If you find yourself in the Miami area this winter, be sure to check out Vizcaya Gardens.
It contains 50 acres of formal gardens, a villa and native hammock (jungle forest) on Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. Expansive gardens combine Italian and French design with an American content.
“An array of statues of Carrara marble and urns from Messina fountains and architectural follies.” says the pamphlet I read in the shady garden, under Spanish moss and gumbo limbo trees.
Rococo is the style of the mansion. James Deering, famous industrialist and vice president of the International Harvester Co., built Vizcaya as his winter home, starting in 1910; he came here from 1914 to 1925. In addition to access by land the estate can also be approached by boat, thorugh a mangrove lagoon. There are Venetian-style red-and-white-striped poles for mooring. Statues sit on what looks like two halves of a sunken boat called The Barge, used as a breakwater.
Unfortunately Deering died just four years after the gardens were completed by the Italian-trained Columbian landscape architect Suarez. But while he lived there, Deering took treasures that span 2,000 years from Pompeii in Italy and Asia.There are admirable carpets that have designs representative of three religions: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. Spiral stairs twirl down to an inlaid marble star.
Vizcaya has been the site of many important visits. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan received Pope John Paul II on his first visit to Miami. In 1994, Vizcaya was the location of the first Summit of the Americas, convened by President Bill Clinton. In addition, the mansion has provided the setting for many films over the years, and is sometimes referred to as the Hearst Castle of the East.
Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors. Vizcaya is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. For more information, go to Vizcaya’s website.