When FX rehashed the tragic assassination of Gianni Versace this spring with the second season of American Crime Story, our interest was officially piqued. We couldn’t help but jet off to Miami Beach, Florida, to explore the fashion designer’s palatial mansion, today known as Villa Casa Casuarina.
Even before the television show shone the spotlight on the life and legacy of Versace, suites at the villa had been going for more than $1,000 a night. It’s a celebrity hot spot, with stars like the Kardashians, Drake and Justin Bieber casually renting out the entire 10-suite property when they are in town. The rich and the famous are no doubt drawn by the hotel’s undeniable beauty, meticulous design and rich history.
The villa dates back to 1930, when it was originally built by Standard Oil Trust heir Alden Freeman. Receiving his wealth at a young age, the architect retired at 27 and traveled the world. Welcoming friends and family to Miami Beach was one of his favorite pastimes, and thus he built the villa as 24 apartments, taking up residence in the penthouse. After Freeman’s death, the property fell into disrepair. Versace eventually purchased it in 1992, also snatching up the neighboring lot. He invested $32 million into the residence, transforming the apartments into suites and adding a south wing, garden and swimming pool.
From the moment you enter the gates to your first dip in the pool, you’ll enjoy a highly personalized experience, similar to being welcomed into a private home. Boasting a beautiful fountain and luxurious lounge chairs, the open-air courtyard is a place of peacefulness and tranquility.
Each guest room has a different theme. We stayed in the Aviary Suite, which features hand-painted displays of exotic birds, an abundance of floral arrangements, and two large lounges in addition to the king-size bed. The bathroom boasts beautiful pink marble, gold accents and of course a tiled Medusa head. Versace’s trademark Medusa icons show up all over the mansion, creating consistency amid more eccentric design flourishes.
Exploring the property and finding hidden gems is one of the most exciting parts of a stay here. The rooftop lounge, for example, offers incredible ocean and sunrise vistas. The observatory has a view of the sky and highlights how beautifully Versace lived. It’s fun to imagine many moments of inspiration as he sat on the blue suede cushions that line the circular space.
The Million Mosaic Pool is one of the most iconic parts of the villa. A true work of art, it showcases the determination and commitment to beauty that defined Versace’s exquisite vision. Swimming amongst thousands of 24-karat-gold mosaics is an utterly unforgettable experience. Add in the palm-tree backdrop and poolside cocktails (including a 24-karat margarita), and you’ve got yourself an epic spot to catch some rays.
Come nightfall, the garden and pool area are converted into fine-dining establishment Gianni’s, which is open to both guests and the public by reservation. Live music adds to the over-the-top romantic ambiance that brings to mind Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The perfect ending to the evening is enjoying a drink up on the rooftop terrace or some people watching from the gated front porch. All told, visiting Villa Casa Casuarina is a truly unrivaled travel experience.