As a person who always had a fascination with art, design, antiques and landscape architecture, I was enthusiastic to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. I have traveled to Europe many times over, studying and admiring the craftmanship of centuries of architectural styles and walking through lush extravagant gardens. I was looking forward to see how James Deering (McCormick International) and his architects would manifest old world Italy along the shores of Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida.
Over one hundred years ago in 1916, Villa Vizcaya was completed in Miami, Florida. For the time the construction of this Italian-style luxury estate was eccentric in every way possible. Chicago industrialist, James Deering, envisioned a lavish Tuscan Italian Renaissance mansion in Miami. At the time Miami was not heavily populated- less than 10,000 people. It was to be his wintertime getaway from the brutal Chicago winters.
Taking on the task to construct Villa Vizcaya took five years to complete. About a thousand international artists and contractors worked with great efforts to create and build this Mediterranean Revival estate. To bring about his authentic European vision, a treasure trove of architectural pieces such as panels, gates, iron work, ceilings, antique doors, fireplaces and decorations were brought in from Europe.
The gardens, landscape and architecture were highly influenced by Tuscan Italian Renaissance and the region of Venato. I have ventured through Venato, Italy- its famous capital of Venice, as well as the largest city of Verona. I saw the connection right away between old Italy and where Deering had received inspiration from. Everything from the color palates of cream, salmon and pale yellows to the stately arched stone garden entryways. Every detail of the Mediterranean and old Italy was not overlooked.
The garden architecture of Vizcaya is a composure of a variety of Italian Renaissance villas and gardens, along with French Renaissance features. I have strolled through many European estates and castle gardens, and I found the gardens at Vizcaya to be comparable to those abroad. I also noticed that the natural weathering from the sea air, had caused the architectural features of the garden to take on the centuries old aged feel of Renaissance Italy. The masterful design of walking paths and elaborate stairs lead you through manicured gardens, maturely grown foliage and shade trees- a beautifully recreated Italian Renaissance formal garden.
Wandering through this massive estate, both inside the Mediterranean style mansion and the elaborate Italian Renaissance gardens, I felt a familiarity. What I mean by that are the architectural details and the feelings evoked were familiar to those in Italy and Europe. I believe that by Deering’s vision of being authentic and shipping a massive collection of European treasures and antiquities to Miami, he also brought over the energy vibration that cannot be replicated in the U.S. The centuries of traditional craftmanship, the local materials used to create and the original ideas of design that were formulated over time in Europe. That is what I felt while walking through Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the familiarity, the same energy of old Venice, Verona and even Kotor, Montenegro.
Villa Vizcaya is truly a magnificent and distinctive treasure in the United States. To visit is a must but to appreciate the brilliance and the labor of creating this Italian Renaissance estate is inspiring.
For location, hours and admission information, please visit their official website – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
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