Imagine, having your own place in Florence, Italy. That’s always been a dream for Kim and I. So, when we went to Florence last week we tried to find a place that felt like home, but, because we’re on vacation, also feel like a 5 star hotel. With just a little research, we found it. It’s called the JK Place Hotel. After our stay, it was obvious why Travel and Leisure voted it one of the best hotels in 2010.
I don’t often go nuts over hotels, because I spend a lot of time in them and frankly it takes a lot to impress me, but the JK Place Hotel, completely, above and beyond, impressed me. It impressed me so much that I asked that manager, Claudio Meli, if he’s was willing to go on camera to talk about it (see above video).
So, what’s the big deal, why is this place so unbelievable? Oh, let me count the ways. I generally make my decisions about a hotel before I arrive. I judge them based upon what my ‘pre-trip phone calls’ are like. I sometimes call a hotel, a half dozen times before I arrive, to sort through restaurants, night life and cool things to do. Crazy, I know, but remember we are creating videos and guidebooks and our info just has to be right. This pre-trip research is my first step. Needless to say, I’m kind of a pain in the ass about these things.
When I called the JK in Florence, I was greeted by a warm friendly voice (Lorenzo) who knew who I was (and it wasn’t a jet set life thing) and who was genuinely expecting me. He really was. It was kind of like having a very cool friend in Florence, who totally ‘gets’ the vibe you’re looking for and has all the connections to make it happen.
Within 24 hours I had the perfect list of restaurants, night life and cool things to do that were broken down by specific categories (like once in a lifetime, stylish, see and be seen and cozy). The list was very tight and came with website urls and the name of the people that would be expecting us if we selected it.
After I made my picks from Lorenzo’s list, I called the hotel to book everything. I spoke with Angela, a lovely soft spoken Italian woman who was totally aware of what Lorenzo sent me and was sitting ‘on ready’ for me to green light our choices. Twenty-four hours later, I had every detail of my trip handled exactly the way I wanted. No begging. No repeated phone calls like ” who are you again”. I felt like I was Bruce Springsteen coming to stay with them. Realize, I haven’t even left America yet!
Now, for the moment of truth. After the long transatlantic flight from the states, I had to know if this place was for real or did I just get lucky with some really cool people on the phone? We arrived to one of the most beautiful squares in Florence, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, to a building with no ‘obvious’ hotel sign on it (later I noticed a small nameplate on the wall to the side). In the JK Place, the only way to gain entry, is to ring a bell.
Within seconds, Lorenzo (in Gucci from head to toe) lets us in. His first words are “you must be Rob and Kim”, second words were “can I get you a glass of wine and some lunch”? I was like, this isn’t a dream and there really is a Lorenzo! He brought us in to a sitting room that was totally hip, sexy and baroque all at the same time. He didn’t ask for a credit card, or for us to sign anything. He sincerely wanted us to relax and enjoy our first few moments in our new home in Florence.
Out from nowhere comes what can only be described as an apparition. A young 20 something, in a butlers apron, with a silver platter of wine goblets and a light amazing lunch. I asked Lorenzo to join us so we could go over his itinerary. He stopped everything he was doing and explained every single restaurant, club and event that we had scheduled, with the intellect of a historian and the warmth of a best friend.
After lunch, he brought us into what can only be called the non-check in area. Imagine a private library, like Batman had, but was totally hip and historical all at the same time. He gave us a brief tour of the hotel and gave us the keys to our room. Kim and I were escorted in the hidden elevator (you would never know it’s there; it’s cleverly hidden behind glass) to room 21.
We opened the door to our room and our heart stopped. There it was, our own private palazzo in Florence! Our room had two floors, with a window that opened up to the most amazing view of the ancient piazza (square) below. Oh yeah, there was a big bowl of fresh fruit waiting for us, with a beautiful hand written note.
I suppose, I could go on and on talking about how there are only 20 rooms and each one is different, or how the ‘pink room’ is the perfect sexy place to have a cocktail or lunch. Or how the daily torts will make your eye balls pop out (not to mention your belly). Or how there are more staff members than actual guest rooms. Or how, on a beautiful day you can lounge on the upstairs private deck and listen to the church bells announce the hour. Or how from the penthouse bathtub you have a stunning view of Florence’s famed Duomo. I’ll just tell you to get on the plane, right now, and run to the JK Place (if you’re lucky enough to get in).
My next blog will be about the Italian lifestyle concierge Bravo!, that the JK Place dialed us in to. They totally hooked us up, with a private behind the scenes guided tour of secret hidden shops in Florence and gave us the keys to places in Chianti that almost no outsiders have access to.