J.K. Place Firenze overlooks the restored Piazza di Santa Maria Novella.
History combines with hospitality in the city of Florence, where five-star hotels often anchor at ancient piazzas. We visited three properties in the historic center, all of which offer easy access to the notable sites, museums, restaurants and shopping plazas.
J.K. Place Firenze is the group’s flagship property, overlooking the restored Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. We’ve admired J.K. Place Capri and J.K. Place Roma for their combination of haute design and comfort and J.K. Florence is no exception. What is unique to J.K. Florence is the presence of GM Claudio Meli ([email protected]; 011-39-055-264-5181; fax 011-39-055-265-8387), whose exuberant love for his birthplace is contagious. Meli has been GM since the hotel opened in 2003 and is credited with organizing Firenze, Si, a cooperative venture among 12 luxury properties with the aim of promoting the city. His pocket-sized book, “J.K. Essential Guide to Florence,” contains his suggestions for shoppers and sightseers.
The boutique hotel has 20 different rooms decorated in neutral and pastel tones and each comes with a remote control called “the soap,” which operates the lighting. In both rooms and public areas, there is extensive use of Italian menswear fabrics for upholstery and draperies, resulting in a tailored and comfortable ambiance. Like the J.K. Place hotels in Rome and Capri, this one was designed by Michael Bonan.
Pictured: Hotel de Savoy’S Repubblica Suite has antique furniture and a contemporary design.
There are four Master Rooms, including Room No. 12, which overlooks the expansive piazza. Master Rooms are about 500 square feet and include a full living area with sofa and chairs and a fireplace, as well as the bedroom area with four-poster bed. The bathroom is large, with tub, shower and separate WC. Guests booking Master Suites are entitled to a private transfer from / to the Florence airport.
The 400-square-foot Penthouse Suite, Room No. 24, is on two floors, with the bathroom upstairs and sleeping area downstairs. From the small terrace (and the bathtub), there is a view across the red-tiled roofs of the city, including Brunelleschi’s dome.
The Panoramic Loft Room, No. 22, overlooks the cathedral of Santa Maria Novella and would suit two couples traveling together, as well as a family. On the lower level of the 500-square-foot suite is a spacious living room with a king-size sofa bed. There is a bathroom with walk-in shower on this level. Upstairs there is a bedroom that can either accommodate king or twin beds. There is a second bathroom with walk-in shower.
Pictured: J.K. Place Firenze’s 400-square-foot Duplex Junior Suite has two levels.
On the top floor of the hotel is a Duplex Junior Suite, Room No. 21, which measures about 400 square feet. Downstairs is a living area with a sofa bed, while the upper level includes the main bedroom (twins or king) and bathroom with walk-in shower. Most rooms at the hotel have a separate bathtub and shower.
For guests wishing complete peace and quiet, J.K. Place also has rooms and suites overlooking the courtyard rather than the piazza.
The J.K. Terrace on the piazza has both inside and outside dining and the J.K. Lounge is available for private events.
To discuss details, ask about dining, or to make booking requests, contact Angela Berti ([email protected]; 011-39-055-264-5181; fax 011-39-055-265-8387), operations manager & head concierge.
Pictured: The Panoramic Suite at Hotel Helvetia & Bristol provides views of the Brunelleschi dome and the Campanile di Giotto tower.
2016 was a banner year for the 102-room Hotel de Savoy, which reigns over the Piazza della Repubblica. The Renaissance Revival (Stile Umbertino) building, built as a hotel in 1893, was among the first in Florence to have electric lighting, central heating and elevators. In 2016, the lobby and all 14 suites were renovated under the direction of corporate designer Olga Polizzi, whose mission is to reflect both the unique location and the Rocco Forte culture. Giancarlo Rizzi ([email protected]; 011-390-552-7351) is the new general manager at the Savoy, who joined following stints at five-star properties in Paris and Italy.
Ristorante Irene was also renovated in the last 18 months and offers a sophisticated Tuscan menu designed by Consulting Chef Fulvio Pierangelini and executed by Head Chef Giovanni Cosmai. Dine inside or at a piazza-side table.
