I am so fortunate to live so close to beautiful and historic Newport, RI and it's one of my favorite places to visit, any time of the year.
There's so much to see and do in this seaside town, but it also can easily be explored in a day if you are short on time or passing through on your way to another destination. One thing, that I feel is a must-see is a visit to one of Newport’s famed mansions. These grande homes give a glimpse into a different era of wealth and power. The Breakers is good one to start with and the most luxurious of the mansions in the area.
The 70-room oceanfront Breakers was the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, president and chairman of the New York Central Railroad, his wife Alice and their seven children. The original wooden house purchased by Vanderbilt burnt down and then was rebuilt in 1893 by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt. An interesting fact: The Breakers was given its names from the waves crashing into the rocky cliffs below the home.
The Vanderbilt’s enlisted Hunt to rebuild them a luxurious summer home with no expense spared. Decorated in both French and Italian designs, you will find loads of glistening marble from Italy, platinum wall panels, and silver and gold on the conferred ceiling. As much as I love seeing the over-the-top rooms with marble, gild and crystal, my favorite rooms are the more simple rooms upstairs on the second floor, which was known as the families quarters, and designed by Ogden Codman Jr, who went for a more understated elegant vibe. Mr. Codman and I share the same "less is more" aesthetic when it comes to design. My favorite room in the house is the bedroom of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, one of Cornelius’ daughters who was an incredible sculptor and the founder of New York City’s Whitney Museum of Art, which happens to be one f my favorite museums. It's my favorite room because the wallpaper is amazing but also because I adore that Mrs Whitney was such a huge supporter of the arts and of feminism. You can see her portrait and her beautiful bedroom in the image below.
A visit to The Breakers can take a few hours and you can even go out and explore the grounds of the 13-acre estate on a nice day. It truly is a sight to see and amazing to go back in time to see a famed mansion from The Gilded Age.
Another Newport mansion I love spending time at is Rosecliff. It may not be as big or over-the-top as others, but it has great architecture, a gorgeous lawn overlooking the sea and was known as the place to throw a good party back in the day. It’s also home to the Newport Flower Show, which is held June 21-23, and a fun event to explore different vendors and see beautiful floral designs. We also have a booth set up during the three-day show, so come say hi and check out our beautiful pieces in a gorgeous setting.
After a mansion tour, it’s good to get out and explore Newport with a walk on the famous Cliff Walk. It’s a 3.5-mile path opened to the public that combines ocean views, the rocky coast and a peek at some of the glorious mansions along the way. Parts of the walk are on a paved path and then parts are on the rocks and gravel so comfortable shoes are important. There’s usually a nice breeze by the Cliff Walk so on a cooler day, make sure you bundle up.
Once you soak up the beautiful coast and views on the Cliff Walk you’ll be hungry. One of my go-to spots, which is within walking distance to the Cliff Walk and mansions is Pasta Beach. This dining spot is open for both lunch and dinner and serves up fresh, tasty salads, homemade pizzas and pastas in a lively atmosphere. I personally love going there for a glass of wine and their spaghetti alle vongole, littleneck clams in a delicious white wine sauce. It’s so good and most often the place I stop after I explore Newport. You should give it a try!