My youngest sister, Esperanza, decided that after our weeklong memorable cruise to Havana, she would again celebrate her birthday in Miami and that all of us from the cruise should be with her. Of course, we needed so many hotel rooms to accommodate all 24 of us, family members who just disembarked from the Royal Caribbean ship.
In order to save on costs, she had this wonderful idea of renting, through Airbnb, a multi-room villa, instead of booking ourselves in separate rooms at a Miami hotel.
She pored over the Internet to see which villa might end up costing less than the total amount we would have to spend for many rooms if we were to stay in a hotel. She came across a “Villa Valentino,” located in Coconut Grove, Miami’s upscale neighborhood, which has streets lined with lush vegetation and is right on the shoreline of Biscayne Bay. This section of the city has laid-back sidewalk cafes and chic boutiques that cater to uppity-up clientele.
According to my sister, Airbnb listed the villa as one with a Moorish Mediterranean look and has a total of 11 bedrooms—six in the main villa and five in the guest house behind it—with eight bathrooms, a large swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, and parking for several cars. With such description and after the corresponding cost was considered, my sister right away knew it was the villa for us.
When we got to this beautiful, luxurious accommodation, which sits on top of a large coral rock, the caretaker gathered all of us in the huge living room and gave us additional details. It has centralized air-conditioning, a library, and sitting rooms. Wi-Fi is very strong whichever part of the main villa or the guest house you are in. All bedrooms and living rooms have 60-inch wide-screen cable TV.
He also pointed out the attractive hand-painted, beamed, very high cypress ceiling in the living room, the fully equipped kitchen, washing machine and dryer, and the grand dining room. He also encouraged us to make use of the al fresco eating area which has fully equipped barbecue facilities.
But what floored almost all of us, particularly the elder ones, was when he declared that the villa was the former residence of the silent-movie-era legendary star, Rudolf Valentino, thus, the villa’s name. We never associated it with the movie star. We thought the name was just a description to further “romanticize” the villa’s unique Moroccan architecture.
At first, we thought he was just joking, but he started to give us more details on when the screen star stayed in the villa, the parties he would host, his favorite room, etc. That’s when we realized he was telling the truth, which made us even more excited about staying in such luxurious accommodations.
The caretaker told us that this villa was actually Valentino’s vacation house. After doing a movie in Los Angeles, where his main residence/villa was, he would fly to Miami to rest and party with his friends. Knowing of the house’s affinity with its owner who has been long dead, I asked the caretaker if there were reports of supernatural incidents in it, and he assured all of us there were none.
Of course, when my sister assigned us to the different bedrooms, I made sure I got the master’s bedroom, Valentino’s room. It has a king-size bed with six pillows, which I learned was exactly the way he wanted his bed. A door beside it leads to a spacious veranda, complete with lounging chairs, and which is overlooking the famous South Bayshore Drive.
Originally built in 1910, Villa Valentino has been restored and upgraded to fit the needs of today’s travelers. But the current owner, who lives in Australia, made sure that Valentino’s favorite parts of the house have been maintained, like his bedroom, the study, the living, and dining rooms.
Who would think that we—a middle class Cebuano family, now residing in some of the world’s major capitals, familiar and schooled with the ways of the noble and the elite, but still with the heart of a “probinsyano”—had the opportunity to live in luxurious comfort for three days, in this iconic Miami villa owned by Hollywood’s legendary star of silent movies? This certainly was an added highlight to our Cuban cruise which, in itself, was already very memorable for us.
But the best part about this whole experience was that we had the whole family to share the fun, the excitement, and the pleasure with. The Cuban cruise and the stay at Villa Valentino certainly made for the best birthday celebration any of us siblings could ever have. Now, my siblings and I are checking our respective bucket lists to see which other destination in the world could provide another exciting and fun locale for our large family next year.
I’m curious about the Northern Lights. What do you think?
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