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Sassari is Sardinia's second largest city and the third municipality after Rome and Ravenna as far as its territorial extension. The city is situated on a limestone tableland, tilted towards the Golf of Asinara and is surrounded by a hilly area on the south-eastern part and vast plains called "Nura" to the northwest.
The coastline is 32 km. long, high, jagged, sandy and enriched with beautiful beaches like Platamona, Fiume Santo, Argentiera, or Porto Ferro. It has a maritime climate and usually is mild and temperate.
The most important monumental buildings are: the St. Nicholas Church, Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Giordano, Piazza Italia and the Rosello Fountain. The St. Nicholas Church dominates the old town with its impressive, baroque façade containing the statues of martyrs in niches. There is a bell-tower beside the church. Its interior dates back to the XIII Century and is in the gothic style. Its external part was constructed in the XVII Century. Among the numerous works of art, there are also: a marble altar from the middle of the XIX Century, a Madonna del Bosco painting from the XIV Century, a Spanish crucifix from the XVIII Century and the mausoleum of Placido Benedetto di Savoia - Lord of Moriana, brother of Vittorio Emmanuele I and Carlo Felice, who died in Sassari in 1802.
Palazzo Ducale was built at the end of the XVIII and beginning of the XIX Centuries by Antonio Manca, the marquise of Mores and duke of Asinara, most likely according to Carlo Valino's project. In 1900, the palace was purchased by the municipal administration and nowadays hosts the small town hall.
Palazzo Giordano was constructed in 1878 and is actually the headquarters of the Banco di Napoli. The beautiful rooms were decorated by Gugliemo Bilancioni.
Piazza d'Italia, constructed in 1872, spreads over 1 hectare and is also called "Sassari's lounge ("il salotto di Sassari") as it used to be an urban centre where new quarters were developed. There is the Province's Palace (il Palazzo della Provincia), constructed between 1873 and 1880 and the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II - the work of artist Giuseppe Sartorio (1899).
The Rosello Fountain was constructed by craftsmen in the XVII Century in a time when there was no aqueduct in the most important point of the city. Considering the abundance of water, a wash-house was built beside it. Nowadays, the area is less important and in a valley overlooked by the Rosello Bridge. The fountain is covered with marble, its walls are decorated with 12 lions with water flowing from their mouths. Metaphoric statues of the 4 seasons are in each corner and a statue of St. Gavino on horseback rests on the peak of 2 intertwined arches.
There are very nice churches in the old town - especially St. Mary's church where "candarieri" are kept (big, wooden machines that are carried during the procession by the historic neighbourhoods' representatives, the 14th of August every year during the "festa manna"). Another church that is worth a visit is the beautiful cathedral of St. Nicholas recently opened to visitors after a long period of restoration.
For anybody interested in Sardinian art, a visit to the Sardinian craftsmanship pavilion in the centre of the city is very worthwhile. Interesting art exhibitions often take place here. Other worthy collections are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Sanna.
In May, Sassari becomes very populated due to the famous Cavalcata Sarda (Sardinian Horse ride). The descent of Candelieri (La Ferrada) is the most spectacular and popular event in the city; nine huge candles are brought through the heart of the city, amidst two groups of colourful crowds, dancing elegantly and frenetically to the rhythmic beating of drums.
The festival finds it origins in the Pisan wax ceremony of the XIII Century. The city made a vow to Mary to thank her for the termination of the plague in the XVI Century. The candles are decorated with multicoloured, satin ribbons, the neighbourhoods' symbols and symbols of the vows made. This celebration is called the "Festa manna" (Big Fest). The men from Sassari are dressed in their Spanish costumes that have been renewed throughout the centuries. The ride is also considered a big spring festival and is celebrated on the second-last Sunday in May by various groups of people coming from 70 different Sardinian villages and who parade in their traditional costumes. Each costume is unique and original because of its colours and shape.
During the Holy Week, the rituals and demonstrations recall medieval mysteries. The wealth of dramatic liturgy linked to the Holy Week units Sardinia and Spain. The antique brotherhoods of Santa Croce, Servi di Maria, Santissimo Sacramento and of the Misteri Santa Croce organise processions that cross the old city centre to the rhythm of drums and in a most impressive atmosphere the week before Easter.
The dialect from Sassari comes from the Tuscan and Genoese influences and is spoken only in the city. This dialect's uniqueness is expressed in the names of the gastronomic dishes found here; for example la fabadda -cabbage and broad bean soup seasoned with wild fennel and mixed with lard and sausages. This dish is traditionally prepared for carnival while the piedi di agnomi - boiled lamb's feel seasoned with garlic, parsley and red pepper or cooked in sweet and sour sauce, is present on tables during the Christmas period as well as at Easter time. Lastly, lu zarettu in graniglia - is a variety of grilled fish.
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