Hotelier interview: Claudio Meli of J.K. Place Florence

JK Place Florence was designed by architect Michele Bonan to be ‘a home away from home’ and indeed this atmosphere is what Claudio Meli – the General Manager –  and his team work tirelessly to maintain. From the moment you step through the elegant, arched doors of the hotel, to the time you say your regretful goodbyes; you will notice a warm and friendly atmosphere and the most exceptional attention to detail.

Condé Nast Traveller has described Claudio and his staff ‘tailors of hospitality’ and this is an accolade which couldn’t be more deserved. We paid Claudio a visit to hear more about how his team transforms every guest’s stay into an unforgettable experience.

Claudio’s Story: 

JK Place Boutique Hotel Florence

I met the son of Jonathan Kafri, founder of JK Place Hotels, when he came to do an internship when I was the manager at another 5* hotel many years ago. Ori and I had a lot of fun together and became friends, so when he told me that he wanted to open a boutique hotel in Florence I was happy to be involved and introduced them to the architect Michele Bonan.

Bonan’s vision was to create not so much a hotel but more of a home away from home – giving the experience of visiting friends in Florence just like at the properties in Capri and Rome.

The human touch is very important to us – our guests are not just a room number and we treat them each personally, calling them by name and talking to them to understand what they would like from their stay. At JK Place, we have about 35 staff and most of them are concierges because they love Florence, they all know the city and the best restaurants and shops – so you can stop Andrea or Matteo and they will happily help you to discover new restaurants and places and call ahead to book for you. Condé Nast Traveller called us tailors of hospitality, which I really love.

The hotel is small with just 20 rooms and all are different to each other – just like they would be in a real home. What is great about Michele Bonan is that he created a very comfortable place – well designed, well appointed but also comfortable. Take the TV room, with the big sofa bed – guests immediately feel relaxed and I believe it is part of the experience of JK Place. Sometimes you go to a design hotel and you don’t know how to sit on a chair and whilst its been designed by a famous architect – who cares?! I want to be comfortable!

We have worked a lot with local craftsmen – for example the JK cashmere blankets that were made in collaboration with a producer based in Prato (30-minutes from Florence) or our Richard Ginori china, an amazing Florentine brand that has over 350-years of history, which is all from different collections so that it doesn’t all match – just like at home! And our guests can visit the manufacturers – which they love.

JK Place Boutique Hotel Florence Il Duomo

It’s hard to say my favourite space within the hotel – Michele Bonan created so many special places. Maybe the private terrace of the penthouse, or the second floor with its huge bathroom where you can look out over the whole of Florence from the bathtub. I also love room number 12 one of our Master Rooms which has been completely renovated and is so full of light, with three big windows overlooking Piazza Santa Maria di Novella and an understated, chic and contemporary design, which I love.

Our restaurant, JK Lounge is just that – we aren’t focused on gourmet food or Michelin stars. I believe that our guests are more keen to enjoy traditional Italian food, something like my mama can cook at home or my grandma and this is what we try to do – with the JK touch, of course. We use organic products with amazing wine, olive oil and tomatoes that really taste like tomatoes – all from within a few kilometers of here. I love to come for Sunday brunch with my family – especially in winter with fire going. Families come for brunch at around 1pm and they’re still here at 5pm because it’s so relaxing.

Luxury in my opinion is not a grand hotel with a big suite and 200/300 people. Florence is a very busy city – with around 12.5 million visitors last year alone – and JK Place is like an oasis for our guests right in the heart of town.

Find out more about JK Place, and check rates and availability, here

 

Liz Wootton
Liz fancies herself as a somewhat intrepid explorer and has travelled across Asia, the Americas, New Zealand and Europe (although she’s still entirely lost without Google Maps…). With a passion for exercise, a sincere love of food and a penchant for adopting the local animals, you’ll most likely find her hiking up a mountain, tucking into some local delicacies or feeding carrots to a windswept pony.