Sa Sartiglia, Oristano’s carnevale event, is one of Italy’s most unusual and historic carnivals. Sa Sartiglia is a 500 year old medieval tournament with guild members on horseback racing along a sanded track to spear a silver star hanging in front of the Duomo.
Knights from all over the island dress in fabulous costumes and even decorate their horses. They don’t practice skewering stars before the event.
The most important people in the Sartiglia are the two Componidori, the leaders of the knights who choose the knights who will ride in the tournament. Before the parade, women called “is Massaieddas” dress the leader in a traditional dress and cover his face with an androgynous mask which is kept in place by a sewn-on bandage. Finally, a bridal veil and a black top hat is added. Now su Componidori has become a demigod. Once dressed in an hour-long ritual, his feet can never touch the ground until the tournament is over.
He leads the horses on a parade through the streets, leaning backwards, paralel to the curve of his horse’s back. When he reaches the Duomo, the fun begins.
The Sartiglia takes place twice, on the Sunday before carnevale, or Shrove Tuesday (40 days before Easter), and on Tuesday. It is believed that more stars are caught the better the harvest will be and it is considered a good omen!
The festival takes one full day of your time. Sa Sartiglia starts with a parade and ends with the knights performing acrobatics on horseback in the Pariglie. Sardinians are great with horses. Many of the riders of the Palio di Siena are from Sardinia for this reason.
While there are places to stand to watch the festivities, we recommend buying tickets to sit in the bleachers. There’s also a children’s version on Monday.
Carnevale in the Barbagia Villages is another carnival event steeped in tradition.