It’s time to Make yourself at home in Florence at the beautifully exotic Velona Jungle Suite luxury hotel. Though the b&b’s decorative flair may draw guests the first time, the warm welcome and attentive service of the Velona-Grechi family will keep them coming back. Maison Flaneur meets with Veronica Grechi. We discuss family-led businesses, Florence and the art of hosting.
Can you tell us a story about the Velona?
Velona comes from the name of my grandfather. The Velona family used to live in this apartment which is today our hotel. It is located in an exceptional district of Florence which was once full of antiquarian boutiques. My grand-father had an antiquity shop. Part of the house was full of the most precious furniture. He kept them in separated rooms. We used to open them for Christmas and Easter, or for special occasions. This secret part of the apartment is now an integral part of the hotel. There were very similar to what they are now. We just added some new item such as the wallpapers, but for example, the radio is here since 1960, same goes for this library.
So this is very much a family story.
Oh yes! My grandfather collected objects from his travels, from Europe, from Japan, and from China. He also loved to have guests around. Having this hotel, in a way, is a way to continue his legacy. My grandmother lived in this house until she was 100 years old. Now that’s a family home! She died in 2013 until that date we used to be here with her every day. The paintings you see around are from my aunt. Every object has its story.
Do you have a favorite suite?
It’s hard to say. I really love the Suite Durrel because of its bathroom. My mother had the idea of this garden in the bathroom ceiling. She couldn’t find anyone to build it. So one afternoon, she decided to do it herself. It means a lot to have something in the room that my mother has built herself.
What do you think is the most important thing when you design a hotel?
The most important thing is what we try to give to our guests. There are specific values that we are want to promote. That’s why I like to have pieces of artisans that work here, in Florence or that have a particular philosophy about their work. When you host guests, you have the opportunity to give them something. Maybe it’s tips about what to visit in town. It’s such a different experience to have someone show you around and give you the key to understand where you are.
What do you find so special about Florence?
Florence is very small in comparison with other destinations in the world that have so many tourists. In the city center, every building is beautiful, you have something to see in every corner. I also love the way Florence is sort of in the countryside. You can walk from the city center from the Duomo, and you walk 10 minutes, and you are on a hill. I understood early the uniqueness of having century old artisans.
You like to choose artisans or people that have a unique savoir-faire, bring it into your house to showcase their work to your guests.
Yes. Absolutely. The good thing is that you can walk in town and find something new and exciting every day in Florence.
Do you have a favorite place or shop or restaurant in Florence?
I really love the Floret cafe. They have a beautiful bar, and I love the drinks that they make. The juices are amazing. I find it very relaxing. As for traditional location, I cannot say which is my favorite. I love walking around the Bardini gardens. It’s located close to the famous Boboli garden. Bardini is smaller, but its orientation gives the most incredible view.