Photo Essay: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens – Miami, Florida

A South Florida interpretation of an Italian villa, Vizcaya was built in 1916 as a winter home for wealthy industrialist James Deering. Construction of the manor took over two years and more than a thousand laborers to complete.

Influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Renaissance architecture, Villa Vizcaya also features French-style gardens and Caribbean limestone and coral masonry. The estate is set in the native woodlands of what’s now the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, along picturesque Biscayne Bay and only a stone’s throw from downtown.

James Deering built his opulent mansion and exquisite gardens with the help of designer Paul Chalfin, architect F. Burrall Hoffman and landscape architect Diego Suarez.

I had the pleasure of touring the estate on my recent trip to Miami. Below is a photographic journey of what’s now known as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

As you enter the property, the Villa can be seen at the end of a long driveway lined with gurgling fountains and shaded by dense tropical foliage.

Instead of entering the main house, I first passed through the South Gate to begin my tour of the majestic and expansive rear gardens.

Some of the most stunning features of the Vizcaya Gardens include its many fountains, statuary, hedge mazes and grottoes.

Crossing the rear façade of the Villa, you can get a good view of the olive trees and manicured shrubbery from a higher elevation.

Below is the so-called “Secret Garden” due to the tall walls that surround it.

You can enter or exit the Secret Garden through this grotto, one of many on the property.

As you continue in a clockwise loop around the estate, you’ll pass by various themed gardens before coming upon the Fountain Garden, pictured below.

The south side of the property features an elevated area known as The Mound. In the photo below, you can see the two stairways (and cascading waterfall) leading up top.

This building is known as the Casino, which was actually just an outdoor pavilion, not a place to gamble. I love the Spanish moss dripping from the trees, illuminated by the sunlight.

Notice the Casino’s hand-painted ceiling and impressive, detailed stonework.

From the Mound, you can look back at the Villa and appreciate the manicured gardens from a higher vantage point.

Now, if you retrace your steps to the rear of the Villa you can gaze out at the wide expanse of Biscayne Bay.

This stone structure is called The Barge. Deering used to throw lavish parties at Vizcaya and would transport guests via gondola to the Barge for dinner parties.

To the left is a secluded gazebo that’s reached by crossing a Venetian-style footbridge.

The gazebo has inlaid black and white marble floors. Notice the gnarled roots of the mangroves in the background.

Here’s a view from the other side of the Barge. To me the Villa looks like it belongs on Lake Como, not Biscayne Bay.

Originally Villa Vizcaya featured a large, open-air central atrium. However, the need to preserve the building and its contents from Florida’s heat and humidity required the installation of a climate control system and this glass roof.

Through stained glass windows, the gardens are visible.

Vizcaya has thirty-four rooms decorated with antique furnishings dating from the 15th through 19th centuries.

Here you can really admire the sumptuous detailing of the Enclosed Loggia…

… and the Dining Room.

Vizcaya looks more like a palace somewhere in Europe than a private American home!

All decked out for Christmas.

On the second level are several bedrooms, the kitchen and breakfast room, and James Deering’s private bath. Just as expected, these rooms are lavishly appointed as well.

I hope you enjoyed this photographic journey of Villa Vizcaya. Many people go to Miami for the beach and nightlife, but this gem is definitely worthy of a visit too.

Where:The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are located at 3251 South Miami Avenue in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida.How Much: Admission for adults is $15, Children 6 – 12 are $6, Children under 5 are free. Seniors 62 and older and students with ID are $10.


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