Whenever and wherever you are in Sardinia you’re never far from a festival, and as they’re often riotously affairs – from bareback horse races to masked men dressed in sheepskin and cowbells – they’re not to be missed. But they’re also steeped in culture and offer a great opportunity to experience the colour, food and music of Sardinia. 

January: Sant'Antonio, Mamoiada

January: Sant'Antonio, Mamoiada
Bonfires of Saint Anthony / Image: Getty Images

The Feast of Saint Anthony in Mamoiada is especially unusual. It re-enacts a victory of the Barbagian shepherds (‘Issohadores’, wearing red felt waistcoats and holding reed ropes) over Saracen invaders (‘Mamuthones’, wearing black wooden masks and sheepskins with cowbells attached).

February: Lu Carrasciali Timpiesu, Tempio Pausania

February: Lu Carrasciali Timpiesu, Tempio Pausania
Carrasciali Timpiesu carnival / Image: Alamy

Set on a granite plateau covered in cork-producing holm-oak trees, Tempio Pausania hosts a five-day carnival of music, masks, papier-mâché floats, equestrian events and a soapbox race down Li Carruleddhi. Don’t miss the Cork Museum, cork handicrafts and Nuraghe Majori arecaeological site in nearby Conca Marina.

March: Sagra del Bogamarì (Sea Urchins), Alghero

March: Sagra del Bogamarì (Sea Urchins), Alghero
Apaghetti or linguine with urchin is a typical Sardinian cuisine / Image: Getty Images

The ancient city of Alghero is famous for its seafood and celebrates from January through to March. Try spaghetti with sea urchins, though locals swear that they’re best eaten raw (ricci al cucchiaio) with freshly baked bread and a good D.O.C wine.

April: Sagra degli Agrumi (Citrus Festival), Muravera

April: Sagra degli Agrumi (Citrus Festival), Muravera
The Citrus Festival in full bloom / Image: Alamy

Celebrating the end of the citrus season, the festival features traditional costumes, folk groups, decorated traccas (ox-carts), and the opportunity to sample the citrus fruits of Sardinia every which way. You may even get to try pompia, thought to be one of the rarer (and possibly the ugliest) fruits in the world. It’s inedible when raw, but cooked pompia can be transformed into marmalade, ice cream, sorbet and even digestif liqueurs.

May: Sant'Efisio, Cagliari

May: Sant'Efisio, Cagliari
Sant'Efisio's traditional dress / Image: Getty Images

One of the most spectacular religious processions in the world, Sant’Efisio is a riot of colour, traditional costumes and horsemanship, as Sardinians process from Cagliari to Noro and back (65km) over four days, to honour the saint believed to have saved the island from plague in the 17th century.

June: Girotonno, Carloforte

June: Girotonno, Carloforte
Bluefin tuna dishes at Girotonno / Image: Courtesy of Girotonno

Dedicated to the bluefin tuna of San Pietro, Girotonno is an eagerly awaited four-day fish fest to celebrate the island’s ancient tradition of tuna fishing. Expect culinary shows, tastings, competitions and plenty of live entertainment.  

July: S'Ardia, Sedilo

July: S'Ardia, Sedilo
A traditional annual horse race in Sedilo / Image: Alamy

Celebrating Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius in 32 AD, S’Ardia is one of the most exciting events of the year. It’s a thrilling spectacle of bareback riders, headed by ‘Constantine’, racing downhill to the church of Sant'Antine. A feast of giant suckling pig follows.

August: Time in Jazz, International Jazz Festival, Berchidda

August: Time in Jazz, International Jazz Festival, Berchidda
A Time in Jazz venue in Berchidda / Image: Alamy

Held in Berchidda’s main square, and the woods of Mount Limbara, Sardinia’s finest jazz festival has hosted the likes of Jan Garbarek, Ahmad Jamal, and the Kronos Quartet. The festival also celebrates world music, theatre and poetry, as well as screening films and documentaries.

September: Festa di San Michele, Alghero

September: Festa di San Michele, Alghero
Cupola of San Michele, Alghero / Image: Getty Images

At the end of September, the town centre of Algero is transformed into an open-air stage for festivities in honour of its patron saint. The whole city seems to turn out for music, dancing, light shows and fireworks. The 17th-century church of San Michele is a fine example of Spanish baroque, though its beautiful majolica-tiled dome was laid in the 1950s.

September-December: Autonno in Barbagia

September-December: Autonno in Barbagia
Delicious local food at Autonno / Image: Alamy

The wild heart of Sardinia is the mountainous region of Barbagia (named by the Romans as ‘unconquerable’ Barbagia) and it celebrates its distinctive food and culture with an entire season of festivals held in many of its villages. Expect music, mysterious masked men dressed in fur and cowbells, and plenty of delicious local food and wine.

October: Chestnut Festival, Aritzo

October: Chestnut Festival, Aritzo
The Chestnut Festival / Image: Adobe Stock

At the foot of Mount Gennargentu, Aritzo’s annual festival celebrates the town’s chestnut groves. Polyphonic choirs, folk groups, arts, crafts and exhibitions can be all be enjoyed along with hot chestnuts and typical dishes, such as chestnut and bean minestrone (which usually contains lard). Aritzo was also famous for its ‘snow trade’ when, in the early 1900s, ice was gathered from the mountain top, packed in straw and sold during the hot summer months. You can visit the old snow pits or just enjoy sa carapigna, a delicate lemon sorbet that was originally created from the ice.

November: Sagra de Su Prugadoriu, Seui, nr Ogliastra

November: Sagra de Su Prugadoriu, Seui, nr Ogliastra
Seui's Montarbu wood in autumn / Image: Getty Images

The medieval village of Seui has some of the most fascinating mountain landscapes of Sardinia. The folkloric ‘Hallowe’en’ takes place from October 30 to November 1. Children go trick or treating in white dresses, reciting ‘seus benius, po is animeddas’ (‘we came for the little souls’) in the hope of collecting sweets and dried fruit. Try traditional dishes, such as culurgiones (pasta pockets filled with potato, cheese and mint).  

December: Sa Candelariu, Orgosolo

December: Sa Candelariu, Orgosolo
Colourful Orgosolo murals / Image: Adobe Stock

Famous for its hand-painted anti-authoritarian murals that cover the walls of many of its houses, Orgosolo is also known for the Christmas tradition of Candalaria (Candlemas). On the morning of December 31, young children go house-to-house singing ‘A nolla dazes sa candelaria’ (literally ‘Can you give us the Candelaria’) in the hope of receiving sweets, fruit and the traditional bread, ‘su cocòne’, that is specially prepared by the women of Orgosolo.

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