Of the 14 Forte Suites, the Brunelleschi (No. 514) overlooks the piazza from the top floor of the hotel. The suite is accented with Polizzi’s signature bright colors to complement the primarily white décor. There is a private steam room (also available in the Signoria Suite) in addition to the large marble bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. The suite is about 500 square feet and has a separate living room, with sofa bed upon request, and a large bedroom. Guests who book this suite or other suites are entitled to a one-way private airport transfer.
Room No. 301 is a 500-square-foot Classic Suite, which overlooks the Via dei Medici rather than the piazza. The living room is separate from the bedroom. A sofa bed can be provided in the living room upon request. The Suite also has a powder room in addition to a full bathroom with tub / shower. Moreover, the furniture is created by Florentine artisans and accentuated by bright cushions.
For celebrities, politicians or large groups traveling together for business or pleasure, the piano nobile (second floor) may be set up with security enclosing nine rooms, including the Repubblica Suite. The broad corridor of the noble floor can be organized into a lounge area with amenities such as TVs and bar.
The 700-square-foot Repubblica Suite is the most important in the hotel, with antique furniture, contemporary design and two bedrooms and two large Carrera marble bathrooms. The living room comes with a 1,000-square-foot terrace, which is suited for in-suite dining, and overlooks the piazza.
Contact Concierge Roberto Luddi ([email protected]; 011-390-552-7351) for just about anything, including after-hours shopping at Florence’s best boutiques. At the top of the list is a private dinner at the Accademia Gallery Museum, where the dining table will be set at the foot of the iconic statue of David. With 10 to 15 days advance notice, the hotel will arrange the chef and music, plus provide paparazzi to document the occasion. Recently, the concierge himself was requested to deliver an engagement ring to a couple during their intimate dinner.
Hotel Helvetia & Bristol at Via dei Pescioni was opened in the mid-19th century and has recently been purchased by Star Hotels, who have added it to a five-star portfolio that includes the Hotel d’Inghilterra in Rome. Advisors can reach out the hotel by calling 011-390-552-6651; or sending a fax to 011-39-055-288-353.
Guests come here for the old-world elegance, according to GM Stefano Venturi ([email protected]; 011-390-552-6651), who has been with the hotel for six years. The company has acquired the property next door, in which 25 new rooms will be added to the existing 52 rooms and 15 suites in the original building. We suggest contacting Venturi for an update on renovation plans before booking large groups.
On the fifth floor is the Panoramic Suite, No. 550, which has a view of the Brunelleschi dome and the Campanile di Giotto tower. It is one of two suites with beamed rustic ceilings and stenciled stucco walls. The living room of the 550-square-foot suite is upstairs and includes a sitting area, desk and dining table. There is a full bath with tub and separate shower, as well as a half bath in the suite. The suite sleeps a maximum of three guests.
The Executive Suite No. 256 offers a separate living room, as well as a small terrace overlooking Palazzo Strozzi. The bedroom is decorated in yellow damask and has a window with balcony. The marble bathroom includes a tub and a shower. For guests who would like additional space, it’s possible to take the adjacent Junior Suite No. 267, which has a seating area and a Jacuzzi tub. Ask about other adjacent suites and connecting doubles.
Executive Junior Suite No. 253 is situated on the piano nobile and is a corner room with windows in both the room and the bath. The décor is done in soft greens, with a Murano glass chandelier.
The Helvetia & Bristol’s location in the center of Florence’s shopping and historic district attracts diners to the Hostaria Bibendum Restaurant, where Chef Luca Ciaffarafa offers traditional Tuscan cuisine. For reservations, call 011-390-552-665-620, or e-mail [email protected] The Bar Bibendum is a cozy spot for an aperitivo or an after-dinner drink. Breakfast is served in the Winter Garden, with its Art Deco glass ceiling.
Shopping in Florence’s historic center
Here’s our list of a few essential and favorite shops suggested by Claudio Meli, the general manager at J.K. Place, and Roberto Luddi, the concierge at the Hotel de Savoy.
Most travelers have heard of the famous shopping streets in Italy — Via Condotti in Rome, Via Napolitano in Milan, and Via Tornabuoni in Florence. This is where you will find Gucci, Prada, Pucci, Cartier, Bulgari and more. Drop in at the Loretta Caponi boutique in Piazza Antinori for beautifully made clothing for men, women and children, and home designs.
