Live “La Dolce Vita” at Biltmore

Live la dolce vita–the sweet life–at Biltmore this summer, just as the Vanderbilts and their guests did more than a century ago.

Inspiration from Italy and Europe

Family taking a selfie in front of Biltmore House
Capture each memorable moment of the sweet life at Biltmore this summer!

“The idea of la dolce vita is Italian, and it translates to ‘the sweet life’,” said Lauren Henry, Curator of Interpretation. “It embodies the idea of living each moment as it unfolds, and enjoying it for itself. It’s an inspirational way of life that George Vanderbilt experienced during his travels in Italy and other delightful destinations, and it helped him envision Biltmore as a place where his family and friends could enjoy the same timeless feeling.”

The Conservatory at Biltmore surrounded by summer gardens
Biltmore’s historic grounds, including the Conservatory in the English-style Walled Garden, are the perfect place to experience the sweet life.

From the French Renaissance-style architecture of Biltmore House, designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, to the glorious gardens and grounds created by legendary landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, Biltmore Estate brought classic European sensibilities to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

“George Vanderbilt assembled a real ‘dream team’ to bring Biltmore to life,” Lauren said. “Together they created a distinctly European-style estate, but with an expansive feel and modern technologies that were hallmarks of the American Gilded Age.”

Discover la dolce vita at Biltmore

Painted ceiling of the Library at Biltmore
The Chariot of Aurora by Italian artist Giovanni Pelligrini graces the ceiling of the Library in Biltmore House

You can still capture the magic of la dolce vita as you explore Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, touched at every turn by inspiration from the Vanderbilts’ journeys around the world.

Inside Biltmore House you’ll discover paintings, sculptures, and objets d’art to delight your mind and buoy your spirits in true la dolce vita fashion, including these highlights:

  • Salon—look for two original landscapes by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet. Both Strada Romana à Bordighera and Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar have recently been restored to their late-19th-century vibrance.
  • Tapestry Gallery—Study the three Renaissance-era silk and wool tapestries that this 90-foot-long room was designed to display. Woven in Brussels circa 1530, the set was originally part of the The Triumph of the Seven Virtues.
  • Library—the ceiling was created to showcase Chariot of Aurora by Giovanni Pelligrini, an 18th-century painting comprised of thirteen separate canvases that depict the Roman goddess of the dawn.

Fresh air gives fresh perspectives

Couple in the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory at Biltmore is a a wonderful way to experience a tropical getaway while visiting the estate!

Explore miles of scenic trails across the estate by walking, hiking, or biking at your own preferred pace. Here are some of our favorite spots:

  • Conservatory—this elegant, glass-topped greenhouse captures the historic and modern balance of the estate as exotic botanicals popular in the Vanderbilt era overlap with plants we propagate for seasonal displays.
  • Bass Pond—walk down from the gardens to view the newly restored island that was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original landscape design.
  • Lagoon—spend some time at this scenic spot on the road to Antler Hill Village—it’s perfect for picnicking and for admiring the reflection of Biltmore House in the water.

Savor la dolce vita

Mother and daughter enjoying ice cream cones at Biltmore
The sweet life is even sweeter with ice cream treats from the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

Whether you’ve worked up a bona fide appetite or simply need a refreshment respite, there are choices to please every palate when you dine at Biltmore:

Ice cream—indulge in a scoop (or two!) of fresh-churned ice cream and other sweet treats from The Biltmore Dairy Bar® adjacent to Biltmore House or the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

Biltmore wine—Savor a complimentary tasting at Biltmore’s Winery to sip award-winning vintages, then pair your favorites–including Italian varietals like our Biltmore Estate® Pinot Grigio and Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Sangiovese–with charcuterie, cheeses, and chocolates next door at our relaxing Wine Bar. Choose outdoor seating to make la vita as dolce as possible!

Field-to-table freshness

Couple dining outdoors at Biltmore
Enjoy a wide range of fine and casual dining options while visiting Biltmore.

Enjoy fine and casual dining options featuring estate-raised and locally sourced dishes. Favorites include our European-style Bistro at the Winery, English pub far at Cedric’s® Tavern in Antler Hill Village, and four-star, white-linen luxury at The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Discover la dolce vita at Biltmore for yourself!

