The origins of the ancient Aristanis are still not known. The first proper historical landmark recognisable is in 1070, the year of the exodus of the population of neighbouring Tharros, devastated by the Saracens, towards a new settlement. In the twelfth century the Sardinian city was the capital of the Giudicato dArborea and was subject to remarkable urban and economic development due to the mercantile ties with Pisa and Genoa; following the peace treaty in 1388 between the Giuduchessa Eleonora dArborea and Giovanni dAragona, in 1478 it became subject to Aragonese rule. Subsequently, under Spanish rule, the city lived the darkest period of its history. From 1720 it was annexed to Piedmont in the Kingdom of Sardinia, as was the whole island. Oristano is situated in Campidano, the alluvial plain of the River Tirso, between the left bank and the Santa Giusta pool, and is close to the Gulf that takes its name from the city. Even though the area is not particularly vast, it offers a remarkable variety of landscapes, from sandy beaches to the slopes of Montiferru.
The city and its monuments
The city of Oristano is characterised by its numerous monuments: Piazza Manno; Palazzo Arcivescovile, built by the Piemontese and partially reconstructed at the beginning of the twentieth century, where the Madonna col Bambino is kept; the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, with its characteristic fifteenth century hexagonal bell tower; the church of San Francesco, built in about 1250, was completely destroyed at the beginning of the nineteenth century and subsequently rebuilt by Gaetano Cima; Piazza Eleonora, the symbolic centre of the city, is dedicated to the heroine who guided Oristano and gave him the famous Carta de Logu; finally, a mention should be given to the Torre di Mariano II, built in the thirteenth century on the orders of Judge Mariano II, it is the only remaining trace of the ancient city walls. The Carta de Logu is a document of fundamental importance aimed at disciplining several sectors of the juridical order, in an organic, coherent and systematic way, so as to achieve a fully implemented de jure condition; it includes a civil, criminal and rural code. This document survived, with some difficulty, up until the end of the judicial rule and even remained in force during Spanish and Sabaud rule, up until the issuing of Carlo Felices Code in April 1827.
The geographical area
There are numerous, characteristic villages in Oristanos hinterland. Arborea develops around the main piazza, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, onto which the neo-gothic parish church faces, as does the liberty styled council building. Cabras is a pretty medieval village. Santu Lussurgiu is part of the Montiferru region and develops along the interior of a volcanic crater and is known for it craftwork, carpet weaving and wooden chest carving. Finally Lake Omodeo is worthy of a mention. It is an artificial basin in the centre of Sardinia, a few kilometres from Abbasanta, and was created in 1923 when the River Tirso was barraged; for a long time it was an avant-garde piece of work and the largest artificial lake in the whole of Europe.