Florence is a brand," declares Claudio Meli. "In fact it's probably the best brand in all of Italy."
Now almost 40, Meli was born and bred in the city of the Renaissance but left to work as a DJ across Italy and in Germany before returning in 1994 to become concierge at the city's historic Savoy Hotel.
"The concierge is a very key role," says Meli. "He really makes a difference, especially in a city like Florence where it is very important to have the 'keys' to open things which are usually impossible - or unaffordable. In my opinion, every hotel should first appoint its concierge and then the rest of the staff."
Achieving the impossible has suited Meli.
He was appointed one of the youngest-ever secretaries of the Golden Keys, the professional association of concierges. In 2007, Meli and his friend Jacopo De Ria founded Bravo! Concierge, an independent tailor-made service to ensure that nothing is impossible for the guest who can afford to pay.
"Jacopo and I wanted to exceed expectations. For example, sometimes what people want can be something that for me, as a Florentine, is easy to achieve, but for a visitor - impossible."
In 2003 he was appointed head concierge at the newly opened JKPlace which soon became Florence's hippest hotel. "Together with the owner's son I created a unique concept of bespoke hospitality," he says. Since 2008, Meli has been the hotel's general manager and it's his proud boast that he can arrange anything his guests want. But what does he enjoy about his own city?
"I think of this city as seven neighbourhoods. Our neighbourhood, Santa Maria Novella, is a great place to discover. At every turn, art, fashion and lifestyle overwhelm you. I'd recommend Antonio Liverano at Liverano Sartoria, who personally takes your measurements and cuts the fabric according to the old Florentine school rules. And for leather goods, Il Bisonte is where Wanny de Filippo has been making bags and accessories since 1970."
Of course, like most Italians, food is the ultimate consideration for Meli, and to eat well the most important thing of all. "For me, Latini is the place where I bring my friends to taste real Florentine steak," he says. "My little daughter Sasha loves it here. Start with crostini and chicken livers - amazing, almost better than my mama's - then the Tuscan ham which is produced by the owner, Torello, who is also my friend. And the ribollita bread and vegetable soup, with Torello's great olive oil and red wine is quite wonderful. Ask to visit his private wine cellar, it's a superb collection."
Like many Florentines, Meli has a great fondness for the neighbourhoods south of the River Arno, known collectively as Oltrarno. "This is where you can still breathe in the atmosphere of a Florence gone by. I like San Niccolo in particular. It's one of the city's most picturesque neighbourhoods, yet the least touristy. You have medieval and Renaissance buildings, beautiful gardens, elegant parks, delicatessens, craft shops and bars that liven up when the sun goes down."
And then there is the very special access, that only men in the know, such as Claudio Meli, can secure, like the famous Vasari Corridor, an elevated walkway that runs from Palazzo Pitti across the Arno to the Uffizi gallery.
"This aerial passageway was built by architect Giorgio Vasari for the Grand Duke Cosimo in 1564," explains Meli. "It runs over the top of the Ponte Vecchio and contains a unique collection of artists' self-portraits. You have to book well in advance but I can get exclusive after-hours access for two people in the company of an art historian: three hours for €900. Not cheap, of course, but Florence is always about quality and finding something unique."
What Claudio can offer for free, though, are the street markets. "The flea market in Piazza dei Ciompi is very good for bargains," he says. "It's there every day, but I'd suggest going on the last Sunday of the month if you can, when it's massive, extending into the surrounding streets.
"But San Lorenzo is the most important market," he says. "Go there for clothing, leather goods and souvenirs. I always tell people to head out early in the morning and enjoy watching the city waking up."
JK Place, Piazza Santa Maria Novella 7, +39 055 264 5181, www.jkplace.com