Woman in a bathrobe admiring the view at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Embrace la dolce vita at The Inn on Biltmore Estate or one of our other properties.

Come to Biltmore this summer to create your own memories of living la dolce vita, and make your visit even sweeter with an overnight stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®️, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®️, or one of our private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

Featured blog image: A Biltmore guest enjoys la dolce vita with a flute of sparkling wine on the terrace of The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Photo courtesy of @georgia_sheffield.

Spring Squash Carbonara Recipe

Savor this spring-inspired pasta dish from our estate chefs featuring quail eggs! Quail eggs elevate any dish and pair especially well with bacon, black truffles, asparagus, caviar, and mushrooms.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Our Limited Release Pinot Grigio pairs well with the Carbonara. Winemaker Sharon Fenchak says its crispness and citrus notes complement the richness of the quail eggs in this dish.

Savor spring with this delightful Squash Carbonara recipe from Biltmore
Savor spring with this delightful Squash Carbonara recipe from Biltmore

Spring Squash Carbonara

Total time: 1.5 hours Serving Size: 6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1 pound smoked bacon, diced
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound zucchini, chopped
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 squash blossoms, halved lengthwise (optional)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 quail eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Put bacon in a medium saucepan and place over low heat. Slowly cook until the bacon begins to brown. Drain most of the fat, leaving a few tablespoons in the pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until tender. Remove from heat.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When the water begins to boil, add the spaghetti and stir. Cook the pasta for 6–8 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  • Place the zucchini mixture back over medium heat. Add the pasta, 1 cup of pasta water, and egg yolks to the zucchini mixture and stir continuously. When a creamy sauce begins to form, add the Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, squash blossoms, lemon zest and ¼ cup chopped chives. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Divide the pasta evenly into 6 bowls and top each with a sunny side up quail egg, the reserved chives, and more Parmesan cheese. Serves 6.

Explore Biltmore Estate Limited Release Wines

Explore our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release wines and learn how winemaker Sharon Fenchak carefully handcrafts each varietal or blend in the series here at Biltmore’s Winery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the Barrel Room at the Winery
Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the Barrel Room at the Winery

“When I’m sourcing grapes for our American series wines from one of our California or Washington vineyard partners, I’m also looking for outstanding vintages that inspire me to create distinctive wines for our Limited Release series,” Sharon said.

She noted that the Limited Release wines are usually based on smaller amounts of fruit, and that gives her and her production team an opportunity to bring out different qualities of a varietal or to create intriguing blends.

Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec

Bottle of Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec and two glasses
Our award-winning Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec is perfect for sipping by the glass or pairing with your favorite hearty fare.

“One of our most popular offerings is our full-bodied, oak-aged Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec,” said Sharon. “It opens with scents of cocoa, cedar, molasses, and berries ahead of black raspberry, anise, and rich pecan flavors.”

As a varietal, Malbec originated in France and rose to its current popularity in Argentina and California. Ours is rich, fruit-forward, and a bit spicy with smooth, lingering tannins that pair perfectly with grilled meat, kebabs, and andouille sausage.

It’s also a surprisingly good partner for smoked cheeses and vegetarian fare like mushroom ragout, Portobello burgers, and tempeh dishes. As delicious as it is now, it offers good aging potential—if you can stand to wait!

Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Tempranillo

Pouring red wine into a glass
Try any of our Biltmore Estate Limited Release wines, including our spicy Tempranillo.

Most of the world’s Tempranillo is grown in Spain where it is believed to have originated, but this earthy red wine is rapidly gaining a following around the globe.

“Tempranillo has a lot of personality,” said Sharon. “Ours is full-bodied and fruit-forward with earthy aromas, rich dried fig flavors, and lingering tannins—just what you’d expect in a classic barrel-aged version of this varietal.”

Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Tempranillo is a hearty red wine that’s a great match for beef, lamb curry, and pork.

Explore other Biltmore Estate® Limited Release wines

Biltmore Estate Limited Release Orange Muscat wine paired with Lemon-Cranberry Shortbread cookies
Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Orange Muscat is a favorite for many guests, and it pairs perfectly with our Lemon-Cranberry Shortbread Cookies!

In addition to these two varietals, there are a number of other wines in our Limited Release series:

Enjoy Biltmore Estate® Limited Release wines now

Discover all Biltmore white wines at Biltmore's Wine Bar
You’ll find all our Limited Release wines at the Wine Bar adjacent to Biltmore’s Winery.

