As stated in some writings of the Roman era, the name Orosei comes from the Aesaronenses people, an ancient Nuragic tribe populating Sardinia and Corsica. The Greek geographer Ptolemy was the first to mention this centre in one of his works, naming the Roman station of the period Fanum Orisi. The urban centre, of Roman origins, was founded around the second century AD because of its strategic position in the eastern coast of the island, in front of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Starting from the twelfth century, during the era of Giudicati, both economy and population increased significantly, it became the most important centre of the curia of the district Giudicato di Gallura, called Urisè. Some of the most representative monuments of the village date back to this period, like the tower of Sant'Antonio, Sa Prejone Vezza (the old prison) and the parish churches of San Giacomo and San Gavino. In 1288 Orosei became part of the overseas properties of the Republic of Pisa and during the Pisan era the centre has lived one of the most important and significant moments of its history, thanks to the working well harbour managed by a colony of merchants. They also financed the building of the rural church of Santa Maria del Mare, location of the festival celebrated on the last Sunday of May.
Since 1324 Orosei has been part of the Sardinian Reign of Aragon, while in 1449 the area was bought by the baron Don Salvatore Guiso who moved from the castle of Pontes, placed in Galtellì, to Orosei, starting the building of the famous stately homes in the old town centre still existing and well preserved today. The town has been attacked by pirates several times and a legendary figure in the fight against invasions arriving from the sea is represented by Tomasu Mojolu, in 1806 he leaded the resistance against a Turkish attack, warding off about 1000 Saracen helped by the inhabitants.
In the valley of the river Cedrino, few kilometers away from the sea, is situated the village of Orosei, set between large pine groves, Mediterranean scrub, pink granite and basalt cliffs. Its territory includes a 14-km coastline, extra fine sand beaches (Marina di Orosei, Su Barone, Osala, Cala Ginepro, Sas Linnas Siccas, Bidderosa, Sa Curcurica), some of them have been awarded with le cinque vele, the five sails of Legambiente, award of excellence. Its sea bottom is a great attraction for scuba dive lovers and at about two miles away from the coast, lies the wreck of KT 12, a German cargo vessel from WWII.
The municipality area includes also the districts of Sos Alinos, Cala Liberotto and Sas Linnas Siccas, north it borders Siniscola, east the Tyrrenean Sea, south Dorgali, west Galtellì and Onifai. The narrow coastal plain where the residential area is located, is surrounded by average high hills, among which the mountain Tuttavista (805 m), that separates Orosei from Galtellì.
The old town centre is of considerable interest. It is well preserved, around the squares del Popolo, delle Anime and Sant’Antonio, with numerous residential and religious buildings, it appears to visitors as a noble village, rich in excellent works of rural architecture, churches decorated with fresco paintings, ancient wooden statues and ceramic floors. The museum Guiso deserves a special mention, it contains the biggest collection of ancient little theatres and the first editions of books in Sardinian language among which a rare example of 1587.
In Orosei you can find numerous proofs of the Nuragic era, among which the complex of Sa Linnarta including nuraghe Osana and the holy well. This enchanting environment is home of the wildlife oasis of Bidderosa, a protected area consisting of a wonderful pine grove, framing five marvellous coves, top destinations of seaside tourism.
The old town centre preserves traces of its past as fortified town in the characteristic neighbourhood of Palattos Betzos, from the town centre around the tower, the only element left of the ancient castle. Along the streets of the neighbourhood appear numerous stately homes of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, once the homes of the most important families of the Baronia area. The castle was originally a fortress built by the Giudici of Gallura to protect the harbour activities in the final part of the river Cedrino. During the wars between the Crown of Aragon and the Giudicato of Arborea its possession passed to the Giudicato of Arborea until the end of the Giudicato in 1409. During the fifteenth century, after the end of its military functions, it has been abandoned and fell into ruins. Later it has been used as a baronial prison, called Sa Prejone Vezza, the old prison.
Inside its territory Orosei includes 27 churches. Next to the tower the church of Sant’Antonio Abate, built in the middle of the fourteenth century in late Romanesque style in its interior it preserves traces of an important series of fresco paintings of Christ and the Saints, while outside its suggestive courtyard is surrounded by the cumbessìas, characteristic small houses. Not far away, in the square Piazza del Popolo, appears the church of San Giacomo, one of the most important Baroque cathedrals of Sardinia, of the fourteenth century.
The church of Santa Maria del Mare is located near the river Cedrino, it was built during the twelfth century by a group of Pisan merchants and entitled to Santa Maria de Pisis. Refurbished by the baron family of the Guiso, the church hosts the festival celebrated on the last Sunday of May. During the celebration, a procession carrying the statue of the Virgin Madonna del Mare arrives until the bridge on the Cedrino river, where the statue, the priest and the brothers, on lined up boats, slowly navigate along the river until getting the small church nearby the outlet of the river. The rest of the people continue walking along the river banks, following the boats. The boat carrying the Virgin is the first to touch land, getting the church, welcomed by a long applause of the crowd.
Among the most important buildings there is Su Probanu, a stately home of the eighteenth century and Su Monte Granaticu, a building of 1739: originally it was the church of the nuns monastery, actually, since the end of the eighteenth century it has been used as cereal storage of the local farmers.