Is how José Saramago described Milreu in his ‘Journey to Portugal‘, he also found them on his grand tour in 1979 ‘dirty and neglected’. Fortunately these days they are no longer neglected, in fact if you are interested in archaeology and/or history Milreu is a treasure of a find. I have no idea whether they are the most complete Roman ruins in Portugal, but they are certainly extensive and an important part of Portuguese history. There was once a luxurious villa rustica here; which means as well as the house there were workers’ quarters, farming area, agricultural buildings, mausoleums, a temple and a baths. A few columns of the peristylum (courtyard garden) are still here, but most what is left is at ground level or below!
Like José you may find the site confusing on your first visit, as whilst unlike José you will have the benefit of staff and a few display boards, it is difficult to get your bearings. The one available map unfortunately isn’t displayed as you walk up the path from the visitor centre, and so it is easy to miss the villa entrance. We highly recommend purchasing the guide book if you visit, or at least spending some time looking at the small displays in the visitors centre. On our first visit back in 2014 my eye was caught by the several well-preserved floor and wall mosaics. I couldn’t resist them on our second visit either. The fish mosaics in particular are of a very high standard, and apparently some of the designs are unique to Milreu. I would love to know how the ones in the plunge pool would look like under water. I wonder if it felt like you were swimming amongst the fish in the sea?!
What captures everyone’s eye who drives past is the large circular construction. It is the inner part of the water sanctuary built during a period of opulence, and later converted to a Christian temple. Its presence along with the busts that have been found at Milreu all confirm this was an extremely wealthy establishment.
The Milreu site has been occupied for nearly 2000 years, first by the Romans then the Moors after their invasion in the 8th century. There are Islamic inscriptions on some of the columns which are still standing. After the Moors left following the Christian reconquest in the 13th century, the site remained occupied right up until the 20th century. The last occupants living in the fortified 15th century farmhouse at the top of the site.
For more photographs of Milreu do visit my original post, or even better visit Milreu yourself! The visitors centre can be found on the outskirts of the village of Estoi, just a few miles north of Faro. Current opening hours are May to September 10:30 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 18:30, and over the winter months 9:30 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00. The last entry is 30 minutes before closing but you will want more time than this. As with most Portuguese museums is closed Mondays.
Beautiful place! The thing with this type of ruins here in Portugal is that we have so many of them it can be complicated to reach a balance between building new things and preserving the old. There was a serious problem with that in Lisbon a few years ago, in Chiado.
In London these days they are usually researched by archaeologists and then covered over by the new building.
That’s what they do here as well, as far as I know.
Fascinating post – somewhere I must get to one day
So so many places for us all to see and explore. My list is enormous these days!!
You do things so thoroughly, Becks! 🙂 We did visit many years ago when we were first exploring the Algarve but didn’t give it nearly enough attention. The ruins I’ve been planning to visit are at Coimbra. One of these days! 🙂 http://www.quintadoriodao.com/uk/out/conimbriga.html
Oh my those are incredible . . . confirms what I thought about José and his description!!
I’d love to visit those in Coimbra too. MrB and I intend to do far more when we return for this coming winter. Think I’ll add these to the list.
Wow, it would amazing to briefly pop back in time to see it in it’s glory!
Oh yes…that would be amazing 🙂
Beautiful photographs, Thank you dear Becky, I have two names in my mind when it is about Portugal, maybe I told this before, one is Misia, and the other one is Dulce Pontes… Fado singers… I love them so much. Whenever I visit your (blog)world, they come up to my mind… Have a nice weekend, Love, nia
So happy it makes you think of amazing music. I really must brush up on Fado, I love listening to it but know so little about it.
Those Romans got every where 🙂 Love the post. Thank you so much.
Almost . . .not sure they made it to America or did they and we just don’t know yet?!!
Fascinating post. Thank you.
oh so pleased you like . . . . it is a great place to visit. Just wish all the busts were still in situ rather than disappearing to museums in Lisboa and Faro.
Looks wonderful. Thank goodness that we now live at a time when we take care of the past!
That’s so true 🙂 although Portugal is struggling because of its national finances.
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