Milreu Ruins

Ruins in Estói

Image by Samuel Magal Getty Images

Set in beautiful countryside just outside of Estói, north of Faro, these ruins of a Roman villa are so large and grand they were originally thought to have been a town. The villa, inhabited from the 1st century AD, has the characteristic peristyle form, with a gallery of columns around a courtyard. The highlight is the temple, the fish mosaics and former central pool of which suggest that it was devoted to a water cult.

The fish mosaics in the bathing chambers (to the west of the villa's courtyard), provide a tantalising glimpse of the villa’s former glory. The remains of the bathing rooms also include the apodyterium (changing room; note the arched niches and benches for clothes and post-bath massage) and the frigidarium, which had a marble basin to hold cold water for cooling off after a bath.

Other luxuries included underground heating and marble sculptures (now in Faro and Lagos museums).

In the 6th century the temple was converted into a church, and a small mausoleum was added, and in the 8th century it was converted into a mosque. In the 10th century it collapsed, possibly due to an earthquake, and the site was abandoned. In the 15th century, a farmhouse was constructed within the abandoned site (the house, much modified, is still there today).

At the entrance to the site, a small museum gives some context, including a scale model of the temple in its glory days.