The Villa Casa Casuarina, more commonly known as the Versace Mansion, has been on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach since the 1930's. Though it was long an eye-catching piece of architecture, the property gained more attention in the last 25 years. This is almost all because in 1992, Gianni Versace, the famous Italian fashion designer, purchased the property. At that time, it was a hotel that had become run down, much like the entire Miami Beach stretch of Ocean Drive. Versace paid a pretty penny for the hotel and then put more than $30 million of renovations into it. He knocked down an Art Deco property next door to expand the backyard and turned it into a true piece of art. Versace would host a crazy number of celebrities at his home. No expense would be spared. There was plenty of talk about how the home was the most expensive home in the country, with each room meticulously designed and furnished with the most elaborate pieces you could imagine. Even back then, there were rumors about the mansion's secrets and mysteries, but over the years, the place would become legendary.
For the five years that Versace lived in the home, the villa and Versace himself helped transform Ocean Drive. The region was revitalized. Every day, Versace would go about the same routine, waking up in the morning and going down to the newsstand to pick up the morning paper. On July 15, 1997, the routine changed slightly. Versace took a different route, changing his pattern for some unknown reason. On this day, he passed the stand and then circled around. After picking up the paper, he returned home. It was there, on the front steps of the Versace Mansion, that the designer was gunned down by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Since that day, tourists have flocked to the mansion that has changed hands a couple of times. The secrets and mysteries about what is inside have grown in that time as well. Now, 20 years later, the Villa Casa Casuarina is a lavish and expensive hotel, restaurant, and bar. Since it may not be accessible for everyone to get to and spend a night in, we thought we would give you a small tour. Here are 20 Things Found In Gianni Versace’s Mansion 20 Years Later.
20 The Pool (Including 24-Karat Gold Tiles)
The pool is the centerpiece of the entire mansion. It was where Versace and his guests spent most of their time, and it still remains the biggest draw today.
When Versace bought the place, the 54-foot-long pool was not there.
In fact, the backyard was not there. This was the primary piece of construction. The pool contains over one million mosaic tiles. These fine crafted tiles were made in Italy and then brought over and assembled in Miami Beach. Accenting these hand-painted tiles in the pool are thousands of 24-karat gold tiles. It's not known exactly how many or at what cost the pool was built, but knowing Versace, it's more than you think. The result is stunning. The pool is iconic and absolutely breathtaking.
19 The Rooftop Observatory
The rooftop observatory in Versace's mansion is one of the spots that guests seek out when they want peace and beauty. It's been said that even rapper Drake spent time there writing music and many other celebrities have climbed the stairs to catch a glimpse of the amazing views of the ocean, and the night sky out of the top. Inside, the observatory is inlaid with gold stars and other incredible fixtures. There are numerous rumors about what is hiding under the observatory and within the walls, but those passages have been blocked off to guests. Doesn't that just add more appeal to the mystery?
18 The Mystery Pigeon Coop
One of the biggest mysteries of the Versace Mansion is the legend of the pigeon coop. The coop was said to be housed under the mansion's observatory and used more for fun than anything necessary.
It is believed that the pigeons were used as message carriers for Versace and his friends,
sending emails and texts on hard mode. It may just be a fun little legend about the place, but many people claim to have seen it in use. If it did exist, it is not known what was done with the coop. While we know the pigeons no longer live in the coop (at least we hope they still don't), there are mysteries within the observatory that are not accessible to guests.
17 Kneeling Aphrodite
The statue of the Kneeling Aphrodite or Crouching Venus in the front of the mansion may not be the most famous fixture in the place, but it is maybe the most important one. Legend has it that it was this statue that caught Versace's eye as he and his sister, Donatella, walked past the property.
It was this Grecian statue that first drew him.
Upon seeing it and the complex, Versace said that he wanted to buy the place right away. He did and left the statue out front to capture the interest of every passerby. The statue may also be a big reason why the mansion has such a mythological foundation and theme throughout.
