Arabian Nights meet South Beach at Miami’s most storied address. The former Versace mansion reopened as the Villa at Barton G in 2010 after a decadent overhaul (imagine 24-karat gold tiles in the courtyard pool and your own British-trained butler) that the late Italian designer would, we venture, have found fitting. Designed with comfort in mind, this two-night package includes a welcome champagne cocktail, daily breakfast, a one-hour couples massage, a three-course dinner for two with wine pairings and round-trip airport transfers.
Only an impresario like Barton G. Weiss — an acclaimed Miami restaurateur and self-dubbed “experience designer” with a background that includes costume and set design — could deliver the delicate mix of flamboyance and sophistication worthy the mansion that once belonged to Gianni Versace.
Past the iron gates (and the many celebrity seekers) that surround the 1930s villa — which is directly across from the beach, in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco district — the property opens up like a scene from One Thousand and One Nights. The layout is reminiscent of a Moroccan riad: 10 suites set around an interior courtyard with a fountain, carved wood doors and intricate tiling.
Twenty-four-karat gold tiles line the property’s Thousand Mosaic Pool. The Villa Suite is Versace’s former boudoir and, unsurprisingly, is the most lavish of the 10 — think two balconies, gold shower fixtures and a truly enormous (9-by-12-foot) bed — but the other nine suites are close contenders. Each has Frette linens, Versace fabrics, a Sono sound system, a Kindle e-reader and a sleek bathroom clad in Italian marble — not to mention a personal butler who provides round-the-clock service and can get you on the list at the top Miami Beach restaurants and nightclubs.
And while those spots are just a five-minute cab ride away, you’d be remiss not to reserve a table at the villa’s 30-seat restaurant, where river pebble mosaics adorn the walls, candles in colored vases cast a glow over the tabletops, and Versace china announces that eating here is as much an aesthetic pleasure as a gustatory one. The menu from chef Jeff O’Neill (of Miami’s exclusive Gibraltar) features Old World dishes infused with innovative ingredients, such as the clementine carrot veloute with mascarpone and maple-glazed barramundi in white ginger broth.
The scene here is all about the beach, and the hotel has a prime seat right across the street from the legendary main stretch. But if you’re looking for a more private spot, try the property’s Thousand Mosaic Pool, where Versace’s original 24-karat gold tiles still sparkle in the hot Miami sun. The villa’s decadence is Miami all the way, but taken to another level — an experience that’s as much about soaking it in as being transported entirely.
What to do:
- Charter a Seaplane. Miami Seaplane Tours offer half-hour flights with bird’s-eye views of the water, city and the Everglades (from $150).
- Dine by Design. The Design District is filled with furniture shops and restaurants; the two intersect at Fratelli Lyon, an Italian restaurant adjoining a design store where everything from the place settings to the lights to the tables is for sale.
- Escape to Nature. To escape the nonstop South Beach scene, drive 20 minutes to Key Biscayne National Park to see mangroves, sea turtles and coral reefs.
- Grab a Bite. Cross the bridge to the Wynwood neighborhood for authentic greasy-spoon Cuban fare at Enriqueta’s (2830 NE 2nd Ave.). Pressed for time? Order a café con leche at the in-demand — and efficient — takeout window.
- Surf ‘n’ Turf. Feast on stone crab claws and wood-grilled or broiled ribeye at the 4,000-square-foot Meat Market, one of the best restaurants on busy Lincoln Road.
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