Vizcaya: A 1900s Estate in the Miami Subtropics
Ah, Vizcaya. We've heard so much about this incredible, historic, and awe-inspiring place and today we have lovely Shannon Moffit sharing her photographs and experience at such a villa. Take it away Shannon...
Miami–a city known for its white beaches, amazing Cuban food, and year-round heat, which I can vouch for since I grew up on the outskirts of the city. We had mango and orange trees in our backyard, survived a number of hurricanes, met D-list celebrities from tv shows all the time, and learned to get along by using phrases like, “Dónde está los Swiffer Wet Jets.”
Jokes aside, it is easy to forget that Miami is a very old city, built upon important history–Spanish conquests, Seminole wars, immigration from Cuba, intense hurricane destruction, and more. It is quite an eclectic place to live or visit.
Last year, my husband and I took a road trip down to Key West to photograph a wedding, so on our drive back north, I knew I had to introduce him to Vizcaya, a 1900s estate that lies in the heart of the old Coconut Grove area of Miami. I had not been back there since I was about 14 years old, so it was really fun to revisit the estate 15 years later, as a photographer with a more developed eye.
When first approaching the property, you really have no idea what to expect, because the house is buried deep in a subtropical forest of plants, waterfalls, and floral gardens. You enter the main house from the back, since the front of the house sits on the water. When you walk past the ticket area, you are first greeted by a few extraordinary gates carved completely out of coral, a staple material for much of Miami’s old architecture. Once entering the house, you immediately walk into a large courtyard, a replica of an eighteenth century Italian villa. As you continue through the house’s lush central garden to the waterfront patio, you will see a stationary ship built out of coral, meant to break up waves. Almost every architectural design choice reflects the Italian style–stone pillars, decorated archways, inlaid tile,s garden layouts, and more. It is truly an amazing place to explore.
We stopped at the cafe for lunch, and sat at a table that overlooked the crystal blue waters of the private grotto. After that, we explored the lower and upper gardens, which were equally impressive. On our walk, we were greeted by a handful of foot long iguanas and a giant orange iguana sunbathing on a ledge, before heading back to the main house.
Overall, Vizcaya is quite a photogenic and romantic location, so if you are planning a trip to Miami, it is well worth a stop. I recommend visiting on a weekday to avoid weekend tourists, and arrive as early as you can to beat the typical Miami heat and daily rain storms.