Oristano has been the provincial capital since 1974 and stands on the northern border of the Campidano plain near the Tirso estuary, at the centre of a sequence of lagoons filled to the brim with fish. The town originated in 1070, when the inhabitants of nearby Tharros migrated here after the Saracens had destroyed their town. 
It is an important centre and rose between 1100 and 1400, when as capital of the “Giudicato” of Arborea, it was guided by enlightened sovereigns like Mariano IV and his daughter Eleonora, who drafted the body of laws known as the “Carta de Logu”. 

The Cathedral is found in the historic centre and is a real little artistic gem, built in 1228 with the help of Lombard skilled workers, and then rebuilt in the XVII century in Baroque style. The Tower of Mariano II, in sandstone blocks was erected in 1291 and, together with the facing Portixedda Tower, is the only trace remaining of the old city walls. 

Inside the neoclassical Palazzo Parpaglia we find the “Antiquarium Arborense”, which houses numerous archaeological collections from the excavations at Tharros, as well as a picture gallery and a section dedicated to the period of the “Giudicati”. 
The “Sartiglia” is an event which is unique to the Island and takes place during the Carnival period according to an age-old ritual; in fact it was probably introduced in 1350 by Mariano II to celebrate his marriage. 
The procession leader, “su Componidori”, is a figure of untouchable sacredness. On the day of the competition, after being robed by the “is Massaieddas”, a group of young women dressed in costume, he leads the procession of masked horsemen, trumpeters and drummers across the city, all the way to the square where the tournament is held; here, at a given signal he sets off at a gallop and during the ride has to try and insert his sword into the hole in the middle of a silver star hanging on a fine cord. Then, after him all the other horsemen follow suit. 

The old “Santa Croce Fair” or the National Fair of Oristano takes place in September. It is dedicated to the exhibition of the Italian breed of Sardinian-bred horses and includes an agro-industrial fair and a flower show. 
Oristano’s cuisine proposes strong and unmistakable flavours: a helping of the famous “bottarga di muggine” (dried salted fish roe) caught in the nearby lagoons, is absolutely not to be missed or also a dish of eels cooked in a myriad of ways. “I mustazzolus” are very characteristic sweets and are made from wine must. 

Not far from Oristano, the ancient Phoenician city of Tharros is well worth visiting, situated near the Cabras lagoon, remarkable for its variety in birdlife and for the picturesque fishermen’s huts.

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