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Sardegna’s Cultural Heritage in Festivals

Experience heritage in local festivals

Centuries of tradition and ritual make up the fibers of Sardegna, a timelessencounter of land and culture, an island rich and unspoiled, inhabited by a people, the Sardi, proud and solitary because they are isolated but always hospitable and warm. It is precisely in this embrace that the numerous folkloristic manifestations, festivals and cult events find expression which, in a timeless atmosphere, mix popular traditions with sacredness, showing an identity so deep and rooted that it gets lost in the centuries-old myths of this land.

Most sagre and festivals linked to the agro-pastoral vocation of the area and thus tied to the religious calendar, following the alternation of seasons and Christian holidays. These festivals share milennia of cultural and gastronomic heritage, drawing in thousands of people from all over the world to savor harmonies, beauties, tastes and mysteries of Sardegna.

Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate ~ January

Legend tells that Sant’Antonio Abate, the saint of fire, stole fire from the Underworld and brought it to man.  Recognized as the protector of animals, Sant’Antonio is revered by the agro-pastoral world. The celebration begins in January,  in some towns such as Ottana. The main celebration is January 16 and 17, the saint’s feast day. The cult involves the lighting of gigantic bonfires after sunset and the consumption of roast meat accompanied by red wine. This event also marks the beginning of the Carnival with the first releases (sa prima essia, in sardo) of the carnival masks.

Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate

Carnevale ~ February

Once the fires Sant’Antonio Abate are extinguished, the sardo February ignites with joy, colors and sounds in a great carnevale euphoria. Rituals passed down for centuries are revived throughout the island: fascinating horse rides in costume in Oristano with Sa Sartiglia and in Santu Lussurgiu with Sa Carrela ‘and Nanti, in the towns of Barbagia, including Mamoiada and Ottana, evocative and mysterious masks of the agro-pastoral tradition parade to rhythm through the streets of the town; in many centers of Sardinia, however, you can admire the parades of colorful and very imaginative allegorical floats.

Sagra di Sant’Efisio~ May

One of the largest and most popular festivals in the world, Sagra di Sant’Elfisio is a four day celebration of Cagliari’s patron saint whose origin story mixes martyrdom in 303 AD with a mid 17th century plague.

A ritualist festival since a 1656 vow in which the Cagliari masses promised the saint adoration for curing a pandemic, the Sagra begins on May 1, when thousands of people in traditional costume flock from all over the island with colorfully festooned tracca (carts) pulled by oxen adorned with flowers, in a long and sumptuous procession , the statue of the martyr from Cagliari to Pula, the site of Efisio’s execution.

The typical “tracca” or ox-drawn cart with its women and men dressed in Sardinian dress at Sagra di Sant’Efisio

Cavalcata Sarda, Sassari ~ May

For more than 120 years, Sassari has been hosting a beautiful cavalcade to commemorate the 1899 visit by Italy’s reigning royals. Even today it is considered the most important event of the spring period and consists of a parade on foot, on horseback or on the traccas (festively decorated floats) of groups from all over the island. The event continues with the performance by horse and riders in spectacular pairs and acrobatics, while folkloric groups dance and sing the typical melodies of the tradition.

Famous traditional Ardia horse races take place every July around San Costantino church

S’Ardia ~ July

Every July 6 and 7,  Sedilo celebrates Constantine’s 312 AD defeat of Maxentius with the wild horse S’Ardia. In the epynomlous sanctuary dedicated, dozens and dozens of riders and horses launch into a wild and daring gallop race. An immense crowd each year participates in this event to pay homage and celebrate the Christian saint.

Sagra del Redentore ~ August

Sagra del Redentore is the most important festival in Nuoro, Barbagia. At the end of August,  participants celebrate the Statue of the Redeemer located in the nearby Monte Ortobene. Religious worship takes place outdoors, immersed in an enchanting landscape. Horsemen parade in Sardinian costume while the streets are alive with dance and music.

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