Room Service: Letters to write home about

JK Place Roma, Italy

Why JK Place? I'd been told that owner Ori Kafri named these boutique hotels after his father, Jonathan, a big name in Italian textiles. However, perched on the edge of a beautifully upholstered grey armchair, carefully sipping coffee from a tiny cup, he laughs when I applaud his filial efforts. "Well, I liked the sound of the initials," he says. "But if I'd used my own, it would have been a very different sort of brand."

Good point. The hotel we're sitting in is far from being just an OK place to be. It's a statement of intent for Kafri, the latest stage in his drive to create an international collection. The first JK Place opened in Florence 10 years ago, followed by an outpost in Capri. Both have been showered with design and hospitality plaudits. But Rome is the big leap. "Once you are here, it's a showroom to the world," he says.

It's not about size. JK Place Florence has only 20 rooms, Capri just 22, and even this Roman version has a mere 30 to choose from. Instead, it's about a certain sensibility, one which starts at the hidden-away front door. As Kafri says, "To ring a bell to get into a hotel, you need self-confidence, to have a personality."

That might seem a little daunting, but in fact all the showing off is tempered by real charm. Upon arrival I was ushered straight into the sumptuous library. This in turn leads to a restaurant bedecked with red leather chairs, bright green silks on the walls and sleek, spiky chandeliers. As I eyed up the contemporary art, big books begged for attention: Helmut Newton, a James Bond retrospective, a celebration of DC Comics. This is a place of escapism they seem to say. Shut the door behind you and feast your eyes.


Kafri had been searching for more than six years before he fetched upon this, the former architecture school of the University of Rome. It's a stately building at the city's heart, tucked behind Via Tomacelli, next to a small market square.

Of course, JK woz 'ere long before boutique hotels were big business. John Keats still works his tragic magic over this part of Rome. The rooms – now the Keats-Shelley House – where he spent the last weeks of his life overlook the Spanish Steps, just five minutes' walk away. You reach them by passing the more temporal delights of Via Condotti, the city's premier shopping street, where Gucci is literally opposite Prada, and every other luxury brand you can think of glints and gleams. I suspect the great Romantic poet might not have approved.


If John Keats felt his name was "writ in water", JK Place engraves its own in polished brass. When I arrived last weekend, a hotel due to be completed during the summer had been open scarcely seven days, a casualty of Italian bureaucracy. General manager Samuel Porreca was still wringing his hands at the six-month process it took to mount a name-plate next to the front door. Nevertheless, there it now shines – and aside from a couple of teething problems with a recalcitrant elevator and some late excitements with the plumbing, everything beyond it seemed pin-sharp to my eyes.

Michele Bönan, the designer of all three JK Places, clearly didn't quite agree. He was busy straightening and adjusting before the arrival of a photographer from Architectural Digest. Suave, grey-haired, utterly Italian, he waved distractedly when I asked what inspired him. Tom Ford's A Single Man was a touchstone, apparently, along with Classical Rome. Certainly, historic busts lurk in the white-walled lounge, but it's a bit more glamorous than that: La Dolce Vita, rather than I Claudius.

The rooms themselves aren't huge, but are quiet and graceful. An elegant four-poster dominated mine, contrasting with the greys of the walls and the dark rosewood closet space. And there's enough Carrera marble and shiny chrome in the bathrooms to remind you that you're in Italy, even if the view was disappointing: a tiny internal courtyard. Soft drinks from the minibar, coffee and Wi-Fi are included in the room rate, part of a treat-the-place-as-your-home philosophy appropriate to hotel's relatively small scale.

The restaurant's menu hadn't been finalised on my visit, so instead I was launched at a spectacular chef's-choice feast that ran the gamut from skewers of octopus and potato, to spaghetti with courgette and clams, to croutons dressed in salty olive foam.

A roof-garden-cum-bar is also planned. Kafri took me up to check out the scene from four storeys up. The hotch-potch of Rome old and new – church domes rising beside modern residential buildings – seemed an appropriate counterpoint to the design notes within. At night, JK Place's glittering clientele will feel perfectly at home out here, under the stars.

Travel Essentials

JK Place Roma

Via Di Monte D'Oro, Rome, Italy (00 39 06 98 26 34;

Rooms ****

Value ****

Service *****

Doubles from €600 including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific