The attractive old town of ESTÓI, 11km north of Faro, rises behind its church and small main square, and is well worth making an excursion to. The best time to visit is around May Day, when the whole town is decked out for its main annual festival. Buses drop you in the square, just off which you’ll find the entrance to the gardens of the delightful peach-coloured Palácio do Visconde de Estói, lined with spectacular azulejos and tropical plants. The palace itself is now a luxurious pousada.
The main reason for a visit to Estói, however, is the Roman site at Milreu (pronounced mil-rio), a fifteen-minute walk downhill from the square. Known to the Romans as Ossonoba, the town that once stood here was inhabited from the second to the tenth century AD. The surviving ruins are associated with a peristyle villa – one with a gallery of columns surrounding a courtyard – and dominated by the apse of a temple, which was converted into a Christian basilica in the third century AD, making it one of the earliest of all known churches. The other recognizable remains are of a bathing complex southwest of the villa, with its fragmented fish mosaics, and the apodyterium, or changing room, sporting arched niches for clothes.