On my recent trip my Miami, my friends and I spent a majority of our time relaxing and drinking adult beverages. However, one of the highlights of the trip was an unexpected good time: the historic Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
Before going, we researched this spot a little, keeping it in the back of our heads as an activity to do. Luckily, it rained throughout the afternoon one day, so we used that day to hit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Since we were staying on Miami Beach, we had to take a Lyft. The drive took a little less than a half hour each way, which really wasn’t too bad. Going to the estate was a good call on a rainy day; it’s mostly indoors, but even in the gardens, the rain wasn’t a big deal.
Vizcaya was the winter residence of James Deering, a millionaire who gained his wealth from his agricultural manufacturing business. He owned homes all around the country, but decided to build the Vizcaya estate during his retirement. Deering’s construction of the home occurred in the early twentieth century — think Downton Abbey times — and he only lived there for 8 years before his death.
If you plan on going to the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, definitely wear comfortable shoes. I got a surprisingly high amount of steps on my FitBit during our visit, so I was glad I wore good shoes for walking. In addition, we covered the entire estate, except one section that was closed for restoration). Plan ahead to stay for a few hours. There’s a cafe with coffee and food, so making a whole day of it isn’t a bad idea.
My friends and I decided to go through the estate on our own, so we could spend more time in areas that were more interesting to us. However, they do run hourly tours throughout the grounds for an additional price. I assume the guided tour has more history attached to it, but I feel like we got our money’s worth independently.
The style of the home derives from eighteenth century Italian architecture and style. The courtyard, which is the central part of the home, originally had no roof; this is one way in which Deering utilized the subtropical climate in his design. Vizcaya is located on the Biscayne Bay, making it very easily accessible for Deering’s visitors.
The juxtaposition of the modern and the traditional shows in the home’s design and features. Vizcaya’s internal appearance resembles the Baroque style, a very traditional trend, but some of the estate’s technology was very forward-thinking for the time. The estate has 2 elevators, which is even very extravagant and modern in homes in the present time. The architects also built the home from reinforced concrete, a modern technology of the time; part of the reason the mansion is in such good shape today is because of this strong material.
There seems to be an intermingling of different cultures through the Vizcaya estate. Artifacts from various countries, including Italy, France, and even China, and styles from the Neoclassical, Rococo, and modern periods decorate the home. The principal artistic director, Paul Chalfin, inspired different rooms around different Italian cities. For instance, the Music Room is inspired by Milan, 2 of the bedrooms are inspired by Venice, and so on. The style’s lack of succinctness is due to the home’s whimsical atmosphere; since it was Deering’s vacation home, Chalfin and Deering wanted it to remain playful and light.
Though the house itself is elaborate, it pales in comparison to the intricate gardens. This space is split into multiple sections, or “rooms,” including a Theatre Garden, a Maze Garden, and a Fountain Garden.
To maintain the appearance of a traditional, old garden, Deering and his builders brought in aged sculptures to decorate the yard and planted old trees. However, a great deal of modern architects created pieces for the gardens as well. The swimming pool is an especially modern piece featured in the Vizcaya estate.
If you want to learn more about the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, check out their informational website. For our adult tickets, we paid $18 each, but guided tours cost extra. If you experience a Miami day with less-than-desirable weather, check out this historical, beautiful place!
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