Savor Biltmore Estate® Limited Release varietals and blends–or any of our fine wines–by the bottle or glass at the Wine Bar adjacent to the Winery, or purchase them in estate shops or online.

George Vanderbilt: A Passion For Italy

George Vanderbilt–traveler, collector, and patron of the arts–appreciated the finer things in life, but had a special passion for the culture and creativity of Italy. His trips there and other regions he visited across Europe helped shape his appreciation for art, architecture, and fine wine.

“Throughout his life, George Vanderbilt traveled the world, first with family and friends, and after he married, his wife Edith and their daughter Cornelia often accompanied him,” said Meghan Forest, Associate Curator.

George Vanderbilt’s first Italian visit

Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy
Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy.

Based on correspondence in our archives, Italy seems to have been a favored destination for George Vanderbilt. He first visited the country in 1880 when he was 18 years old, taking in notable sites such as Rome and Vatican City.

The visit included a stop in Milan where the church and Dominican convent of Sante Maria della Grazie was of particular interest as its refectory contains The Last Supper fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Further travels in Italy

The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1495–1498.

In 1887, George Vanderbilt took an extended trip to Italy, taking in some of the well-known sites including Pisa Cathedral with its famously tilted bell tower, better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He also visited Venice with its winding canals and Florence, the city long considered the epicenter of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Florence offers some of the most iconic treasures of the era, including the Uffizi Museum and the Cathedral de Santa Maria dell Fiore, generally referred to as the Duomo because of its two free-standing domes.

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Seven years later, George Vanderbilt returned to Italy with members of his family including his niece Adele Sloan. They visited Taormina and the ruins of the Taormina Amphitheatre built by the Greeks and renovated 600 years later by the Romans. Such sites were popular destinations during the American Renaissance of the late 19th century as travelers sought to understand the ancient world.

Honeymooning in Italy

Villa Vignolo near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.
Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.

“Another reason we believe George Vanderbilt had a passion for Italy is because he chose to take his new bride Edith there after they were wed in Paris in 1898. The Vanderbilts spent the first six weeks of their four-month honeymoon at Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy,” Meghan said.

While there, the Vanderbilts took short trips to various museums and galleries, taking in sights such as the iconic Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice. In Edith, George found a partner who shared his passion for history, literature, and the arts.

In a letter to artist James McNeill Whistler, George wrote of their time in Italy, “It was Mrs. Vanderbilt’s first visit… It has been an added pleasure of course to see her delight and interest… “ *

Italian Renaissance wellhead, c. 1500
Made of Rosso di Verona marble, this fountainhead was likely originally used to decorate and protect an active well in Venice during the Italian Renaissance, c. 1500. It has become known as the “Hunt Fountain” as it is depicted in the John Singer Sargent portrait of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.


Featured blog image: George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

*George Washington Vanderbilt to James McNeill Whistler. 10 Jul 1898. The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. Glasgow University Library, University of Glasgow: 05919.

World Premiere: Italian Renaissance Alive At Biltmore

Please enjoy this archived exhibition article.

“This is no ordinary art exhibition,” said Travis Tatham, Director of Destination Entertainment and Events. “If you’ve ever tiptoed through a silent gallery to view paintings from afar, prepare to be amazed by this experience!”

The stunning new larger-than-life digital art exhibition, created and produced by Grande Experiences, invites you to be transported to one of the most influential eras in art history.

Continue reading to learn about the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, on display daily inside Amherst on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, through January 7, 2024!

Preview the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.

“From start to finish, you’ll interact with art in ways you never imagined, surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound–even fragrance. It is truly an unforgettable event for all the senses,” Travis said.

What was the Italian Renaissance?

Detail of The Entombment of Mary by Giotto
The Entombment of Mary by Giotto, ca. 1310

Renaissance means “rebirth,” and the era brought cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth to Europe following the Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire. A new vision of civilization was portrayed on canvas, in fresco, and sculpture, and the epicenter of it all was Italy.

Italian Renaissance Alive traverses the entire Renaissance time frame, from the 14th to 17th centuries. It celebrates the exceptional artistic and cultural influences of the period, immersing audiences in culture, architecture, sculpture, and literature of this iconic movement.

