When I heard for the first time the name Vizcaya it sounded me like an exotic word with a Spanish/Portuguese heritage. It was funny to discover that James Deering, the owner of the Villa, wanted to create exactly this impression naming his Florida house as the known Vizcaya Bay in the Spanish Basque Country. However, somehow he was convinced also that a certain “Vizcaya” was the secretary of Ponce de Leon who gave the name to the famous Biscayne Bay during his visit to Florida, something he discovered later this was historically inaccurate giving that the person’s name was actually that of Viscino.
When you approach the Villa Vizcaya you feel immediately transported back in time by the luscious gardens and classic monumentality typical of the Italian Renaissance-style pervading every corner or the property. The construction of the Villa started in 1912 and it was completed in 1922 (although the main house was finished in 1916). Deering, together with his interior design Paul Chalfin wanted to create a villa inspired to the beauty of the Italian Rinascimento. For this reason, they both travelled extensively to Italy looking for the finest example of Italian antiquities to use in the property.
After the completion, Deering used the residence to entertain his guests with celebrations and events from November to April, while during the rest of the year the staff was taking care of the property and its land. After Deering’s death in 1925, the Villa passed to his heirs but, because of the major damages reported from the hurricane of 1935, the property has been gradually turned into a museum. The importance of Villa Vizcaya as a tourist attraction in the suburbs of Miami emerged since 1950, nevertheless the several damages reported from multiple hurricanes and the change from diplomatic residence into a museum open to general public made the Villa loosing most of its old political and social role.
Villa Vizcaya is a tourist attraction since 1950
Today Vizcaya is involved in many programs and projects aiming to the redevelopment of the Villa as a main hotspot for the local community and external visitors. The Villa represents the ideal escape for a day away from the crowded Miami beaches as well also a great starting point for rediscovering Miami’s roots from an unusual perspective.
Visiting Villa Vizcaya
If you are around Miami, I strongly suggest you to pay a visit to this beautiful place. Me and my husband visited Villa Vizcaya in a warm day of August before departing for a cruise from the Miami Port in the late afternoon. The Villa is situated in an ideal position in the Miami Dade County not far from Miami main services. We arrived there early with a taxi but we returned walking to our hotel that was nearby in Brickell.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
3251 South Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33129
Despite its golden days as a diplomatic residence are now gone, Vizcaya has still its fascination. I suggest you to start the visit from the main house and dedicate more time to explore the beautiful garden surrounding the property. The harbour, in particular was one of my favourite sections.
There is, unfortunately, a visible decadence affecting certain areas of the Villa, especially near the mangroves. Nevertheless, I think this is part of its fascination and if you take a walk around the arbour for a hint of marine breeze, it does remember Venice. The Italian gardens are meticulously mantained and ideal for a walk immersed into the silence (there was almost no one around when we visited!). If you are lucky, you can also spot some beautiful iguanas hidden into the green. Visiting the entire Villa without rushing it will take 2-3 hours. Personally, we decided to enjoy the whole morning there and also stop for lunch at the Villa Cafe, which is situated near the harbour and before the Pool.
Vizcaya is open Wednesday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Villa Vizcaya has an entrance fee wich is of about $18 for Adults and $6 for children. Photography is allowed all around (with exception of tripod photography inside the Main House). Drones are strictly NOT ALLOWED. A taxi from Brickell takes less than five minutes and Uber costs around $6, while reaching the Villa from South Beach takes 17 minutes with an Uber cost of $18-24. More info on how to reach Villa Vizcaya from different sides of Miami are available on the main website.