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.

Location

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.

Comfort

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; jkroma.com)

Rooms ****

Value ****

Service *****

Doubles from €600 including breakfast.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Travel
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
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?