Estói is a charmingly small town in the north east located in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão. This enchanted historical village is a hidden gem of the Algarve and doesn’t match the ideal of beach or tourist resorts. The streets and houses of this ancient village, with their whitewashed walls, squat chimneys and small gardens full of trees and flowers, retain much of the traditional character of the Algarve.
Estói is graced with two architectural wonders, the Palácio de Estói; the ‘Pink Palace’ and the other, the Milreu Roman ruins. The Palace dates from the late 19th century, and is one of the finest examples of architecture from that time on the Algarve.
The palace was built at the end of the 18th century by a local aristocrat of the Carvalhal family. It is considered to be a very fine example of Neo-Classical architecture. The palace remained in the Carvalhal family until 1893, when it was sold to a wealthy chemist and landowner from Beja. The money from the sale went; according to the will of the Carvalhal family, to the poor of the area. The new owner had the palace restored and augmented by Portugal’s pre-eminent architect of the time, who did such a good job it earned the owner the title of Viscount of Estói in 1906. The palace passed down through the family until, in 1987, it was bought by the Municipal Council of Faro. In poor repair for many years, the Pink Palace is now undergoing renovation to convert it into a pousada.
The oldest parts of the Roman ruins are of a 1st and 2nd century AD Roman villa rústica, an agricultural settlement. Later in the 3rd century AD, a luxurious house with an extensive bathing complex was built on the same site. This makes up a large part of the site to be viewed today. In the 4th century, a sanctuary was added that is still partially extant. In the 6th century, the pagan sanctuary was converted into a paleo-Christian church and graveyard. Evidence from the 8th to the 10th centuries also suggests that the sanctuary became an oratory in Islamic times. The site was probably abandoned in the 10th century when vaults collapsed. Also on the site is a farmhouse dating from between the 13th and 19th centuries. It has been cleverly renovated to display not only its own architecture, but also the earlier Roman remains on which it was built. The site has a small but good interpretation centre.
On the second Sunday of each month, Estói comes alive for a big market just on the outskirts of the village. Estói also has two fairs of note each year. The Horse Fair in August is a show case of everything equestrian with entertainment at night. It also includes a bull fight. The Festa da Pinha at the start of May is a fantastic spectacle, when at night, a long procession of horse riders and horse-drawn carriages, all carrying burning torches enters Estói under a fusillade of fireworks.