Italian Renaissance Alive

Detail of The Creation of Adam by Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam, a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted ca. 1508–1512.

“Since Biltmore is hosting the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, our guests will be the very first in the world to experience this fascinating new exhibition,” said Travis.

According to Travis, visitors will be instantly transported by the history and splendor of this extraordinary period, surrounded in its beauty, and able to explore hundreds of masterpieces from some of the world’s most revered artists and sculptors in grand and glorious detail.

Detail of The School of Athens fresco painted by Raphael
The School of Athens by Raphael, ca. 1509–1511

Highlights include Michelangelo’s breath-taking Sistine Chapel, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and other glorious works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Veronese, and more, in an awe-inspiring, large-scale, immersive experience.

Dertail of The Last Judgment fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, ca. 1536–1541. This enormous fresco painting covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

“Accompanied by a powerful Italian operatic score including works by Puccini and Verdi, combined with a compelling narrative, this multi-sensory experience will deliver audiences a captivating, educational and entertaining moment to remember,” said Travis.

Connections to George Vanderbilt and the American Renaissance

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Although he was born 200 years after the Italian Renaissance ended, George Vanderbilt was part of what is known as the American Renaissance–a cultural period from 1876 to 1917 in which the United States experienced a renewal of national self-confidence, embracing both modernism and new technologies along with classic art and architecture.

Vanderbilt traveled to Italy several times, even choosing to spend his honeymoon there, and collected a number of Renaissance-era and Renaissance-inspired treasures for his magnificent home.

Detail of View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Canal
View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Canaletto, ca. 1755

“This new exhibition is a fitting tribute to George Vanderbilt’s lifelong passion for fine art,” Travis said. “It helps you see the connection between Biltmore and this exhibition while enjoying some of the world’s best known masterpieces in an entirely new way, immersed in the beauty and brilliance of a major artistic period in history as it comes to life all around you.”

Be among the first to enjoy Italian Renaissance Alive at Biltmore!

You will not want to miss Italian Renaissance Alive, the fourth and final exhibition in our remarkable Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Biltmore and extend your visit with a reservation at one of our hotels or private historic cottages with an Italian Renaissance Alive package that includes a special memento of your exhibition experience.

In addition, enhance your stay with a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, a wide range of outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and so much more!

Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.
Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.


Featured image: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, ca. 1484–1486

Patron of the Arts: George Vanderbilt

As a patron of the arts, George Vanderbilt remains a remarkable example of the difference one man can make in the field of fine art and education.

With his deep appreciation and understanding of arts and languages and his vision for a self-sustaining country estate, George Vanderbilt was part of the American Renaissance that flourished during the Gilded Age.

Detail of George Vanderbilt portrait by John Singer Sargent, painted in 1890.

A patron of the arts

George Vanderbilt did more than simply collect and appreciate art, however; he was also a passionate patron who befriended artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, commissioning their works for his home and corresponding with them far beyond the particulars of portraiture.

Literary writers including Edith Wharton and Henry James were welcomed at Biltmore, and George Vanderbilt’s close friend and author Paul Leicester Ford spent several weeks at the estate while working on his novel Janice Meredith: A Story of the American Revolution

(left) George Vanderbilt’s personal bookplate.

Library patron

In addition to his personal friendships with artists, George Vanderbilt was a great proponent of public access to the arts, using his philanthropic values to ensure that others could benefit from institutions such as free lending libraries.

While most libraries of that era required patrons to pay for the books they borrowed, Vanderbilt provided funding to build the Jackson Square Free Circulating Library of the New York Public Library System and filled it with books that he donated. This library was one of the first open to the general public.

Rhinocerous print by Albrecht Dürer in Biltmore’s collection.

Support for young artists

Another of George Vanderbilt’s most significant donations was to The American Fine Arts Society in support of young artists. In 1892, Vanderbilt donated $100,000 to pay for the property and construct the building that the Society would use for exhibiting members’ work.

Named the Vanderbilt Gallery in his honor, the inaugural exhibition was a show of prints by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, plus prints based on the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, all from George Vanderbilt’s personal collection.

While some of the Durer prints and those after the style of Reynolds remain in the Biltmore collection, the original Rembrandt prints were sold to J.P. Morgan. You can see a selection of detailed reproductions in the Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House.

