efisio, patron saint of the city on 29 June, then other festivals that alternate throughout the year, the spirit of the bosani is goliardic and dedicated to enjoying the pleasures of life.
The city deserves your visit, colorful and alive as you see it at the first glance.