The Oristano Area: Between Water and Culture

Explore the Oristano area’s enchanting blend of water and culture, from the vast Cabras and Santa Giusta lagoons teeming with diverse ecosystems to the ancient Nuragic sanctuary of Santa Cristina. Uncover the therapeutic secrets of Fordongianus’ historic thermal baths and witness the grandeur of the Santa Chiara Dam, home to Europe’s largest artificial lake. This immersive itinerary through Oristano’s water and cultural treasures, born from collaboration between the Oristano Foundation and the Department of Economic and Business Sciences of the University of Cagliari, promises a journey through rich heritage, natural wonders, and timeless allure.

The project was developed during the Cultural and Touristic Paths course taught by Professor Mantanelli in the Bachelor’s program in Economics and Business Management (EGST track) offered by the UNO Consortium. The students involved in the project were Martina Veronica Leoni, Luisa Liliana Loi, Luca Contu, Lara Vigo, and Laura Gungui.


Cabras Lagoon

Cabras Lagoon is located north of the Gulf of Oristano, on the Sinis Peninsula. It is Europe’s largest lagoon, covering 2200 hectares, and one of the richest marsh ecosystems in the Mediterranean.

Within the natural area, numerous species of water birds can be found, including the pink flamingo, along with various types of freshwater, lagoon, and saltwater fish. The area is characterized by the presence of “falasco,” a botanical species crucial for building “capannes” – temporary residences used by fishermen – and “fassonis,” boats for navigating the lagoon.

is fassonis nel lago di santa giusta


Santa Giusta Lagoon

Santa Giusta Lagoon is the third-largest lagoon in Sardinia, covering 800 hectares. It is fed by various agricultural canals and some small secondary basins, including Pauli Majori and Pauli ‘e Figu. The lagoon represents one of Italy’s most important wetland areas and was declared an internationally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention in 1978.

Renowned for the use of ‘fassonis,’ traditional boats made with bundles of reeds dating back to the Phoenician era, they were used for fishing (especially mullet) and transportation. Today, their use is limited to the regatta held every year on the first Sunday of August.


Nuragic Sanctuary of Santa Cristina

The Nuragic Sanctuary of Santa Cristina is located on a characteristic basalt plateau in the historical region of Guilcer, amidst ancient olive trees and unyielding cork oaks.

The sacred well was used by the peoples of the Nuragic civilization to worship Mother Earth, venerated through the precious element that best represents life: water. In the months of March and September, the sun penetrates through the stairwell opening, illuminating the water completely. On these days, visitors enjoy a unique spectacle: the reflection of the sun’s rays creates two specular shadows, one on the water and one upside-down visible on the upper part of the opening.


Fordongianus Thermal Baths

The ancient thermal baths of Fordongianus are located on the left bank of the Tirso River. The complex has ancient roots, dating back to prehistoric times when pre-Nuragic and Nuragic peoples considered these waters sacred for healing.

During the Roman period, the baths became a center for well-being and socializing, where physical and mental health could be treated. This site was later abandoned, and during the Middle Ages, some structures were demolished to build places of worship. Even today, waters flow at high temperatures (56 degrees) with beneficial effects on the body, and the complex consists of two establishments.


Santa Chiara Dam

The Santa Chiara Dam is a structure designed by engineer Angelo Omodeo and built by the Hydraulic and Electrical Enterprises Company between 1918 and 1924. The construction of this dam gave rise to Europe’s largest artificial lake. A new dam was later built, causing a rise in water levels, submerging forests, Nuragic structures, and the town of Zuri, which was subsequently rebuilt.

The depths of Lake Omodeo are a treasure trove of hidden gems, including giants’ tombs, “domus de janas,” a pre-Nuragic settlement, a fossilized tropical forest with trees dating back 20 million years, and bones of extinct animals.