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    Villa Vizcaya in Miami: a Renaissance residence… in Florida!

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau

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    One way or another, the United States always knows how to surprise us, and the great and eclectic city of Miami certainly is no exception. Usually our amazement lights up when in American territory they open up before our eyes things never seen. The endless natural landscapes that we dream of in Europe, the majestic and unexpected monuments, the testimonies of ancient civilizations, the historic districts with a unique personality, the rich map of unusual and bizarre attractions: each of these "landscape elements" has its own characteristic of novelty or unpredictability that kidnaps us and allows us to understand many aspects of the American people. Well, Vizcaya Villa (considered the Hearst Castle of Florida) fits with difficulty in these categories, yet it has the same effect.

    In fact, for us Italians this amazing historic Miami residence it is not really something never seen, it does not represent nothing new: we are fortunate to live in a country rich in art and history, with a deeply rooted and unique cultural identity, which Americans themselves admire immeasurably. So how could one surprise us Spanish Renaissance style villa? It can only do this if we imagine it immersed in rich tropical vegetation, between mangrove swamps, marshes and inextricable hammocks populated by iguanas and alligators. And then in front of the terrace where the most exclusive parties are held, the immense expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. We have seen many Renaissance villas in Spain, but never like Vizcaya to Miami!


    • History
    • Where it is and how to reach it
    • What see? Guide to the visit
      • The interior of the villa
      • The garden and the exteriors
    • Timetables and tickets
      • Guided tours and audio guides
    • Where to sleep?


    Vizcaya Villa it belonged to the eccentric businessman from Chicago James Deering, who inherited from his father the management of an important agricultural machinery factory, the Deering Harvester Company. Deering, like his brother, was an avid art collector, and had a dream: he did not want a "simple" luxury residence to spend the winter in Miami like many wealthy people of his rank, but he wanted to create a building that would give the the impression of having been inhabited for centuries, but at the same time not "betraying" the specific nature of the natural context in which it was located, also thanks to the use of construction materials typical of the place, such as coral stone. This space-time "short circuit" would have given tropical Miami (which then had a few thousand inhabitants) a Renaissance-style palace, designed by leading American architects trained at Harvard and other prestigious European schools.

    Viczaya's creators were Paul Chalfin (project supervisor), F. Burrall Hoffman (Chalfin's collaborator in the construction of the interiors) e Diego Suarez, (garden designer, famous in Spain for having restored the gardens of Villa La Pietra in Florence). The project was developed according to the criteria of the American Renaissance, a revival style that wanted to emulate the characteristics of the Spanish Renaissance style by integrating it with Baroque elements. The interiors of the villa were built in 2 years, from 1914 to 1916, while the garden was only ready in 1922. Deering entered his sumptuous residence in 1916 by sea on his personal yacht, theUSS Nepenthe. In 1926 a hurricane damaged Villa Vizcaya which, with funding from Miami-Dade County, was patiently rebuilt in view of its transformation into a museum, which took place definitively in 1953. Over the years the villa has been used for many events, including institutional ones. : it was here that President Reagan welcomed Pope John Paul II visiting Miami in 1987.

    Where it is and how to reach it

    The address of Vizcaya Villa is 3251 S Miami Ave, in the Northeast Coconut Grove neighborhood, a short drive from Brickell. This is the main entrance to the villa for those arriving from Brickell or directly from Central Coconut Grove, but if you are coming from the south along the main thoroughfare US-1 S you can do yours triumphal access at Villa Vizcaya by turning right onto SW 32nd Rd. You can't go wrong, as the charming tree-lined driveway leading to the villa is indicated with brown signs and a large “Vizcaya Museum and Gardens” inscription on a wall on the side of the road. The road crosses S Miami Ave, then go right and immediately turn left. There, between two pillars surmounted by an ornamental vase, there is the actual access to the villa. The parcheggio it is located in the immediate entrances of the villa and is free.

    If you don't have a car, you can use one of the two Metrorail lines, getting off at Vizcaya station. The flyover on US-1 S then leads to an elevated walkway and finally to the tree-lined avenue of 32nd (see above). You have to walk for just over 1 km. An alternative is the free trolley: Villa Vizcaya is served by the green route “Brickell” (fermata S Miami Av & SW 32 Rd).

    What see? Guide to the visit

    The entrance ticket allows you to visit both interior of the villa / museum than the great Italian garden and all outdoor areas open to the public.

    The interior of the villa

    After leaving the car, via a very short path in the forest you will arrive at the box office. As soon as you pass the checks, you will see the facade of the villa, at the end of a nice downhill path enriched by fountains and water features. From this distance one can appreciate the similarity of the facade to that of Villa Rezzonico in Bassano del Grappa, which has been recognized as the main source of inspiration for Paul Chalfin and Francis Burrall Hoffman, the project managers.

