Miami Beach's Ocean Drive is a standout amongst the most photographed places on the planet. However, with its neon lights and walkway bistros serving beer-garitas for two, it's also known for another very special reason.
Settled in the midst of the low-rise Art Deco hotels, with floods of tourists walking past, is the Villa Casa Casuarina – also known as the Versace mansion. What many of the tourist busy snapping away selfies don't realise is that this former home of the late world fashion designer, Gianni Versace isn't just a historical centre or a private house, however, it is a lux hotel.
A South Beach Institution
Travellers can stay in this hotel and can also sleep in Versace's or his sister Donatella's bedroom. Or they can stay in the room where Madonna stayed during her regular visits to the mansion in the 90's. Some would argue that her visits heavily contributed to the popularity of this gorgeous establishment. For those not wishing to stay the night, Billionaire Black Book's travel team can also organise a prime table at Villa's Baroque Grandeur to dine in at Gianni's. We recommend starting with an aperitif at Clubby Onyx Bar - which used to be Versace’s private kitchen.
The management of the property has changed a couple of times since Gianni Versace was shot dead in 1997 on the steps of his mansion. But some 20+ years later it remains one of the most top splendour of the designer, under Jordache Enterprises.
In 2001, Donatella auctioned some of the contents of the home, but the richly decorated walls, ceilings, windows, floors, house pool, garden and the southern wing remain in the original exquisite form that Giani himself personally built.
Ocean Drive's Real Beauty
The unapologetic extravagance of Casa Casuarina is the reason why it was the optimum location to film “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” which aired in early 2018 on FX.
Tourists visiting in May that year were able to get a view of the filming in which Penelope Cruz is starring as Donatella, Edgar Ramirez as the late Designer-who was seen in a pink bathrobe on the balcony of the Versace’s bedroom, Ricky Martin as the designer’s longtime partner.
Just like Versace’s glitz collection, his room, also known as the Villa Suite is over-the-top. The Venus Suite, Donatella’s bedroom is also a beauty because of its famous custom made a double king sized bed.
The show will not be able to showcase the marble toilet worth $10,000, with a 24-karat gold-plated seat as it was amongst the items that Donatella auctioned after Versace’s death.
From being a flashy home to being the world class hotel
The Casa Casuarina now has 10 hotel suites, a restaurant, a bar, and a lounge which may be used for meeting purposes, a beautiful rooftop, and an intricate Mosaic Garden. The garden tiles have pictures of the most iconic Greek mythologies, including Medusa. Medusa also has a place of honour the brand logo of Versace.
Inspired by Versace’s collection “Marine Vanuras” there is an elaborate Medusa designed in the 54-foot long pool in the Villa which is made from thousand of 24-karat gold Mosaic tiles.
The Medusa Mosaic was painstakingly put together in the pool after being shipped from Versace’s home town, Reggios Calabria Italy to Miami Beach where it was originally crafted.
The New Wing, adjoining the garden was built when Versace acquired the Villa. It is also known as the Moroccan Lounge, previously the designer used it as a gym area. The lounge still houses his hamam Turkish steam room and shower built for eight people.
The Mosaic Suite, where Madonna stayed is located upstairs. The singer could easily enjoy the view of the pool and the acoustics of the bathroom.
Casa Casuarina’s History
In 1992, Versace visited Miami Beach, and the visit made him fall in love with the city and its Spanish architecture which led him to purchasing the Villa Casa Casuarina.
The Art Deco next door to be snapped up and demolished to make way for Versace's garden, pool, and south wing which was used as a library.
The renovations took 3 years and amounted to $32 million transformed the Villa to a mansion fit for a king like Versace.
However, even before the renovations took place, Casa Casuarina had a glitzy history.
Alder freeman, whose father who was an employee at The Standard Oil trust, made it in 1930 and this made him withdraw from his job at 27 and left behind a large amount of money that he used to construct his dream house which was influenced by the historic Alcazar De Colon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Freeman resided in a top floor suite and accommodated his friends or leased the remainder 23 apartments.
Huge numbers of the building points of interest of the house, counting the key lime coral floors, pillars around the courtyard, and the brightening emblems of well-known identities (Cleopatra, Gandhi, Rockefeller and – more discordantly—Mussolini and Lenin) go back to Freeman’s time, which in 1937 came to an end with his death, when the house was then sold and kept running as a condo complex.
By the 1980s, the building fell into dilapidation, albeit the majority of the first fittings and works of art survived.
Similarly, as with numerous acclaimed structures, Casa Casuarina has its offer of a riddle: There are reputed to be mystery entryways and paths all through the manor, in spite of the fact that an entryway that used to lead from Versace's room to an excitement nook has since been cut off.
It's likewise said that Versace kept up a pigeon coop underneath the house top observatory, and would utilise the messenger pigeons to dispatch notes to friends. Details are barely adequate on these reports to be, yet, what's sure is that The Manor will keep on intriguing guests, almost certainly much more so when the television arrangement hits screens one year from now.
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