Getting Cultured in Florence

Florence taking charge in the sustainability of global heritage and culture 

Santa Maria Novella

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Florence, Italy and to be part of the official bloggers team for Florens 2012, an international Biennial dedicated to promoting internationally the economy of culture, heritage and the environment.  Although I had previously visited Florence on many occasions, this time was different.  I was more curious and more interested to see the side of Florence that I had previously overlooked.

Heritage and culture are two attributes that Italy is very well known for.  Actually, it’s the country with the highest percentage of heritage in the world.  Yet to find information on how to explore any Italian city on a more cultural level is quite challenging.   Participating in Florens 2012 really opened my eyes to engaging topics including art history and the renaissance.  So I was eager to start exploring Florence with a new pair of eyes.

JK Place library

The hotel reception that isn’t meant to look like one. Instead, it’s acts as a little library where guests can choose from a selection of books related to culture and history and read at their own leisure.

Exploring the neighbourhood of Santa Maria Novella

As a writer of boutique hotels, I wanted to find a hotel that was located in an area that had a significant historical story to tell.  You could say that the whole of Florence offers that, but I wanted to get more localised.   Just a few steps away from Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the famous gothic/renaissance façade church bearing its name, I found the extraordinary J.K.Place, a boutique hotel of 20 rooms that effortlessly depicts the old and the new of Florence.  Just like entering a house, you ring the doorbell.  Upon entering, you are surrounded in an ambience of luxury living, yet with undertones of simplicity and unpretentiousness.   The highly tasteful décor is a story in itself; however, it’s the view from the bedroom window that equally captured my attention – the Church of Santa Maria Novella.  It’s sometimes so easy to pass by what’s in front of your very nose, but in fact the piazza in which J.K. place is situated has an interesting history behind it.

The square of Santa Maria Novella

This is the view from one of the guests rooms at J.K. Place. What a nice way to wake up in the morning and to see the Church of Santa Maria Novella

Renaissance art

Once abandoned and then retrieved, these lands where the church now stands were considered to be new (“novelle”), from which it may be that the church took its present name.  The church was founded by a Dominican order in 1216, but it went through its most important transformation in 15th century.  Leon Battista Alberti, a renowned artist, architect, philosopher and above all, a renaissance humanist polymath, designed the white marble-cladded façade using the ideals of humanist architecture.  Inside the church, there are also many important works of art including Giotto’s crucifix and The Trinity by Masaccio.

Art in Santa Maria Novella Church

The Holy Trinity, with the Virgin and Saint John is a fresco by the Early Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio (1424-1425)

The neighbourhood of Santa Maria Novella really has an interesting timeline of history and  art, combined with an array of artisan shops.  You can find out more by downloading the J.K. Essential Guide to Florence guidebook written by its General Manager Claudio Meli.  A Florentine himself, having spent many years in the concierge industry, the book is written in a sincere and impartial manner, offering tips on how to visit Florence in a more cultural and authentic way.  Watch out also for their upcoming blog, which will include insightful stories and happenings in Florence.

J.K. Place: Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 7, Firenze
Tel: Tel. +39 055 2645181  Website:

Church of Santa Maria Novella:

Have a read of Jenna Francisco’s article at This is My Happiness, where she looks more into the detail of art that is inside the church.

For more interesting and intelligent information on art travel in Florence and renaissance art in general, please take a look at these two fantastic blogs:


Your hotel

To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, J.K. Place, Florence

Nathalie Salas

Nathalie Salas is a freelance travel writer and marketing consultant based between the UK, Italy and the UAE. Pursuing her passion of boutique hotels, she reviews hotels around the world as well as helping them to improve their marketing strategies. Nathalie is Editor & Founder of travel site Perfect Boutique Hotel, writing also for, Masquerade and Global Citizen.

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