May 2018 16

Cavalcata Sarda, the festival of beauty

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In May, it is always a time for authenticity and tradition with the lay celebration of Sardinia: Sassari, the 'most exclusive' area in the north of Sardinia, becomes a meeting point for the people of Sardinia.

The rhythm of the cantu a tenore singers takes turns with the thundering sound of the horses. Horesmen and Amazons offer breads, pastries and the first fruits of the season to spectators and Authorities. The rhythmic trot soon explodes into a daring race: the horsemen from Sedilo and the Sartiglia riders from Oristano. The Mamuthones of Mamoiada and the Boes and Merdules of Ottana captivate spectators and photographers with their fascinating and mysterious masks. The launeddas of the Sarrabus region accompany the procession and the final evening. These are the sounds and colours, music and dances, jewels and costumes of the Cavalcata Sarda of Sassari, where every year, on the second last Sunday in May, the unique identities of all the island communities meet each other. An unforgettable, rich show of majesty, a great spring festivity and the biggest lay event in Sardinia.

A unique and unforgettable atmosphere. The high point of the event begins on Sunday morning with a procession covering two kilometres along the roads of the old town centre of Sassari. Groups from all over Sardinia proceed on foot and on the traccas, along with floats pulled by oxen and decked with flowers. They all wear traditional dress, typical of the place they come from, often enriched with nicely-finished embroidery and jewels made with gold and silver filigree. An impressive parade of over three hundred horsemen follows on. The afternoon is dedicated to the pariglia, equestrian races during which the bravest horsemen perform, on the town's racetrack, carrying out spectacular acrobatics while on the galloping horses. In the evening, traditional songs and dances take place in Piazza d'Italia, with the tunes of the launeddas, the Cantu a tenores and accordions, and they carry on into the night.

The lay and compelling characterisation of the festivity dates back to the end of the 19th century and its charm has remained the same ever since. According to the writer, Enrico Costa, the first edition of the Cavalcata dates back to 1711, when, at the end of the Spanish domination, the municipal council decided to pay homage to King Philip V of Spain. The proud nobility all participated in the tatharesa. The event, which you can still see today, was officially established in 1899, on the occasion of a visit by King Umberto I, accompanied by his wife, Margherita of Savoy, when they arrived in town for the inauguration of the monument in honour of Victor Emmanuel II. Three thousand people participated, in costume, all from the province of Sassari. The 1929 and 1939 editions also welcomed members of the royal family. In recent years, the parade with the procession of costumes alone sees the participation of three thousand people.

This custom has become consolidated over the decades, becoming a folk procession of traditional dress from all over Sardinia, and is now an annual occurrence. An authentic and proud expression of Sardinian culture, inviting you to discover the unique combination of a strong sense of community, the essence of Sardinia, and of its natural beauty, culture, artisan crafts and food and wine. You will experience the magic of a ceremony, from the inside, which is always identical but that arouses new emotions every year. Ancient music can be heard along the roads, while protagonists and spectators mix together in a show that resembles a living museum, made up of men, women and children, with traditional costumes, bodices, skirts, veiled headgear and berritte (the Sardinian word for caps).