Getting to know Faro Municipality
The streets and houses of this ancient village, with their whitewashed walls, ornate chimneys and small gardens full of trees and flowers, retain much of the traditional character of the Algarve.
Built in the 16th century on the site of a medieval chapel, the church was rebuilt in the 18th/19th centuries under the guidance of the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri. It has a neoclassical façade culminating in a pediment, and an interesting bell-tower. The interior consists of three naves and the altars have 19th century altarpieces. There are statues from the 17th/18th centuries, most notably of São Vicente (St. Vincent) and São Diogo (St. Diego). The pulpit is made of local marble. The baptistery bears neo-rocaille decoration in a similar style to that used in Estoi palace. The church treasures include a monstrance in silver gilt and an embroidered cape (17th century).
The romantic tastes of the first owner, a scion of one of the most distinguished families of the Algarvean nobility, inspired him to build a country house surrounded by gardens in a beautiful natural setting. Rather than turning to the medieval models favoured by the revivalists of the period (first half of the 19th century), as exemplified by the Royal Penn Palace in Sintra, he opted for a style combining neo-baroque and neo-rococo elements. After several decades of neglect, the palace was bought by a wealthy pharmacist (who later became Viscount of Estoi), who continued work on it and made it his home (early 20th century).
The palace is a huge building, its exterior partially covered with tiles bearing floral decoration and depicting a variety of scenes. Inside, the decoration on the plaster ceilings - the finest in the Algarve - is worthy of mention, as are the furniture, the chapel, the hall, the reception and dining rooms, the two tea pavilions and the building which houses a nativity scene. At the entrance to the palace there is a small temple containing a waterfall and a statue of the Three Graces on a shell, a copy of the work by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Statues of Venus and Diana stand in niches. The gardens are in the late romantic style, laid out on different levels, with flights of steps, lakes and marble and ceramic statues.
The Roman Ruins at Milreu
What had been a large farmhouse in the 1st century was turned in the 3rd century into a vast and luxurious “villa”. The living quarters were arranged around the peristyle and the floor was covered in mosaics bearing a variety of designs. The “villa” had its own baths and striking mosaics decorated with marine motifs (fish, sea urchins etc.). A sanctuary built in the 4th century was made into a paleo-Christian church in the 5th. On the ruins, a house with cylindrical buttresses was built in 16th century.
Santa Bárbara de Nexe
In the vicinity, the presence of a Bronze Age hill fort, which was subsequently used by both the Phoenicians and the Romans, shows how ancient this settlement is. The village is surrounded by fields and hills covered in fruit trees.
This church is medieval in origin and was remodelled in the 15th century according to Manueline and proto-renaissance precepts, and there are remains from this period in the chancel. It underwent alteration in the 18th century. The interior consists of three naves, with ogival arches. The altars have Baroque and Rococo altarpieces. There are statues from the 17th and 18th centuries and a number of religious objects, including the reliquary of Santa Bárbara (15thcentury).
In the chapel of Santo António (St. Anthony) there are two 16th century paintings on wood. There is a dado of polychrome tiles and above the triumphal arch there is a panel depicting the coronation of Santa Bárbara by two angels (1702).
Chapel of Santa Catarina (St. Catherine)
Situated at Gorjões, this small 17th century church is late medieval in origin and has undergone a series of alterations over the centuries. There is a single nave on the inside, a revivalist altarpiece and some statues dating from the 19th century.
Single-storey houses, their doors and windows picked out in bright colours and their façades topped by geometrically patterned parapets, lend Conceição the charm of a typical Algarvean village.
This church is probably of medieval origin and was reconstructed in the 16th century. The doorway on the façade is from the third quarter of the 16th century. On the inside, with its single nave, some features of Manueline art can be seen in the chancel (star-shaped vault and triumphal arch), a revivalist altarpiece built after the 1755 earthquake, and a small collection of statues.
Statue of the crucifixion mounted on a column (16th century).
The long strip of dunes that separates the sea from the Ria Formosa is a paradise for anyone who enjoys sun, sand and sea, with the advantage that visitors can choose from a necklace of separate islands, and have mile after mile of sandy beaches all to themselves.
Ilha de Faro
Linked to the mainland by a road, this island has a small centre with beach houses, restaurants and other tourist facilities.
Ilha da Barreta (Ilha Deserta)
This island is truly calm and solitary, and has ferry connections in the months of July, August and September. It is an excellent destination for anyone who has hired a boat or is lucky enough to have their own, and who wants to enjoy the pleasures of sea and sand undisturbed by other holidaymakers.
Ilha do Farol
Apart from a few fishermen’s cabins, there is nothing on these islands but sand... There is regular access by ferry from Faro (in the summer) and Olhão (all year round).
Ilha da Culatra
A former fishing village, until a few decades ago the houses of Culatra had wooden walls and thatched roofs. Picturesque scenes of fishermen at work can still be seen, and shellfish are harvested from the Ria.
There is an extensive beach, which is quiet, with a family atmosphere.
There is regular access to the island by ferry from Olhão (all year round).
The Delights of Good Cooking
All of the Algarve’s best-known dishes can be sampled in Faro. But anyone who wants to try the typical fishermen’s recipes should sample the local fish soup and the traditional razor clam risotto. Choosing from among the many local cakes and desserts is a hard task because they all make extensive use of the tasty local figs and almonds. The best way to round off a meal is a glass of fig brandy or “medronho”, a spirit made with the fruit of the strawberry tree.
Faro is an ideal place to explore the colourful world of Algarvean crafts. Tiles decorated with traditional motifs are produced locally. Further inland, in Santa Bárbara de Nexe and Estoi, the womenfolk still weave and plait palm leaves to make baskets, hats and mats.