In this video Rob interviews the General Manager of the JK PLace Florence about what it takes to create the hottest boutique hotel in Florence, Italy. Listen in as Rob takes you behind the scenes of this magnificent boutique hotel.
JK Place – Florence, Italy
Rob: Now today we’re checking out the JK Place Hotel. It is the ultimate in boutique hotels. So we’re here with Claudio today who is the general manager of The JK Place Hotel.
Rob: And we’ve got the beautiful sounds of Florence behind us. Claudio’s going to tell us a little bit about how the JK brand started and how I came to be. So what does JK means exactly?
Claudio: JK stands for Jonathan Kafri. He is the founder of JK Place. His family is originally from Israel and they live in Florence, they are based in Florence. They came from a fashion business and they decided to open their own hotel because they travel a lot around the world. And so they decided to open his own place that’s why it’s JK Place.
Rob: I hope you can hear us over the bells! We timed it perfectly (laughs). It’s an entirely different experience for me checking in to this hotel or the lack of checking in to this hotel than in any other hotel I’ve been to. So you have mentioned something to me off camera where you said that the check in begins at the airport. Explain what you mean by that.
Claudio: Yes. I mean the JK Place is very different in the kind of hospitality, the real concept to do hospitality, very bespoke as we say now; and for example I would like to say that in JK Place we don’t any check in. the check in you do at the airport; in here we do a welcome, that is very different. Because the people when they arrive at the hotel, they like to be very relaxed and sometimes there are a lot of procedures in hotels and this starts to be barriers between the people. That’s why in JK Place you don’t have the proper reception. It’s like a library with a lot of books for our guests. When the people arrive in JK Place, they have to ring the bell to come inside. So from there they start a different experience and to do really hospitality like some people come in to visit my private home for example. So what they do when somebody is coming to visit me is you offer them something to drink for them to feel very relaxed and we explain about our concept and we let them visit the place, out beautiful terrace, our JK lounge and we offer something to drink. So it’s not a “check in”.
Rob: We’ve got some experiences that you’ve set up for us. It’s hard to explain…it’s not like a concierge. It’s more like a travel experience. I know that you have different packages that you do. Can you explain that a little bit?
Claudio: So you know, people now are really looking forward for an experience, not only a hotel room you know, because I believe that luxury is a question of experience and so the venue of luxury, this is very important. So we give a lot of added value at JK place as for example in our rates everything is included like coffee and tea during your stay, we have a bar open all day long, there is food and it’s free for our guests and we’d like to offer something just to continue…
Rob: Let me interrupt you…he says food. We’re in Italy and we’re in one of the best hotels in Italy; when I tell you “food”, I just had breakfast and it was a table filled with cookies, croissants, cappuccino, tea; it wasn’t food, it was a feast! Go ahead…
Claudio: And so I mean this is part of the experience we like to have in JK Place. Then of course people like to experience…we are very lucky, I’m Florentine 100% and I love my city. I know my city quite well and I was for 5 years the secretary of the Golden Keys of the Concierge Worldwide Association so we are very strong in concierge services and this is what we believed from the very first day. And we organize very special things for our guests so all the staff at JK Place is very well prepared to suggest restaurants and to suggest many different experiences. Then we cooperate with Bravo Concierge. Bravo Concierge is a lifestyle concierge company based in Florence. It was born with the idea to give very unusual and very exclusive experience to people coming to Florence and Tuscany. Therefore through Bravo Concierge we have the possibility to open the Vasari Corridor. The Vasari Corridor is this passage that runs from the Uffizi Gallery and to the Palazzo Vecchio which is just over there, that’s the tower in front of you; and then there was this passage built by Lorenzo de Medici, so the Medici family, advance over the old bridge and they arrive inside the de Pitti Palace, of course the old residence of the Medici family; usually it’s close to the public but we have the possibility to let you visit also just for one person and this is an experience as you can imagine, very, very exclusive.
Rob: It’s like a VIP experience.
Claudio: Very VIP experience.
Rob: Let’s talk more about Bravo. Bravo is a concept that you came up with, is that right?
Claudio: Yes, that’s right. We founded Bravo Concierge together with Kafri and Jacobo that you met today and Jacobo is a travel expert, a travel agent and he’s also the vice president of the Travel Agent Association in Italy; so we mix our own experience to found this company, this agency that is based in Florence again and we cooperate with many people like travel agents, travel experts around the world the magazines about our city and to again let the people have very, very special experience and experience also around Tuscany; in Tuscany we have fantastic food, beautiful landscapes, the wine, the olive oil, many things; and we’re very lucky because every day we could organize very special things for our guests and also for clientele for Bravo Concierge who come here from all over the world.
Rob: I think part of what we do with Jet Set Life and what you do as well is to find the places that nobody knows about because that’s what makes the experience incredible. Like last night you have sent us to a restaurant that I would have never found if I didn’t know, If you didn’t tell me where to go. We went in and it was incredible. This is very unusual. Every single place you sent us to has been outstanding and usually I have to fight with the concierge because they send you to all the tourist crap that’s just terrible but you really hand picked great spots.
Claudio: Again at JK Place we like to have a hotel that is a hotel we dream to find everywhere and every time we travel around the world and we travel quite a lot; to find the right people because it’s the people that makes the difference you know. As we say we have a fantastic design, we have Michele Bonan, our architect which is very famous, he designed this hotel, he’s the interior designer and everything; he’s very famous, we are in a lot of magazines around the world for the design but this is not enough. We have to have the people that give the atmosphere to this fantastic place.
Rob: Yes, I have a term for it and I call it “the bones of a hotel”. You can have a beautiful face but if the “bones”, the people that run it are not right, you know it like that. And my experience…I should say this too, in my experience at the JK and I don’t say this often, has been unbelievable; and the way I judge a hotel is what’s the experience like before I get there; with the phone calls, every phone call was handled like that, every email…I mean, just perfect all the way down the line, and the same for Bravo. So today we’re going to do a Bravo experience; we’re going through the streets of Florence and find some hidden places. And then tomorrow we’re going to go to Chianti. Tell me about the Bravo-Chianti experience. What’s that like?
Claudio: So the Bravo-Chianti experience again, also with Bravo Concierge is very bespoke again, very tailor made. So every experience is, let’s say designed regarding your wishes and it’s like a tailor that designs a dress for you and also you decide everything. But let’s say this experience is more about wine and food and also the the beautiful landscape. So you will go with an English speaking driver that is one of the best driver that we have in Florence. I have to say Michele is very, very good and then you will drive through the Chianti area to the road and you will reach…you will go probably to San Gimignano and you would reach this fantastic restaurant that is inside a very old abbey, it’s a monastery and it’s called Osteria di Passignano. Passignano is a very hidden place. Where the Antinori family, Antinori is a very famous wine producer of course and they own this restaurant and they also have the wine cellar down under the monastery so it’s really a fantastic experience you will see.
Rob: I have one problem with the hotel…it is a problem. The problem is it’s so unbelievable that I don’t want to leave and see this city! Thank you so much for taking the time with us.
Claudio: Thank you Robert. Thank you very much.