'Milu' hotel

August 2017

On the second stop of my journey, I find myself in the ancient center of Florence, which at least in my eyes, is a city, that more than others is characterized by ancient art and a glorious Italian legacy.
I have always been attracted to Florence. I have dreamt of going back in time when the Medici family ruled and when the city was adorned with grand buildings, magnificent sculptures and artwork that decorated and enriched every corner. As I walk the wide cobble stone streets, I imagine them walking beside me, dreaming big dreams that were grandiose for the times and maybe even for ours. I enjoy the vision they had had that became bigger than the dynasty itself- the vision we all enjoy today.
I arrived at "Tornabuoni" Street, crowded with expensive stores and people, one of the most beautiful and quiet streets Florence has to offer. I entered 'Milu' hotel where I was greeted by the staff in a modern hallway filled with artwork. I took the retro elevator to the fifth floor. As the doors opened, I saw the art video I created with DVISION, Tel Aviv, proudly playing on their television screen. I was left speechless and the truth is that tears chocked my throat.
After a quick recovery and some time to absorb the outstanding amount of artwork presented throughout the hotel, I sat down to talk to Ido Gelber, the hotel manager and one of the partners. I couldn't help but be moved by the situation: two Israelis, who had left everything behind in order to fulfill a dream, sitting where dreams have changed the face of the city forever, conducting an interview dedicated not only to the world of craftsmen who engage in their trade and preserve the ancient traditions and famous crafts of Italian produce, but to others.
We sat in the gallery, which is impeccably designed to the very last detail, surrounded by windows that look out to the roofs of the ancient city. My breath was taken away by the combination of the modern design of the hotel and its historical location.  
Your hotel is a sanctuary for the arts. How are you connected to the arts and is this a way to support young artists?
"The hotel's concept is to be a living art gallery. Because of the hotel's location, a connection was made with Florence's classic art. Anyone who comes to Florence, comes in order to see art, so, we give them something extra to see, since the hotel is filled with modern art. Our main artist is Carmel Ilan who uses paper as her medium. She is also the hotel's treasurer. She must approve all the artwork, before being displayed in the hotel. The idea is that the artwork in the gallery keeps changing, so that those who come back to the hotel more than once don't see the same thing."
Why did you decide to open a boutique hotel? Do you have a special connection with the artisanal world?
"I believe that the world in general is going towards personalization. People are looking for a personal touch and don't go as often to big hotels where they get lost in the crowd. Here we provide a slightly different service experience that combines the luxury and pampering of hotels with very warm and personal attention. We know every guest's name, where they come from, what they need and what they want, and this gives our guests a different experience."
Why did you choose the ancient city center of Florence and what were the obstacles you encountered? 
"I think Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world especially "Tornabuoni" Street. Wherever you look, you see beauty, awesome views and special sights. In essence, it is a dream to open a hotel here. 
What are the difficulties? Well, with all the beauty of the city center there were many obstacles. In Florence there are many rules regarding the appearance of the city. Therefore, you cannot enter with a crane during the day, which means you can only start working at 2 am. The trash can be taken out only between 6 and 8 am so all the construction waste that accumulates during the night and day must be kept by the door and only be taken outside after 6 am."
Did you also have to preserve parts of the building?
"Of course, every exterior wall had to be preserved. We do not have the right to choose the color, touch or change anything. For example, when we were digging below ground level to install the elevator, we discovered archeological findings. So the city's archeologist came to assess the situation and the construction was delayed." 
What is the strongest feature of your hotel? What makes it stand out from others?
"From the onset, the planning and vision were to do everything differently. In other words, to bring to Florence and its hotel industry something that doesn't yet exist: the modern design you won't find in any other hotel, the art gallery where guests can roam around or buy the artwork, or the location, which in my eyes, is unbeatable. Above all, it is the service. We have the best staff in Italy, which is inherit by the reviews on various sites that especially point out our service and personalization and how we are able to touch people." 
Our world is becoming more modern and industrial, losing the human touch and quality there used to be in products and service along the way. Do you believe this statement is true or not?
"I believe it's true. I think that it is natural that, with the development of technology that more and more things people used to do, are being replaced by robots. I think that in our field, hospitality and tourism, there is no replacement for the human touch. Everything has to be personal, accurate and with proper judgment at the right moment."  
What is your biggest goal at the moment?
"To continue and maintain hotel Milu's high standards and to improve them every day. Furthermore, to create many new collaborations with local businesses, particularly with fashion, in order to provide our guests with as much value as possible to enhance their experience on their short stay in Florence so that they are able to see as much as possible in the best and most enjoyable way."   
I am trying to think of how to explain such beauty and art, maybe it is something you feel, but when I was sitting there, I felt as if my soul was being filled with all the things I have described here. I could see an avant-garde fashion show being presented there in the hotel, or a young artist that used to sit in his studio not knowing that one day he will present his art in a luxurious hotel in Florence, or just imagine a couple, coming on vacation and getting their money's worth, that they worked so hard for.
In the handbag business, the investment in every single detail isn't always known to the costumers and telling the truth it is hard to explain it in words without exhausting the readers. The creativity, thought and attention given to every piece is often perceived as something normal and ordinary but it isn't so. When you enter a place like the "Milu" hotel, you get the feeling that every detail, even the smallest one, was taken into consideration and is an inseparable part of the general vision of the hotel. It is an empowering and encouraging experience to see how their hard work has paid off, while staying true to themselves along the way and the costumers are those who get to reap the fruit together with them.
On the way out, I heard a conversation between the staff and a couple that was checking out. They were so pleased with their stay and they didn't stop praising the place. For a moment, I was jealous, since Ido and the rest of the staff have the privilege to see the happiness they provide their guests with, making a moment in a person's life more full and happy. They touch their guests with their service experience and everything else the hotel has to offer and therefore they will be a part of them forever. 
I remembered the Medici family again, since touching someone with your vision is a great honor. That is when I realized that maybe this too is a part of my journey and that, it is also a dream that maybe someday I will achieve. 
Till the next time.

May you always be inspired
Sincerely yours,
Ziv Fetter