The Jk Place hotel in Florence Italy – My personal palazzo

Imagine, having your own place in Florence, Italy. That has always been a dream for Kim and me. So when we went to Florence last week, we tried to find a place that felt like home, but, since we’re on vacation, also felt like a 5-star hotel. With just a little digging, we found it. It’s called 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 usually go crazy with hotels, because I spend a lot of time in them and frankly it takes a lot to impress me, but the JK Place Hotel, above and beyond, totally blew me away. I was so impressed that I asked that manager, Claudio Meli, if he was willing to go on camera to talk about it.

So what is the problem? Why is this place so amazing? Oh let me count the ways. I usually make my decisions about a hotel before I arrive. I judge them based on how my ‘pre-trip phone calls’ are. Sometimes I call a hotel, half a dozen times before I arrive, to find restaurants, nightlife and interesting things to do. Crazy I know but remember we are creating videos and guides and our information just has to be correct. This pre-trip research is my first step. Needless to say, I’m a pain in the ass with these things.

When I called the JK in Florence, I was greeted by a warm and friendly voice (Lorenzo) who knew who I was (and was not a high society thing) and was really expecting me. He really was. It was like having a 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 cool restaurants, nightlife, and things to do that were broken down into specific categories (like once-in-a-lifetime, fancy, see-and-be-seen, and cozy). The list was very tight and came with URLs of websites and the name of the people who would be waiting for us if we selected them.

After making my selections from Lorenzo’s list, I called the hotel to reserve everything. I spoke to Angela, a lovely, soft-spoken Italian woman who was fully aware of what Lorenzo sent me and was sitting ‘ready’ for me to green light our choices. Twenty-four hours later, I had all the details of my trip handled exactly the way I wanted. without begging No repeated phone calls like “who are you again”. I felt like I was Bruce Springsteen coming to stay with them. Mind you, I haven’t even left the United States yet!

Now for the moment of truth. After the long transatlantic flight from the US, I had to find out if this place was real or if I just got lucky with some great people on the phone. We arrived at one of the most beautiful squares in Florence, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, at a building without any ‘obvious’ hotel signs (I then noticed a small name plaque on the side wall). At JK Place, the only way to get in 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 are “can I get you a glass of wine and some lunch?” I thought, this is not a dream and there really is a Lorenzo! He led us into a living room that was totally modern, 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 moments in our new home in Florence.

Out of nowhere comes what can only be described as an apparition. A young man in his twenties, in a butler’s apron, with a silver tray of wine glasses and an incredible light lunch. I asked Lorenzo to join us so we could go over his itinerary. He stopped everything he was doing and explained every restaurant, club, and event we had scheduled, with the intellect of a historian and the warmth of a best friend.

After lunch, he took us to what can only be called the no-registration area. Imagine a private library, like the one Batman had, but totally modern and historical 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’d never know it’s there; it’s cleverly hidden behind glass) to room 21.

We opened the door to our room and our hearts stopped. There it was, our own private palazzo in Florence! Our room was two stories, with a window that opened to the most amazing view of the old piazza (square) below. Oh yes, there was a big plate of fresh fruit waiting for us, complete with a beautiful handwritten note.

I guess I could go on and on about how there are only 20 rooms and each one is different, or how the ‘pink room’ is the perfect sexy spot for cocktails or lunch. Or how daily grievances will make your eyeballs bulge (not to mention your belly). Or how there are more staff members than actual rooms. Or how, on a beautiful day, you can lounge on your private upstairs terrace and listen to the church bells announce the hour. Or how from the rooftop bathtub you have a breathtaking view of Florence’s famous Duomo. I’ll just tell you to get on the plane, right now, and run to JK Place (if you’re lucky enough to get in).