Historically significant and overflowing with natural beauty, the western province of Oristano in Sardinia is a sublime mix of culture, old world traditions and beautiful scenery, from the iconic landmarks, charming ruins and historical events in the city, to the bird species, luscious landscapes and natural splendor of the coastline, mountains and surrounding Regional Parks. Bordered by several provinces including Sassari, Medio Campidano, Cagliari and Nuoro, the interior of Oristano is a sublime mix of towering peaks, scenic coastline and protected parks. The Monte Ferru Range dominates a rural skyline towering high above the fertile wetlands, while the Sinis Peninsula is an inspiring stretch of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and alluring coastline. Another highlight of precious scenery in the local area are the numerous protected parks such as Mal di Ventre Island Marine Park and the most popular Monte Arci Regional Park which is a striking combination of rolling hills, beautiful woodlands, leafy flora and outdoor adventures. And then there is the wildlife; these stunning landscapes are home to many animals such as weasels, foxes, wild boars, and wild cats, not to mention a huge variety of bird species including seagulls, jays, kestrels and even flamingos. Remnants of ancient history are never far away in Oristano and many relics can be found with an inquisitive mind and an eye for detail, for the Baroque style of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta may suggest an 18th Century origin, but upon closer inspection, aspects of the architecture will bring forward the true nature of the buildings origin in the 13th Century. The Tower of Mariano, Arborense Antique Museum and the monuments of Piazza Eleonara are further celebration for the rich history beyond the town, which is now a haven for delightful restaurants, quaint cafe’s and traditional foods which proudly uphold the locals reputation for world class cuisine. Su ghisau is a meat stew with succulent pieces of lamb or pig, myrtle hen is a local delicacy combining boiled hen with herbs, while bottarga is a delicious egg dish served with fresh pasta; the locals are as passionate about food, as they are for locally produced wine with Vernacci di Oristano, Nuragus and Semidano just a few of the many celebrated flavors. Surrounding Oristano, a large number of archaeological sites can be found in a most serene setting, for it is here, where you can find the stunning Tharros Archaeological site and remnants of a town dating back to the 8th Century BC, Santa Giusta and the Romanesque remains of a 12th Century Cathedral, the prehistoric remains of Fordongianus and then the mysterious pagan temple of San Salvatore. Few places in this part of the world can claim so many important sites with so much historical context as Oristano, and to explore the nature in between makes for a truly memorable holiday in Sardinia.
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Where to Stay in Oristano - Top Picks
Mariano IV Palace Hotel
When you consider where to stay in Oristano, location is always important, and this is something for which Mariano Hotel is best known. For example, nearby beaches are just a short walking-distance away while the proximity of the airport means for minimal travel time in general. Oristano is also a lot less touristy than other destinations in Sardinia which makes for a more personal encounter regarding visiting the local attractions which include some impressive Roman and Greek Rooms. That being said, the Mariano IV Palace Hotel itself is the main highlight, and aside from some extremely friendly staff, you can expect all the modern conveniences in each room. In this respect, every room is equipped with air conditioning, minibar, free Wi-Fi, and satellite television. Featuring a range of room types, this hotel in Oristano caters to all budgets with affordable single rooms along with doubles, triples and even quadruple rooms available. Consisting of a bright yet antiquated design, the rooms are very traditional in every sense, and some of the bathrooms also contain a private bathtub. In many ways, the rooms in this Oristano hotel are a lot more spacious than elsewhere in town as evidence from the grand size of the wardrobes. As for the food, this is usually the subject of five-star reviews online, and the hotel offers two separate restaurants which provide a sublime mix of local and international meals. While the hotel bar is also popular, it must be said that most visitors enjoy the brisk stroll to nearby bars which are just a few minutes away.
Hotel II Duomo
Hotel II Duomo is located in the center of Oristano, and this particular accommodation is symbolic concerning the historical nature of this town. While the unique interior is undoubtedly the most attractive quality of the hotel, it must be said that the location is particularly impressive. In fact, this wonderful structure is a 17th Century house and every bit as authentic as the surrounding facades. Furthermore, Hotel II Duomo is just around the corner from both St Mary’s Cathedral and the Tower of St. Christophoros which are two of the main attractions in the area. And then there are the beaches; although these sandy stretches are a little far for walking, you can easily rent a car and spend the morning or afternoon. While you can choose from single, double, triple or king size rooms, the experience in each one is relatively similar. That is to say; each room is particularly bright with large windows and fresh colors throughout. However, there is still quite a rustic feel to these decorations and by no means does it detract from the appearance of this ancient house. Hotel II Duomo offers several areas in which to relax, and while each of these is small in comparison with other Oristano hotels, this feature is part of the appeal. After all, when you visit a small pocket in Sardinia, you expect something different, and this is certainly the case with Hotel Il Duomo. While the breakfast is substantial and the restaurant is open for most of the day, the central location of this Oristano hotel ensures there is always a wide range of places to eat.