Formal photo portrait of young George Vanderbilt (detail)

Living the legacy

We continue George Vanderbilt’s passion for the arts today by hosting exhibitions such as Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore featuring four separate large-scale, multi-sensory events created and produced by Grande Experiences using the very latest in immersive technology.

Past exhibitions have illuminated the remarkable lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Da Vinci, while the current Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition showcases a wide range of timeless masterpieces from that dramatic era in European history.

Each individual exhibition offers fascinating ties to Vanderbilt’s collection of treasures on display in Biltmore House, his magnificent family home, in Asheville, North Carolina.

Featured: Bronze bust of George Vanderbilt by Mary Grant

Edith Vanderbilt & Photography

Photography was one of Edith Vanderbilt’s many passions. In turn, her photographs of life at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC help inform our curatorial interpretations today.

With the introduction of roll film and the hand-held camera in the 1880s, photography became truly accessible to casual amateurs for the first time. There are a few distinct ways that we know that Edith embraced this new medium and enjoyed photography throughout her lifetime.

Edith Vanderbilt with camera on tripod
Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod along the banks of the French Broad River, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Photos of Edith Vanderbilt with a Camera

One of the most concrete ways we know of Edith’s interest in photography is thanks to photographs in the Biltmore collection in which she is pictured with a camera in hand. Many of these photos came from one series in particular.

In the winter of 1905-1906, George Vanderbilt’s niece Edith Fabbri and her husband Ernesto visited Biltmore. During their trip, Edith Vanderbilt and Ernesto appear to have gone on a photography excursion on the estate and in nearby Biltmore Village.

Multiple images from this series taken by Ernesto capture Edith with her camera and a tripod.

Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.
Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt on a horse in front of Biltmore House. Reverse reads “Sept. 25th 1901, Taken, developed and printed, without help” in Edith Vanderbilt’s handwriting.

Photos with Edith Vanderbilt’s Handwriting on the Back

Additionally, there are more than a dozen photographs in our archival collection that we know were captured by Edith as her distinct handwriting is on the back of the images.

Not only was she taking these photos, but Edith was also learning to develop many of them herself. She seemed very proud of this skill set, writing on the back of one photograph: “Taken, developed and printed, without help.”

Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt demonstrating her practice of photography techniques
Three of the 14 copies of the archival photograph of George and newborn Cornelia Vanderbilt on the Loggia, October 1900. These photos were presumably taken by Edith Vanderbilt.

Multiple Copies of Photos of Family Moments

There are also many photographs we presume to have been taken by Edith, including shots of more intimate family moments. For instance, she was likely responsible for the images of George Vanderbilt with their newborn daughter Cornelia on the Loggia.

In our archival collection, there are 14 copies of what appear to be essentially the same image from that series. However, each of the copies varies slightly in exposure and cropping, which speaks to Edith’s experimenting with development techniques as she worked to hone her craft.

Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903
Edith Vanderbilt’s No. 4 Panoram Kodak camera Model B from ca. 1900-1903. This archival object is currently on display in The Biltmore Legacy as part of our “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” exhibition.

Location of the Edith Vanderbilt’s Darkroom

We know that Edith was developing her own photographs, but we do not know with certainty the location of the darkroom she used.

One archival manuscript includes mention of a “Photograph Room” in the Bachelors’ Wing of Biltmore House. However, we’ve yet to find additional sources to confirm where this space was located and how it was used.

There are also employee recollections of darkroom equipment being present in the Basement, though it is unclear if this was the location of the equipment when Edith lived in Biltmore House or if it was later moved.

Our curatorial team continues to research this topic.

While we may not know the full extent of Edith Vanderbilt’s engagement with the modern hobby of photography, her photographs—as well as others presumed to have been taken by her—offer glimpses into life at Biltmore during the Vanderbilts’ era that we would not have otherwise.

Feature image: Archival photograph of Edith Vanderbilt with a camera and tripod in Biltmore Village, ca. 1905-1906. This photo was taken by Ernesto Fabbri during a photography excursion.

Off The Beaten Path: Hidden Gems of Biltmore

Discover the “hidden gems” of Biltmore Estate–special spots that may be off the beaten path, but are worth exploring during your next visit to this welcoming destination in Asheville, NC.

