Gianni’s at The Villa, South Beach


Yep, Gianni Versace’s mansion.

Before our trip to Miami, we were looking for somewhere special to celebrate my Mum’s big birthday.  We had also become obsessed with The Assassination of Gianni Versace.  These two seemingly unrelated elements led to us discovering that Versace’s former house on Ocean Drive had been converted into a hotel and restaurant so we just had to book a table at Gianni’s – the restaurant at The Villa Casa Casuarina.

The villa has had a complicated history – built back in the 1930s, converted into apartments shortly after and had its ups and downs before Versace bought it in the 1990s who converted back into one mansion.  He also bought the property next door and created a beautiful outdoor space (although not without controversy).  After his death, it continued to have a troubled existence, but seems to have been a little more stable since opening as a hotel a couple of years ago.  It’s definitely earned its iconic status.

South Beach at night really isn’t my style.  I’ve never really been into partying or bar hopping and this is pretty much South Beach’s primary purpose (it’s why we’ve enjoyed our hotel up in Surfside).  But Gianni’s was definitely worth the effort.  We decided to splash out on an Uber Lux, and pulling up to the front of the villa in a big fancy GMC… car (I’m not good with American cars) felt really special.

We were shown in to the restaurant at the front of the hotel – there were a couple of different areas dotted around the ground floor including the terrace and poolside and whilst it would have been amazing to sit out by the pool, it started raining about half an hour into our meal so we were happy to be inside!

Whilst we waited for our food to arrive, Mum and I scampered around looking at the beautiful decor.  It was outrageously over the top and not remotely my taste, but that’s exactly why I loved it!  The staff were happy for customers to walk around, but didn’t allow tourists – one couple were asked to either book a table or leave as it wasn’t a “tourist attraction” which I did appreciate (mostly because it made it easier for us to look around).

The food itself was expensive of course, but very enjoyable.  There’s obviously a premium for being in such an amazing location, but we all ate really well.  I wasn’t going to have dessert, but couldn’t resist trying a red chocolate mousse.  It was phenomenal.

Gianni's red chocolate mousseI will confess that I had fairly low expectations – I had a preconceived idea on what the food and service would be like, but we had such an unexpectedly great evening!  It’s nice to go fancy every once in a while.

After the meal, we took a wander down Ocean Drive to see the art deco buildings lit up at night.

Really very pretty, but the rest of the strip just confirmed what I’ve always thought – South Beach at night isn’t for me.  Interesting, but definitely not for me.  Wow.

 

Miami in the Rain

What do you think when you read the words “Miami Beach”?  Turquoise waves, beautiful sandy beaches, blue skies – am I close?

That’s certainly what you get when you Google image search, and is definitely the experience we had both in 2016 and 2017.  2018?  Not so much.  More like grey skies with some ever-so-slightly irritating rain.

It’s always a risk going to Miami in May – the hotels do drop in price, but you’re right up against hurricane season which runs from June to November.  As we got closer to our departure date, I began manically refreshing my Google Weather app, which every day showed me some variation on the following:

I started to research “What to do in Miami in the rain” and to be honest, didn’t come up with much.  Don’t get me wrong – Miami has loads to do inside, but it wasn’t anything I wanted to do.  My list of things I wanted to achieve on this holiday included:

  • Lounge around on the beach

Urm, that was it (we did end up doing a little bit more than this – there’ll be a separate post on that – and we used Time Out and Thrillist for a bit of inspiration).

None of the locals seemed that bothered (checking on Reddit and the Trip Advisor forums) and were reassuring that Miami rain isn’t like “normal” rain.

And they were right.  It isn’t like normal rain at all.  It rained on Saturday a bit, but we were going to spend the whole morning in the Aventura Mall anyway so I’m not counting that as a problem.  Sure, there was spotty rain when we were down on the beach, but we didn’t even bother going inside.  Sat it out like a pro.  It rained loads overnight when we were asleep, and a couple of times in the evening when we were in restaurants.

Considering they were predicting non-stop rain, we were only really affected one afternoon for about an hour when it did this:

The sea is down there somewhere.  We went up to our balcony to watch it for a bit, had a shower, and in the time it took for us to get ready for dinner, it had passed.  The following day, we’d gone back to this again:

So if it’s predicted to rain on your trip to Miami, don’t fret too much.  Take it a day at a time, have a look at a good weather site every once in a while (we liked the dramatically named Doppler 6000 on the NBC website) and just relax.  You’re still going to have an amazing holiday because you’re in freaking Miami!

Unless there’s an actual hurricane, in which case I have no good advice for you.  Sorry about that.

There are no straight maids in South Beach

DSC_9460Surfside was perfect for us and we could have happily stayed in that area the whole holiday, but we did think we should make the effort to go to the more touristy area at least once.

And South Beach is very touristy.  It was a bit of a culture shock, going from the 5 people walking passed you on Harding Avenue to dozens of people, cars, restaurants blaring music.  It was almost a little too much.

The Parisian Hotel MiamiBut the art deco building were extraordinary so it was worth it.  We could have booked on one of the walking tours but they were so busy, and the written free walking tour guide on the National Geographic website was pretty good so we just used that.   After a quick coffee at a Starbucks on 2nd St. (where we oddly saw two people that we’d seen in Aventura the night before – spies!), we made our way up Ocean Drive.

DSC_9407You trip over amazing buildings all over Ocean Drive and the surrounding area.  It is a real shame that the area isn’t pedestrianised though, as you want to be able to crisscross all over the place but there’s so much traffic.

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It was so hot on the Sunday, unpleasantly so, and we’d duck into shops just to soak up the air conditioning.  We wanted to see what the beach was like so took a quick detour off the Nat Geo walking route, and could not believe how many people were out there.  It was rammed!  After Ocean Drive, we headed for Lincoln Road for the Sunday market (it was ok, nothing special).  I may have stopped by another Sephora as well.

Just after lunch, the heat got to us and after a quick stop at Shake Shack for fries and lemonade, we headed back to our northerly haven for a bit of peace and quiet.

As a neon worshipper, I was tempted to go back at night to see the hotels in all their glory, but we knew that South Beach after dark wouldn’t be our kind of place.

Completely astonishing buildings though – I mean, look at the Gap!  Good old crazy America.

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Coincidentally, one of my favourite jewellery designers – Designosaur Yeah – was in Miami shortly before I was, and has made the most amazing Ocean Drive necklace.  You best believe it’s already on it’s way to my house.