The Mistral2 Hotel is very much a modern hotel in Oristano and more suited to business travelers. That being said, there are excellent facilities which never fail to delight couples and families alike while the room options offer further variety. As with many hotels in Oristano, the location is excellent with most of the attractions within walking distance. In this regard, you can also eat out at any time or visit the local bars, but for a little more relaxation, there is often little reason to leave the hotel. As this hotel caters for business clientele, you can expect to find a focus on the details at Mistral2 Hotel. For example, there are always beach towels available, free toiletries at every turn in the bathroom and a very courteous front desk. Meanwhile, outside you will find a huge swimming pool which is often the one feature which many guests choose the hotel over the nearby competition. As already mentioned, this is a much more contemporary hotel, and far from the traditional accommodation options, you will find elsewhere. Rather than antique design and classic furnishings, there is a modern appearance which makes the Mistral2 Hotel stand out. With this in mind, this may not be the hotel many travelers have been dreaming about, but the bright and functional rooms certainly make for a comfortable stay. If you seek a hotel in Oristano with a central location but without an overly touristic flavor – this could be the place for you.
Residenza d'Epoca Regina d'Arborea
Another excellent three-star hotel in Oristano with a central location is the Residenza d'Epoca Regina d'Arborea. As with several other Oristano hotels, this is a very ancient building with quite a bright and colorful interior. One of the main highlights concerning the rooms is the private balcony, but it must be said, this is one of the most impressive hotels on the entire island when it comes to traditional décor. From the beautifully designed wallpaper, extravagant light fixtures and antique rugs to the wonderful writing desks in every room. At the same time, these rooms are also accompanied by contemporary fixtures. For example, the bed sheets are flawless, and the bathrooms are as modern as you could hope to find. In this respect, Residenza d'Epoca Regina d'Arborea offers the perfect mix of old and new. You will find the usual array of features in this Oristano hotel which include air conditioning, safety deposit box, tea-making facilities and a private minibar. Meanwhile, the concierge desk is open 24 hours and can organize bike or car rental should you choose to venture to nearby towns or beaches. And then there is the restaurant which offers world-class meals which are prepared with a great deal of love and affection. When you consider the central location and the balcony views onto the main square, there are few hotels in Oristano in a better position. However, when you put this together with the array of features and spectacular interior design of Residenza d'Epoca Regina d'Arborea, you will understand why this is possibly the most sought-after hotel in Oristano.
Things to Do in Oristano
Explore the Antiquarium Arborense
Established in 1938, the Antiquarium Arborense is one of the most significant museums in West Sardinia. Built in honor of Oristano Giuseppe Pau, a famous scholar in Oristano, the museum features an extensive collection of archaeological treasures, dating back to the different ages, from the Neolithic Age to the Roman Period. Exploring the Antiquarium Arborense is one of the most popular activities in Oristano. The Antiquarium Arborense is also home to some of the most significant picture gallery consisting of three retables, a frame that encloses essential altarpieces. These are the retable of St. Martin from the 15th century, from the Councillors of Oristano, and the retable of the Holy Christ dating back to 1533. What makes Antiquarium Arborense different from the rest of the museums in Sardinia is that it’s the only museum that has a section for the visually impaired. Furthermore, the museum houses the most beautiful reproductions of some of the most-prized artifacts in Oristano. These artifacts are made from different materials, such as wood, bronze, ceramic, marble, and plaster. Located in Portico Giovanni Corrias in Oristano, there are guided tours to the museum and in Oristano’s historical center. Tours are also available in French, Spanish, and English.
Visit the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Known as the largest cathedral in Sardinia, visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is one of the most popular things to do in Oristano. Also called the Duomo di Oristano, the cathedral was built within a Paleo-Byzantine structure and above a 6th Century Byzantine tomb. The Duomo di Oristano is home to 16 marble casks that are housed inside the Tridentine Seminary, overlooking the cathedral’s courtyard, right across the Chiesa della Santissima Trinità. This suggests that the original structure of the cathedral consists of three aisles, and about eight columns on each side, which divides the space within. The church was renovated around the 13th century, and in the mid-14th century, a transept was added, along with four chapels featuring a Gothic-Italian style, which includes that of the Madonna del Rimedio. Other treasures that you will find inside the cathedral are sacred vestments, silverware, and illuminated choir books. On the left side of the cathedral is an octagonal bell tower with a small onion-shaped dome at the top, ornately decorated with majolica. From the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Oristano’s historical center is also located nearby, where the Sartiglia is taking place during Carnevale. Other prestigious buildings in the surroundings are the neoclassical church of San Francesco and the Palazzo Corrias Carta.