Florence offers a wealth of choices to shoppers looking for beautifully made clothing for men, women and children.
The Emilio Pucci shop at 20/22r Via Tornabuoni offers the latest of the designer’s quintessential pieces. We spoke to Laudomia Pucci, daughter of Emilio Pucci and president of the company, at the Pucci headquarters and museum in the fabulous Palazzo Pucci. We found that VIP and custom designs are available at the palazzo by appointment. Contact Martina Corezzi ([email protected]), events manager, to schedule.
A popular street in the center of Florence is Via dei Fossi, which runs between Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the Arno River. Meli recommends the men’s tailors, but the entire street is any way full of enticing shops, which include:
Sartoria Vanni, No. 51, and Sartoria Liverano, No. 43r (men’s tailors); Rubelli Antiquari, No. 57 (antiques); Atelier C, No. 33 (women’s purses); Il Cannello, No. 13r (antique women’s accessories); Margaret Howell, 5R Piazza Carlo Goldoni at Via Fossi (classic clothing and furnishings); Roberta Pieri (brightly colored handbags); Lorenzaccio, No. 29r (handpainted majolica ceramics); Studio Dimore, No. 41r (contemporary design) and Peter’s Tea House, No. 57r. In the Cortile Fossombroni, we found La Corte, No. 7r in the courtyard, a store selling a wide variety of vintage designer clothing.
The Santa Maria Novella Perfumeria (Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella) at Via della Scala 16 is well-known for its distinctive potpourri and perfumes. The pharmacy, founded in 1621, is so old that the walls are imbued with the scents of herbs and flowers.
The Dr. Vranjes Firenze home fragrances and perfumes are part of the evocative room ambiance created especially for J.K. Place. There are three Dr. Vranjes retail stores — one at Via San Gallo 63r, another at Borgo La Croce 44R, and the last at Via dellaSpada 9R. For those who would like to have a custom scent created, it is possible to visit the laboratory just outside the city. For appointments, email [email protected]
Stefano Ricci, whose flagship store is at Palazzo Tornabuoni, Via dei Pescioni 1, is known both for its menswear and interiors. A few years ago the company purchased the venerable silk workshop, Antico Setificio Fiorentino, founded in 1786. The Ricci family is committed to preserving the handloom, a traditional silk manufacturer which has provided sumptuous fabrics for popes and kings, brides and princesses. Contact Elisabetta Bardelli Ricci ([email protected]; 011-393-387-538-900), marketing and communications director, to set up a private tour of the silk showroom at Via Lorenzo Bartolini 4.
Pictured: Ponte Vecchio is a major attraction for those who love jewelry.
Founded in 1735, the Richard Ginori brand is known worldwide for its porcelain tableware. Now owned by Gucci, the company continues to produce tableware at its factory just outside Florence. The flagship store is located in the city at Via dei Rondinelli 17/r.
Jewelry reigns supreme in this city of goldsmiths. Claudio Meli suggests a visit to Cassetti Gioielli on the Ponte Vecchio 29r for gold jewelry. Olga Polizzi recommends Angela Caputi, at Via di Santo Spirito 58, for her combination of fashion and art. Alessandro Dari, located at Via San Niccolo’ 115r, combines the principles of architecture with the design of contemporary jewelry.
Florence is known for its leather goods. Set up on Via di S. Niccolò 2 is Stefano Bemer, which is world-renowned for custom-made and bespoke shoes. Mannina, on Via Barbardori 19r, produces one-of-a-kind hand-crafted shoes. Il Bisonte on Via del Parione 31-33r has been making leather bags and accessories since 1970. And, most famous of all is the Leather School at Via S. Giuseppe, 5R, near Santa Croce.
We would be remiss if we overlooked the luxury outlet center outside the city of Florence, aka The Mall. Designers represented here include Burberry, Armani, Valentino, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, Fendi, Etro, Sergio Rossi, Tod’s, Tom Ford and more. Nearby are Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. Private transportation, bus and shuttle services are available through hotel concierges in Florence. Timetables and opening hours are available on the website.