I arrived in Vilamoura Marina in December 1992 on my way to Gibraltar in Henry Morgan my Rival 34, I was not too impressed, the place seemed to lack any natural ambience. I walked ashore to find a supermarket and the old part of the town. I found the supermarket but never found the old part of the town.
Cerro da Vila - Vilamoura, can be found on the north side of the road that runs between the Post Office and the Lake Resort Hotel).
To see a satellite photograph of Cerro da Vila on Google Earth click here.
This was because the Roman Vila 'Cerro da Vila' must be one of the best kept secrets in Portugal despite it having been there for 2000 years! I moved permanently to Portugal in 2000 and it wasn't until February 2009 that I finally visited 'Cerro da Vila'. It is in fact only about 150 yards north of the Marina and I only have myself to blame for not discovering it earlier and then taking so long to get around to going to see it.
In fact the remains of the villa have been very professionally excavated and the museum shown in the photograph above is very well organised and well worth a visit as is the villa and other buildings and baths which are fascinating to walk around.
As well as many other things in the museum there are many ceramics from the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries that have been found here including one jar almost a metre high that can be seen in the slide show to the right. There are a number of items that were clearly imported from other parts of the Empire as well as a good selection of coins.
Cerro da Vila was founded in 27 BC by the Romans but most of the settlement was built during first and second centuries AD. Evidence has been found on the site that following the Romans leaving Portugal around 450 AD, the buildings were used by the Visigoths from the end of the 5th century to the 8th century and then the Moors from the 8th to the 13th centuries.
There is evidence that the land was used for fairly intensive agriculture as there was a dam 2 kilometres inland and the land was irrigated. As well as the villa having extremely comfortable accommodation there was a public bath as well as hot, cold and tepid bathing facilities for the house. The bedrooms and other rooms used as living quarters were all fairly small and all opened directly on to the central courtyard. The floors throughout the buildings were decorated with beautiful mosaics and marble which must have been brought down from the centre of Portugal.
The walls would have been decorated with very colourful frescoes of floral and geometric patterns with statues of Gods in most rooms as well of course as outside in the gardens where there were also many fountains which must have added a very tranquil atmosphere. There was a domed shaped room with heating that was used as a sauna, a furnace for heating both air and water for the house. There was also a long storage building as well as a two story hexagonal tower on the seaward end of it which no doubt was used as a lookout.
On the north side of the Villa there are several salting tanks which were used to produce a fish condiment called Garum using several types of fish, aromatic herbs, salt and olive oil, this delicacy would have been exported to places all over the Roman Empire.
To the east of the main part of the settlement there was a burial tower for preserving the ashes of ancestors.
Both grapes and olives were produced on the land and the stone press that was used for both is still there. There is a well lined with Roman bricks and several underground silos under the Vila which were added later by the Moors and were presumably used for storing grain.
Martin Northey - Yachtmaster Instructor for Sail and Power
The Iberian Sea School - RYA Sailing, Motor Cruising and Powerboat School.
Apartado 1039 - Estaçâo de Correios de Vilamoura, 8126 - 907 Quarteira, Portugal.
Tel: 00 351 965 800702
Web Site: www.theiberianseaschool.com