The beautiful, small, colonial center exudes a distinct serenity. Oristano's evening passeggiata (predinner stroll) teems with vivacious young children and has a relaxed friendliness about it. The city's star shone most brightly in the Middle Ages, when it was capital of an independent duchy led by Sardinia's own Joan of Arc–type heroine, Eleonora di Arborea (circa 1340–1402), who is immortalized with her own piazza, the site of the city’s town hall. Oristano is now the scene of livestock fairs and a rousing series of horseback competitions, called Sa Sartiglia, marking the end of February's Carnival. The tradition—in which a rider must pierce a string-suspended star with his sword—began in 1350 as a wedding celebration of Judge Mariano II. It has since continued as an annual festival that is supposed to ensure a plentiful harvest.
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