Cerro da Vila - History and Facts | History Hit

Cerro da Vila

Quarteira, Algarve, Portugal

Cerro da Vila is an Ancient Roman site housing the remains of a second or third century villa complex.

Peta Stamper

06 Apr 2021
Image Credit: CC / Kolforn

About Cerro da Vila

Cerro da Vila is an ancient site housing the remains of a Roman maritime villa complex. Predominantly a Roman site, it is thought that Cerro da Vila was inhabited until the 11th century AD and so the museum on-site exhibits not just Roman but medieval Visigoth and Moorish artefacts.

Cerro da Vila history

The Cerro da Vila was a Roman maritime villa or domus built on a small hill on the coastal region of Algarve in Portugal. The house, inhabited as early as the 1st century BC by an elite family, included a reception room, sleeping rooms and a kitchen, surrounding a peristyle column gallery. The building had pipes running through it, delivering water to spouts and statues in the central courtyard as well as a large bathing complex.

Cerro da Vila was in a popular area for wealthy Romans to settle due to the mild climate and wealth of agriculture and fish, important in making the fish paste commodity known as ‘garum’. The area was also politically stable, protected by mountains and the rugged coast. The ports also facilitated the export of goods, and maintained contact with the metropolis and other parts of Roman civilisation.

The Cerro da Vila saw further phases of construction and occupation into and well beyond the Roman period: during the Visigothic era between the 5th and 6th centuries AD, industrial structures were reused and the funerary area was moved closer to the villa. The villa was later inhabited and adapted by Iberian Muslim inhabitants after the 9th century, retaining the opulence and status as an important rural settlement despite the period’s political instability.

Cerro da Vila was only excavated and restored after 1963, when an archaeologist witnessed a tractor plowing up fragments of Roman mosaics. Excavations continued into the present day, with the Monographic Museum of Cerro da Vila opening in 2000.

Cerro da Vila today

Allow yourself around an hour to walk amidst the ruins of Cerro da Vila, reading the 17 or so information boards on-site. The villa ruins today offer well-preserved foundations of a 2,000 year old site, as well as a small museum that displays artefacts from the excavations and is only €3 entry.

Pass the exquisite mosaic entrance to the villa before viewing further maritime-themed mosaic designs common to the area near the remains of the villa’s public and private baths.

Getting to Cerro da Vila

The villa is a 5 minute walk from the marina. If using public transport, there is a bus stop at Cerro da Vila on the Vilamoura central line, and if driving there is parking on site.

Featured In

Historic Sites in Portugal

Discover some of the best historic sites in Portugal, from the famous Belém Tower to the Pena National Palace and more.