“Our guests tend to be familiar with Biltmore House and its historic gardens, but there are many hidden gems around the property that you might miss if you’re not looking for them,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.

The Vista and statue of Diana

The statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House is a hidden gem in the landscape.
Statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House

At the top of the long, sloping Vista overlooking Biltmore House, you’ll find a marble statue of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, under a wooden arbor. Accompanied by one of her dogs, she gazes out over the landscape.

“The statue is beautiful all by itself,” said Bill, “but when you combine it with a perfect view of Biltmore House framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond it, it’s a spectacular place to have a picnic or watch the sunset.”

Three women enjoy a picnic with a view of Biltmore House
The sloping lawn below the statue of Diana offers picnickers a perfect view of Biltmore House!

Tip: The area behind the statue of Diana is a popular site for weddings and group events, so it may be tented, especially during summer and fall.

The Bass Pond is one of Biltmore’s hidden gems

Boat House at the Bass Pond is a hidden gem of Biltmore
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

The Bass Pond is located at the end of Biltmore’s formal gardens, and though it’s a bit of a walk, the end result is well worth it.

“Keep following the path through the Azalea Garden and you’ll come out at the Bass Pond,” Bill said. “There’s a rustic boathouse on the shore and a bridge over the waterfall at the far end. It’s a beautiful spot for seasonal color and birdwatching.”

Canadian geese on an island at the Bass Pond
The Bass Pond offers wonderful opportunities to view the wilder side of the estate!

Tip: The return trip to Biltmore House is uphill, so take your time and set your own pace. If you don’t have time to walk to the Bass Pond, you can drive to it and use one of the convenient pullouts along the way to park your car and admire this hidden gem designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect.

Explore the Conservatory

Two women in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory in the Walled Garden is a hidden gem that’s worth exploring in every season.

Created as both an indoor garden filled with tropical treasures and a production greenhouse for nurturing plants, the Conservatory forms the back wall of the formal English-style Walled Garden.

“The design of Biltmore’s Conservatory was a collaboration between Biltmore’s architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted,” Bill said. “And we still maintain the original intent to showcase exotic specimens like orchids and palms, and we also grow some of the plants we use around the estate, like a portion of our Christmas poinsettias.”

Pink Ball Tree flowers
There are hidden gems within the Conservatory, like the fragrant flowers of this Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallichii)

Tip: There is always something blooming inside the Conservatory!

Linger by the Lagoon

View of the west side of Biltmore House from the Lagoon
The Lagoon offers a striking reflection of the west side of Biltmore House.

Just below the 250-acre Deer Park portion of the estate, Frederick Law Olmsted created the Lagoon as a peaceful, natural water feature that also serves to reflect the west facade of Biltmore House.

“The Lagoon is raised above the level of the French Broad River that flanks it, which helps keep the water at a more consistent level,” Bill noted. “It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a picnic or watch for wildlife and waterfowl in every season. Many guests drive right by it on their way to Antler Hill Village and don’t realize they’ve missed another of Biltmore’s hidden gems.”

Tip: If you’re looking for a flat, easy trail with lovely views, park at Antler Hill Village and bike or walk the paved path all the way to the Lagoon and back.

Learn more about hiking and biking on Biltmore Estate and download our Trail Map on our Activities page.

More hidden gems of Biltmore Estate:

Hidden Gem: Antler Hill Village. This European-inspired village celebrates our estate agricultural legacy with learning experiences, field-to-table dining, outdoor adventure, unique shops and restaurants, and our award-winning Winery.
Hidden gem: In late summer months, sunflowers line the path from Antler Hill Village to the Lagoon.
Hidden gems: meet friendly farm animals at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village.
Hidden gems: discover beautiful views along our network of hiking and biking trails.
Hidden gems: discover colorful koi in the Italian Garden pools
Hidden gems: explore a world of outdoor sculpture at Biltmore, like this cherub in the Italian Garden.
Hidden gems: a winged dragon carved into the base of a stone fountain near the Front Door of Biltmore House.
Hidden gems: the booths inside Stable Café are the original horse stalls from the estate’s stable complex!
Hidden gems: three large bronze turtle fountains at the base of the Rampe Douce were designed to handle the overflow from the estate’s reservoir system.