16 Time Capsule
No one knows if there is really a time capsule in the walls, but the owners have always felt confident that there is. The original owner of the home, Alden Freeman, is believed to have placed a time capsule in one of the corners of the house when it was first built in 1930. There is a visible metal box placed in the wall for everyone to see, and when Versace renovated the house, he left it untouched.
Today, the building’s cornerstone is still there, untouched.
In fact, it is rumored that the cornerstone is actually from the building that was the original inspiration for the house. Back in 1930, Freeman modeled construction on Diego Columbus' (Christopher Columbus' son) Dominican Republic House. Some say the cornerstone was brought over from the Columbus property and the time capsule may even be from that spot, but since the Columbus house is still standing, that is very unlikely.
15 That Rooftop Terrace
The rooftop terrace at the Versace mansion is a true highlight for us. Still accessible to guests, the terrace and walkways allow guests to sit and have a drink or walk along the roof overlooking the breathtaking view of the ocean, and the fantastic unobstructed views of the strip. Today, the rooftop is adorned with stylish cushions for seating in various spots on the roof, allowing guests to spend a relaxing evening up there. But, there was a time when guests of Versace would have dinner and parties on the rooftop. So we're certain many famous faces have taken in the magnificent views from this rooftop.
14 Medusa Head Mosaic
Of all the art and beauty in the Versace mansion, the Medusa Head Mosaic in the garden next to the pool might be the most beautiful and intricate, as well as the most iconic.
The mosaic was said to be created in Versace's hometown in Italy and brought to the mansion during the massive renovations.
The Medusa head, as you may know, is the logo of the Versace brand, a callback to a design he saw in Roman ruins as a child. Some people believe that there is something hidden or stored underneath the mosaic, with Versace knowing that the piece is far too impressive to ever ruin by digging underneath it.
13 Secret Passageways
While the truths behind many of the mysteries of the Versace mansion are unclear, there is one legend that we know is real.
There really are several secret passageways within the mansion's walls.
Sadly, these days, guests are not able to travel these hidden hallways or enter the hidden rooms because they have been blocked off, but they were used frequently by Versace and his friends. There was a door in Versace's bedroom that led to the entertainment room and the library. These passageways are said to have been created by Freeman, the original builder, but Versace may have added to them during his renovations or even created a few of his own.
12 The Wall Art
While most, if not all, of Versace's furniture has been sold off,
the intricate art and frescoes painted on the walls and ceilings in the different rooms have been maintained over the years.
The current hotel owners employ a talented artist to touch up the paint annually, ensuring that the pristine beauty of the works is respected and well preserved. Each room was themed and decorated by Versace and each painting and fresco was created within his chosen room theme. Today, guests often choose their rooms based on the artwork that calls to them most.
11 The Courtyard Fountain
When you first walk through the front door of the Versace Mansion, you enter into an enormous courtyard. The first thing you see upon entering the courtyard is the fountain in the center (something you've undoubtedly spotted when watching FX's American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace). This fountain is believed to have been installed by Freeman when he first built the property.
Versace loved it so much that he kept it in its original location, but he did add some of his own touches to it.
On top of the original structure, Versace added the Poseidon head, giving it a little more flavor.
10 The Rotunda
Out back, next to the pool, there is a large rotunda. Back when Versace built the backyard, he created the rotunda and added an amazing tiled floor. Now, since Versace has been gone, there have been persistent rumors that the tiles represent a cryptic code of some sort.
Some people even believe that there is something underneath the floor, such as an underground tunnel,
and that by solving the code, you can find the entrance. It's very unlikely, but it makes for a great story. Today, dinner guests can even be seated within the rotunda, which is sure to cost a fortune. Reservations also likely have to be taken months in advance.
9 The Biedermeier Closets
One of the key features in Versace's bedroom, which is now the premiere suite in the hotel, are the closets. The enormous Biedermeier closets were painstakingly designed and installed by Versace himself, taking over a year to construct fully. Today, they are still respected and maintained by the hotel staff. In addition to the closet space, Versace's room has little nooks to hide away any extra clothes or unmentionables. In fact, most of the rooms have these nooks installed to create some extra space.
