When fashion guru Gianni Versace was gunned down on the front steps of his home on Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami in 1997, frock wearing females the world over reeled on their high heels.
Not to mention the shock to the rest of us who’ve never seen a Versace gown, let alone worn one. South Beach? Isn’t that the place of the botoxed and beautiful?
I was in Miami and retraced the flamboyant designer’s steps that fateful morning as he left his home with his pooch to go and get a coffee from News Cafe, about two blocks from his house.
I sat at a table in the cafe under the leafy trees and thought how awful that a lone and clearly crazed gunman was skulking the streets that day. It’s not the sort of thing you expect in South Beach.
This Art Deco end of the strip is full of muscly men, motorbikes and hot chicks wearing not very much. Tourists wear trainers and locals teeter on mile high heels.
Gianni poodled home that morning after having read the Italian newspapers that News Cafe was famous for, and was shot and died on his front steps. Truly awful.
Aside: News Cafe did not make it through the pandemic and closed in January 2021, but reopened in May 2022 in the same the spot, under the newly renamed Tony Hotel South Beach.
The hotel is named for Tony Goldman, who would buy up distressed Art Deco South Beach hotels since the 1980s and refurbished them. Thereby saving many of them from their otherwise fate to the sea air and delinquency.
Versace left half of his estate to his then 11-year old nice Allegra, Donatella’s daughter, and split the remainder between his brother and Donatella.
Eventually the property was sold to a telecommunications tycoon from New York and in 2009 Casa Casaurina was opened as a boutique hotel, restaurant and bar.
I was lucky enough to have a tour through Casa Casuarina with a few travel media, and checked out the rooms. The one he designed for Madonna (with a gold bathtub) and another that Elton John helped him design for himself.
See my photos below of a tour inside the rooms.
Allegra’s room with handpainted birds on the walls. The loo with a golden seat. The swimming pool with gold tiles inlaid into the floor. The circular shower room with four shower heads that I’m sure could tell us a few stories….
Oh and you wanna hear something funny? Donatella offered all of her brother’s the furnishings to the new buyer for an extra $2 mil. He turned her down and went out and bought new Versace branded product instead.
Donatella, meanwhile, sold the stuff for $19 mil. Funny indeed.
But the best thing? You can stay here. Check out the best price to stay at Casa Casuarina on Expedia >
You can also dine at Gianni’s Restaurant inside the hotel for lunch or dinner, if your budget doesn’t quite extend to an overnight in Alegra’s room. I’ll have the lobster spaghetti thanks!
See my post on the best things to do in Miami that scratch below the surface.
We then took off on a Florida Keys road trip from Miami to Key West. You can read our 4-day Miami to Key West itinerary of where to stop, where to eat, fun things to do in Key West, and where we stayed that was super central in Old Town.
If you want to read my full story of noseying through Gianni Versace’s mansion, click here to read: Miami Nice on the NZ Herald’s website.