While we invite all our guests to enjoy finding some of these often-overlooked areas during your next visit, you may want to consider the benefits of purchasing a Biltmore Annual Pass. As a Passholder, you’ll receive exclusive benefits such as FREE unlimited visits for the next 12 months to discover your own hidden gems in every season!

Featured image: The Conservatory is a hidden gem of Biltmore that offers a tropical escape any time of year!

Plan A Romantic Getaway to Biltmore

When you’re longing for time away with your beloved, Biltmore serves up the ultimate romantic escape whether you’re seeking a private retreat for renewed connections or fun-filled adventures in the great outdoors.

Follow our expert tips and inspiration for planning your next romantic getaway to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Enjoy the great outdoors together on your next romantic date or getaway at Biltmore!

Explore the estate together

Create new memories by enjoying the outdoors together while exploring the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain estate.

“I can’t think of anything much more romantic than a carriage ride across this stunning estate,” said Heather Brannan, Outdoor Adventure Center Supervisor, “but Biltmore offers so many activities that you’re sure to find something that delights both of you.”

  • Carriage and trail rides
    • Enjoy Biltmore’s property from a different perspective with a carriage or trail ride. Choose guided or private options to suit your style and abilities.
  • Biking and hiking
    • Delight in Frederick Law Olmsted’s distinctive landscape design as you explore the trails at Biltmore. Walk, hike, rent a bike, or pedal your own to get a firsthand view of the estate.
  • Wellness activities
    • Indulge in some self-care as a couple with thoughtful options that quiet your mind and refresh your spirits, such as Morning Yoga or our deliciously relaxing Chocolate Meditation.
Falconry at Biltmore
Falconry is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to interact with one of these majestic birds of prey.

Adventure awaits

Team up with your significant other for an adventure that may take you out of your comfort zone, but will also bring you closer together as you learn new skills with the help of our expert guides.

  • Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore
    • Go off-roading in luxury when you engage in a Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore. Book a one- or two-hour session and receive expert training to maneuver on unfamiliar terrain.
    • Extend the adventure with a full-day excursion that includes a mid-day break for a private picnic lunch–now that’s romantic! 
  • Falconry
    • Let romance take flight as you experience the ancient art of falconry together. Learn about these fascinating birds of prey as well as hawks and barn owls, and receive expert training on handling and interacting with these captivating raptors.
Make a morning reservation for Biltmore House and feel like a guest of the Vanderbilts.

Rise and shine

Beth Poslusny, Vice President of Destination Guest Experience, suggests making it a truly romantic getaway with accommodations and special packages at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® or one of our private historic cottages.

“You’ll have the unique opportunity to awaken on the estate,” said Beth, “and there’s no better way to start a special day together!”

Make your date or getaway more romantic with the addition of a Behind-the-Scenes Guided Tour:

  • The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour offers enthralling stories of domestic staff while exploring their lives and the areas where they worked.
  • Our Rooftop Tour offers a bird’s eye view of the house, with fascinating little-known details about the construction and design of the 175,000-square-foot home. 
Enjoy our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting featuring premium Biltmore wines and artisan chocolate truffles from French Broad Chocolates. 📷 by @chelseaericasmith and @thewineshutter

Table for two

As part of your romantic date or getaway, make time to wine and dine on the estate with your special someone.

Winery
Surprise your significant other by booking a Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting and learn why the flavors are a match made in heaven–just like the two of you!

Round out the romance with the following options:

  • Reserve time for a complimentary tasting where you’ll learn about Biltmore’s winemaking heritage.
  • Unwind at the indoor-outdoor Wine Bar to enjoy Biltmore wines with charcuterie, cheese, and chocolates, then stock up on favorite vintages and accessories at the Wine Shop.
  • Rekindle your memories at home with a membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club®.

Delicious Dining
“From fine dining to casual, quick-service options and sweet treats, Biltmore offers fabulous flavors to suit every taste,” said Estate Executive Chef Mark DeMarco. “Something as simple as sipping hot chocolate from The Creamery while you stroll around Antler Hill Village can make any date more memorable.”

For the ultimate romantic dinner, Chef DeMarco suggests reserving a table for two in The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate–both the restaurant and The Inn have earned a prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star rating for world-class service and gracious hospitality.