Explore Oristano on a Mountain Bike
A great way to explore the most exciting things to see in Oristano is on a mountain bike. With magnificent scenery and a wide variety of fascinating architectures, Oristano is genuinely an excellent destination for bicycle tours. So if you’re up for an adventure, hop on a bike and join one of the bicycle tours offered by BIKE OR. Founded in 2012, BIKE OR is focused on developing Sardinia’s local tourism through bike rentals and guided tours. The tour provides visitors access to an extensive bike park, including tandem bikes, professional mountain bikes, and a child’s bike. BIKE OR’s central location means almost everything in Sardinia is within easy reach. Furthermore, the company is affiliated with various sports and cultural associations in Sardinia. So if you happen to be a bicycle enthusiast, or you just love to discover nature in a more exciting way, then you should rent one of the bikes at BIKE OR, or better yet, join one of the bicycle tours and experience one of the best things to do in Oristano.
Oristano Restaurants - Where to Eat
Il Caminetto in Cabras (Seafood, Traditional Sardinian Food)
Il Caminetto is a Michelin star restaurant located in the historic town of Cabras near Oristano. As with many eateries in the region, the restaurant specializes in Mediterranean seafood and serves a wide variety of dishes prepared in a local gastronomic Sardinian tradition. As you may know, Cabras is a small coastal town on the central west coast of Sardinia, this particular area is famous for its fish farms. Thus, when dining at Il Caminetto, you can sample the delicious mullet roe and merca dish in which mullet fish is boiled in salted water, wrapped and preserved in marsh herbs. Overall, the menu consists of a wide range of dishes, from classic seafood salads, Sardinian fregola with clams, and mixed grilled seafood plate comprising of lobsters and prawns. As for salads, you can expect only the highest quality; fresh seasonal vegetables are harvested daily from the nearby farms and used to produce every item on the menu. Furthermore, Il Caminetto is among the top-rated restaurants in Oristano. Most customers are complimentary when it comes to the mixed seafood risotto and spaghetti with clams. Needless to say, diners are also treated to a friendly atmosphere and excellent service from friendly staff.
Ristorante La Brace (Seafood, Italian Food)
La Brace is a restaurant in Oristano that serves a wide range of dishes with a primary focus on seafood and local meats. The restaurant is best known for an elegant ambiance, and the interiors are wonderfully decorated in a traditional style that exudes a welcoming experience. Moreover, jazz music is usually playing in the background, which further enhances the romantic atmosphere of the place. There is a wide range of choices in the menu of La Brace and among the dishes that truly stand out from the list are fish-based, such as the tuna tartare, which is a combination of raw and cooked fish. Another favorite fare is the tuna with pistachio, a simple yet surprisingly delectable dish. And then there is the linguine swordfish, which was made even more flavourful by the delicious sauce made of garlic and black olives. On the other hand, one of the main highlights of La Brace is in how the menu consists of local ingredients only. In this sense, every item on the menu is produced using local produce, and the cozy atmosphere gives this a genuinely authentic feel. Indeed, La Brace is impressive at every turn and often considered one of the best restaurants in Oristano.
Ristorante Cocco e Dessi (Traditional Sardinian Food)
Ristorante Cocco e Dessi is located within the historical district, in the midst of ancient buildings and squares that bear witness to the rich history of Oristano. The interior is decorated with utmost attention to detail, and the restaurant is managed by a team of friendly and welcoming staff. As for the menu, you should find seasonal dishes made from fresh and high-quality local ingredients. Foods are carefully prepared to suit all taste, from mouth-watering pizza to a wide range of appetizers, not to mention the seafood and meat which account for most of the dishes on the menu. At the same time, there are typical Sardinian dishes and something to suit every taste or preference. Indeed, Ristorante Cocco e Dessi is often the subject of five-star reviews, and many regard this eatery as one of the best restaurants in west Sardinia. Aside from the range of delicious food on the menu, this feedback also compliments the excellent service and first class presentation. Although it may not be the most affordable option in town, Ristorante Cocco e Dessi is a fine establishment and worthy of an equally impressive reputation.
How To Get To Oristano
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To get to Oristano via the fastest route by car, just head north-west on the E25/SS131 after you’ve exited the airport area. After about 80 kilometers into your trip, take the exit to Via Giovanni XXIII/SP56 in Santa Giusta. Merge onto Via Giovanni XXIII/SP56. With the usual traffic, the drive shouldn’t be longer than one hour.