The charismatic general manager of J.K. Place Firenze is an enigmatic presence at the townhouse-style hotel on Florence’s Piazza Santa Novella. Raised in the Italian city, Meli has been in the hotel business since his early 20s, and is now an established expert on all things Florentine. Well known among locals, Meli is a mouthpiece for both his hotel and his city, which he celebrates in his book, the J.K. Essential Guide to Florence (all guests of the hotel receive a copy). Here, Meli shares some of his insider tips.
The Oltrarno area is one of my favorites. It still feels as it did when I used to visit my grandmother there decades ago; the streets, lined with artisans and lively trattorias, and the magnificent Santo Spirito Church, add to the indubitable charm of the neighborhood.
What are some of your favorite spots in the city? I love the Uffizi Gallery for its collection of Renaissance masterpieces. Buca Lapi is one of the best restaurants in the city thanks to its Florentine charm and Tuscan specialties that are prepared with only the best products. I believe Florence is one of the most unique cities in the world for shopping. We have an abundance of artisans selling unique wares including perfume, cashmere, tailor-made suits and shoes as well as handicrafts in leather and gold. The J.K. Essential Guide to Florence highlights my favorite museums, restaurants, shops and markets in seven different neighborhoods.
is intimate and cozy, with an understated chic atmosphere and design. Florentine people tend to be discreet and don’t like to be exuberant; I believe that the hotel aligns with this philosophy by offering attentive service that is hands-on but never invasive.
Having worked in the travel industry for decades, what are some of you favorite places to visit and where do you want to go next? I consider Berlin my second home because my wife was born there and we visit frequently. The city is lively, multifaceted and full of young people, who create a culture that is constantly innovating; I always discover new places that are teeming with energy. I would love to take my wife and our two daughters to Africa, possibly Madagascar.
In all your travels, what would you consider your most transformative travel moment? Traveling is always a question of acculturation for me; the most impactful experiences come from interacting with locals and absorbing their passion for their homeland. My wife and I recently visited Morocco, where we were lucky enough to tour with people from all over the country and see amazing sites. At J.K. Firenze, we try to give guests a great hotel experience but also show them Florence in all its glory. Oftentimes, what us locals view as simple, daily occurrences, are the events that allow visitors to feel like true Florentines.
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