Plan your next romantic date or getaway now

 No matter what activities light your fire, the variety of things to do at Biltmore will provide the perfect spark for your next romantic date or getaway.

Featured image: This couple’s romantic date included a selfie in front of Biltmore House!

Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius

This exhibition has ended, but please enjoy the archived information.


The wonders of Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius await you at Biltmore now through February 20, 2023.

Five centuries after his death, Leonardo da Vinci still captivates our imagination with his remarkable discoveries and creations.

Learn more about the man, the mysteries, and his masterpieces with this immersive exhibition created and produced by Grande Experiences and hosted on the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

An Enigmatic Life

Dertail of The Last Judgment fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, ca. 1536–1541. This enormous fresco painting covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Leonardo, son of ser Piero from Vinci) was born out of wedlock in Vinci, Italy, 20 miles outside of Florence.

He would change the world, becoming an artist, scientist, inventor, musician, philosopher, and more. Beyond his astonishing body of work, however, existed a fascinating person who remains enigmatic to this day. Despite the more than 7,000 pages of sketches, notes, and lists he left behind, the personal life of Leonardo da Vinci is shadowed by mystery.  

An Artistic Legend

Detail of The Creation of Adam by Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam, a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted ca. 1508–1512.

Da Vinci’s artistic talents first emerged in childhood. After receiving a basic education in reading, writing, and mathematics, at 14 years old he began an apprenticeship with the famous Florentine painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio. By the age of 20, Da Vinci joined other notable artists in the guild of Saint Luke.

A constant tinkerer, Da Vinci experimented with different mediums and techniques such as using his palm and fingers along with a brush to create three-dimensional effects. Prolific even into middle age, in his mid-forties to early fifties Da Vinci painted Last Supper and Mona Lisa. The former became one of the most reproduced works of art in the world; the latter, one of the most iconic. 

A Scientific Trailblazer

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Insatiably inquisitive, there seemed to be no area of study in which Da Vinci did not maintain an interest. Skilled in left-brain talents as well as right, the artist pursued projects in botany, geology, architecture, aviation, physics, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, zoology, anatomy, and more.

Centuries ahead of their time and written in precise detail, Da Vinci’s sketches depict inventions such as the helicopter, an armored tank, a calculator, a lifebelt, and various bridge designs.

Replica of Da Vinci's paddle boat design
This replica of a paddle boat design by Da Vincie is included in the immersive, multi-sensory exhibition hosted at Biltmore now through February 20, 2023.

His notes contain theoretical suppositions describing plate tectonics, hydrodynamics, and industrial machinery. Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man, based upon the work of the Roman architect Vitruvius, bridged art and science by illustrating the proportions of the human body with blueprint-like clarity.

Leonardo da Vinci and George Vanderbilt: Kindred Spirits

Immersive aspects of the Da Vinci exhibition hosted at Biltmore
Now through February 20, 2023, immerse yourself in the wonders of “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius”, created and produced by Grande Experiences and hosted on the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

One could say that George Vanderbilt and Leonardo da Vinci would have enjoyed each other’s company had they not been born more than 400 years apart.

Both possessed a love of learning, boundless curiosity, a dedication to art, a commitment to innovation–even a shared love of wine, with Da Vinci accepting a vineyard near Milan as payment for his masterpiece Last Supper, and Vanderbilt known as a thoughtful collector of wine.

Now, the two remarkable men come together at Biltmore during the one-of-a-kind immersive, multi-sensory experience, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, the third installment in the well-received Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.

Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius

Leonardo da Vinci -- 500 Years of Genius
Guests enjoying aspects of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, hosted at Biltmore.

Set to a Renaissance-inspired soundtrack of classical music, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 years of Genius will envelop you in more than 3,000 images of the Italian polymath’s masterpieces, inventions, notes, sketches, and personal reflections.

You’ll also see replicas of some of Da Vinci’s amazing machines and models. Don’t miss this must-see exhibition hosted at Biltmore’s Amherst at Deerpark® venue now–February 20, 2023.

Plan a Blue Ridge Mountain Escape at Biltmore!

Detail of View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Canal
View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Canaletto, ca. 1755

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Biltmore and extend your visit with a reservation at one of our hotels or private historic cottages. In addition, you can enhance your stay with a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, a wide range of outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and so much more!


Featured image: Images of Mona Lisa as part of Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius