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Real Estate News: America's Most Expensive Home, Ghirardelli Chocolate Mansion & Medieval Italian Castle Auction

ghirardelliThe most expensive home currently on the U.S. market is in Manalapan, Florida at $195 million and featured this week at

Also, San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Mansion is for sale and a Medieval Italian castle is going to auction.


“America’s Most Expensive Home”

America’s elite homes get more elaborate and expensive every year. The mansion that was at the top of the price list in 2015 near Fort Lauderdale, Florida at $159 million came with its own IMAX theater, a $2 million staircase and an entry gate decorated with 22-karat gold leaf.  This year, Southern California has the #2 home on the market at $150 million with 38,000 square feet that was built on the site of Barbara Streisand’s former estate in Holmby Hills. In third place is Palazzo di Amore on 25 acres in Beverly Hills with 12 bedrooms and 23 baths at $149 million. An 11-acre estate in the Hamptons comes in at #4 for $140 million. In 2016, Florida again claims the top for-sale spot with the Gemini Estate near Palm Beach at $195 million.


Designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth and built in the 1940s for the Lambert pharmaceutical family (“Listerine kills germs that cause bad breath”), the Gemini estate was eventually sold to high-society couple Loel and Gloria Guinness as a winter retreat. It was purchased by the current owners, the Ziff publishing family, in the 1980s and underwent a four-year expansion and reconstruction that was completed in 2003.

Sited on almost 16 acres on a barrier island in Manalapan with over 1,500 varieties of tropical trees and plants acting as a nature preserve and privacy hedge from coastal highway traffic, the estate stretches from its 1,200 feet of Atlantic Ocean beachfront to 1,300 feet on the Intracoastal Waterway.  The coral-clad main residence with over 62,000 square feet includes 12 bedrooms, 12 baths, two libraries, golf trophy room, kitchen with hand-painted tiles and three dishwashers.  Also, a seven-bedroom home named Mango House, a manager’s house with four apartments and two four-bedroom beach cottages with private quarters for extended family and friends.

Grounds are thoughtfully planned with both activity and relaxation in mind. A sports complex offers a half basketball court, tennis court, practice golf course with two greens, a swimming pool surrounded by cultivated jungle, treehouse and butterfly garden, miniature golf course, a wide deserted beach and a boat dock with ocean access.  A tunnel with its own living room and fireplace runs under South Ocean Boulevard to connect the mansion with the estate’s guest house and boat dock on the Intracoastal Waterway. Overall, the property totals almost 85,000 square feet of living space with 33 bedrooms and 47 baths. The walled compound can be self-sufficient with two generators, gas pumps and propane tanks.

America’s most expensive home is listed by Joseph Liguori of Premier Estate Properties in Boca Raton, Florida at $195 million.


“Ghirardelli Chocolate Mansion”

In the hills towering above San Francisco Bay to the west is the city of Piedmont, California, which was home to the Santa Barbara Ghirardelli family heirs – the famous chocolate people.


The home has an unusual twist in that it was built by the Milwain Brothers, architects for the Ghirardelli Family, in the early 1900s in the Mission Revival style which was popular at the time, but soon fell out of favor. According to historian Gail Lombardi, Ghirardelli heirs and owners Thomas and Ellen Cushing took out a building permit for the house in 1911 to restyle the facade into the more popular Colonial Revival style. While reconstruction was underway, the family moved around the corner returning to their updated home in 1912.

Now for sale, the 6,479-square-foot mansion has seven bedrooms and six baths, a third-floor apartment and a guest house above the two-car garage. Notable are original hardwood floors, coffered ceilings with built-ins and woodwork displaying artful old-world craftsmanship. Rooms are spacious and large windows throughout allow for sunshine-filled rooms and garden views from each. Palatial in its interior, formal gardens, outdoor kitchen, terraces and rose gardens carpet the grounds.


The Ghirardelli Chocolates home is priced at $4.98 million. The listing agent is Debbi DiMaggio of DiMaggio & Betta Real Estate in Piedmont, California.

“Italian Castle Auction”

The medieval Castel Valer will soon go to a new owner and pass out of the hands of the family of Count Spaur zu Flavon und Valer, whose ancestors have owned it since the fourteenth century. Restored over the last 20 years and now in pristine condition, the castle is being offered in a no-reserve auction on September 8th. Concierge Auctions in New York City is managing the auction.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.