    As soon as you enter, you will be greeted by the staff in the Entrance Loggia, who will hand you a map and quickly explain how the self-guided tour and building structure works and give you some historical information. Follow the proposed itinerary, go left, starting the visit with thenorth wing of the first floor, where you will find the Neo-Renaissance rooms of the Hall, the Library, passageways and other rooms dedicated to welcoming guests. Lsouth wing instead it contains the Music Room with baroque refinements and period instruments, the Dining Room with tapestries and fireplace and the beautiful covered Loggia, as well as the historic kitchen and the other rooms used for services.

    At the center of the building plan, accessible from all sides of the ground floor and embellished with well-kept tropical vegetation, you will find a courtyard reminiscent of the Medici villas, with vases, statues, fountains, works of art and artifacts from Spain. On the eastern side of the courtyard, the large glass window overlooking the ocean will catch your attention.

    After visiting the ground floor, you can go up to the second floor, where the Deering family's private rooms were located, overlooking the courtyard. In my opinion, the most surprising room is located at this level of the house, the Breakfast Room, with frescoed walls and delicate oriental ornaments. The sitting rooms are also noteworthy Galeon e Caravel, and the Venetian-style rooms of Cathay ed Espagnolette. From the second floor, finally, there is access to two towers: the North Tower and the South Tower, with other rooms to visit. It should be remembered that much of the antiquities and rich ornaments that grace the rooms of the house were purchased in Spain by Chalfin or built specifically for Villa Vizcaya.

    The garden and the exteriors

    If you have looked out from the East Loggia window, looking at the sea you will have noticed a great decorative element in the shape of a vessel a few meters from the outdoor terrace. If you were intrigued, leave the villa and go immediately to the side facing the ocean: in front of the rear facade of Villa Vizcaya, among the waves of the sea, you will see The Barge, Alexander Stirling Calder's masterpiece, a large rock breakwater carved in the shape of a ship and embellished with sculptures from Caribbean mythology. To see it more closely you can reach the two roundabouts at the top of the terrace: Boat Landing e Tea House. The latter is located right next to the mangrove forest that covers the eastern side of the garden.

    The Spanish-style garden, accessible via the suggestive Secret Garden, extends on the south side of the residence and is truly remarkable: wander along its manicured paths admiring the elegant shape of the flower beds, the gardens of tropical plants (some of these very rare), the graceful labyrinths, the walkways between the classical statues, the basins of the central pool, the mysterious caves of Renaissance inspiration, the romantic roundabouts invaded by ivy and the semicircular basins surrounded by pillars surmounted by decorative elements. To see the fountain by Filippo Barigioni (1672-1753), originally located in the square of Sutri (Viterbo) and then purchased at auction by the emissaries of Deering to be placed on the eastern side of the park.

    Leaving Center Island behind, go up the stairs at the top of the garden (Garden Mound) to rest in the shadow of the banyans and see the tropical forest that stretches all around from a privileged point of view. On the north side of the villa there is less to see, but it is worth reaching for a look at the Swimmingpool designed by Robert Winthrop Chanler et al David A. Klein Orchidarium. On this side there is also the Coffee & Shop, for a short break during or after the visit.

    Timetables and tickets

    Villa Vizcaya is open from tutti i giorni (except Tuesdays) from 9.30 to 16.30. The complex is closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. The price of Tickets (updated to May 2019) is as follows:

    • Adults (18+): $ 22
    • Youth (13-17): $ 15
    • Children (6-12): $ 10
    • Children (0-5): Free
    • People over 65: $ 16
    • Disabled people in wheelchairs: $ 10
    Saving tip To save on the ticket price, you can evaluate the purchase of Miami Pass which, together with the entrance to other attractions of the city, gives the possibility to enter the Villa at an advantageous rate.

    Guided tours and audio guides

    Here are the tours available at Villa Vizcaya:

    • At a cost of $ 5 per person it is possible to join a 45-minute guided tour in the rooms on the first floor and in the gardens. Hours are 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30 to 14:30. The tour can only be purchased on site.
    • If you are only interested in the gardens, a tour dedicated only to outsiders is available (45 minutes, $ 5 per person), departing only from November to May on Wednesdays and Fridays at 14pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30am.
    • Always at the same price (5 $) and always on site, you can get it an audio guide, but the Spanish language is not available.

    If, on the other hand, you don't have a car and you want to take advantage of a Transportation from your Miami hotel which also includes the entrance to the villa, take a look at the link below:

    Tickets for Vizcaya with hotel pickup

    Where to sleep?

    The neighborhoods closest to Villa Vizcaya are Brickell and Coconut Grove, two areas of Miami that are completely different from each other. If you would like to stay in a quiet and prestigious residential area surrounded by nature, I recommend that you choose Coconut Grove. If, on the other hand, you like the idea of ​​sleeping in the most modern and sparkling area of ​​Downtown Miami, choose Brickell. To learn more about these and other Miami neighborhoods, check out our dedicated article by clicking the button below.

    Tips for staying overnight in Miami

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