8 The Fixtures
For whatever reason, the toilets are perhaps the most fabled elements of the Versace Mansion. It was said that whenever Madonna visited her friend, Versace would install a brand new toilet for her (our friends sure don't do that). Versace's own toilet was said to be
completely marble and covered with a 24-karat gold lid.
This toilet has since been removed and sold, but many of the other bathroom fixtures throughout the building have remained untouched. There are several bathrooms with gold-plated fixtures and ornate little additions, if that's your (or Madonna's) thing.
7 Madonna's Room
It's said that when Versace was designing each of the rooms, he created one for his sister, Donatella, that overlooked the garden and the pool with the best view in the mansion. However, when Donatella came across her room (The Venus Room), she fell in love, so the room specifically designed for her was left unused. Later, when Madonna came to visit,
she stayed in that room that was originally designed for Donatella, and it became hers in a way.
Every time Madonna came over, this room was hers. Today, guests can stay here, with a gorgeous view overlooking the pool and amazing features stained glass windows and a private entrance. It is one of the hotel's most exclusive rooms if only because of the view and the famous former guest.
6 Donatella's Room
Now called the Venus Suite, Donatella's room is one of the premier rooms in the hotel because of its size and its beauty. The room is actually the biggest in the mansion, but Donatella chose it for the beautiful intricate designs painted on the walls and the ceiling. This suite has two balconies, one overlooking the pool and one looking out on Ocean Drive. There's also a stunning bathroom with more marble than Tootles from Hook. Guests pay about $1,000 per night to stay in this massive room now.
5 The Ornate Ceilings
One of the most amazing things about the Versace mansion is the intricate artistry that could be found on the ceilings. It isn't just the frescoes but the architecture too. When Versace was killed and all his possessions were sold or taken in by his family, the mansion was left with only what could not move. In each room throughout the mansion,
the ceilings are one of the most visually captivating elements.
Perhaps the most gorgeous ceiling of all is in what is now considered the restaurant. The incredible vaulted ceiling is an image you'll never forget.
4 Poolside Statues
There are so many things to look out by the pool in the mansion's backyard that it’s almost too difficult for any one piece to steal the show. But, the statues on the side of the pool come close, if only because there are more than one. These statues were bought and shipped to the mansion by Versace from a 16-century chateau in France. The Greek inspiration of the work stuck true to the theme throughout the house, and the detailed sculptures really add something special to the pool area.
3 The Parrot Suite
Even though the hotel now calls this room the aviary suite, it was originally known as the parrot suite. It was
named and designed for Versace's niece, Allegra, who stayed in the room quite frequently.
On the walls, the ceilings, and the floors, birds of all types rest, especially parrots because Allegra loved those types of birds. Maybe the most amazing piece in the room is the finely-crafted bird mosaic on the floor, the first thing that most people tend to notice upon entering.
2 The Turkish Shower
While it may now no longer be used as a shower, the massive eight-to-twelve-person shower installed by Gianni Versace himself, still remains standing for guests who wish to have a look. When Versace and his friends were using it, the room was a Hamam, a Turkish steam room and shower. The impressive shower was conveniently placed next to the gym, and it is said that Versace would just hang out in the shower while his guests used it. Today, the room next to the shower is called the Moroccan Lounge, which guests use to relax.
1 Outdoor Dining Area
When Versace owned the mansion, he would often throw elaborate parties and have crazy dining experiences wherever for his guests. In that spirit,
the restaurant, which is named Gianni in Versace's honor, has several different locations for guests to dine.
Of course, there is the dining room. We also mentioned the rotunda, which fits one large table for a special experience. Guests also frequently dine on the pool deck, which allows them to soak in the beauty of the garden and the fresh air. There's the upper terrace as well, which overlooks the garden and gives dining guests a much better view of the property.
Sources: CNN; people; Wikipedia; youtube