Today we visited a very impressive living history museum called the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This museum transports you from Miami to Italy and even a little bit of Paris. It is a huge mansion built by James Deering in 1914 with construction finishing in 1916. The contents of the house were sourced by Deering and his friend Paul Chaflin from all over Europe. In one of the rooms there are even antiquities from Pompeii. If the house isn’t grand enough, the gardens are simply stunning. Fountains imported from Italy, hedge mazes, and a small garden theatre are just a few of the things on offer.
Where to begin. Entering Vizcaya is an experience in itself. After walking through palm trees and mangroves you reach a small ticket office. If you have an hour and a bit I would definitely recommend the audio guide tour. It is great if you don’t want to rush through. After collecting the audio guide you walk a long pathway filled with marble statutes and fountains to the main entrance. Originally exposed to the elements, the entry is now enclosed in a glass case protecting the objects inside. There are around 32 stops on the audio guide that take you through the bedrooms, kitchen, courtyard, and living rooms of the house. The most interesting aspect of the house is how technologically-advanced it was for its time. There are vacuum cleaner ports on the floor, elevators, and even a dumbwaiter.
The furnishings of the house were as beautiful and grand as anything I’ve seen in Europe. What makes it more surprising is that it’s in Miami!
After the one hour guided tour of the house we stepped outside into the gardens. They are jam-packed with small shell-covered caves, pergolas, marble statues, and fountains. It is an incredibly large garden to walk around so I recommend you take your time. Every aspect of it is worth seeing.
It is also worth noting that there are many methods of interpretation available. I’ve already mentioned the audio guide, however, there are labels in each of the rooms and guided tours that occur daily. The labels are text-heavy so I really recommend the audio guide tour!
The highlight of the entire museum for me was the front of the house on the bay and the gondola poles modeled on the ones in Venice. It is not difficult to see that Deering was an Italophile. It was a really lovely museum to escape to in Miami. Similar to Epcot and the World Showcase, I feel yet again like I have been transported to somewhere else in the world then beamed back. A lot of great preservation work was happening whilst we were there so I only hope the museum grows and preserves this unique piece of Italy in Miami.