Liz Cirelli (left) and Jarka Kunova (right)

Liz Cirelli and Jarka Kunova are a multitalented duo from Europe who cofounded La Vita Sukha, a coliving space and retreat venue in the village of Roseto Valfortore, nestled in the Puglia region of southern Italy. I met them both when we attended the MINOMA Festival in Morocco last year, where I was instantly intrigued to learn about their fledgling conscious coliving venture. I have since been collaborating with them to help promote La Vita Sukha, and I look forward to staying there myself later this year.

In this article, I sat down with Liz and Jarka to delve into how La Vita Sukha was born and their vision for it in the future. The two come from quite different but diverse work backgrounds, with Liz being a music producer, composer, DJ, vocalist, yoga teacher and permaculture designer, and Jarka being a former corporate who is now a business coach and consultant. They have joined forces to create the exciting La Vita Sukha project. This consists of a stunning villa that runs as a curated coliving community from March to May and from September to November, with the summer leaving space for venue hire and co-creating retreats. Not only that, but they also plan to eventually have a permanent community of like-minded people living on the site, and have a reforestation project in the works.

Toks: Where did you grow up, and where do you consider home now? 

Liz: I was born to Italian parents but in the UK. I grew up in the UK mostly but spent a lot of time in Italy in this village. Where do I consider home? I guess here, for now. But I am also quite nomadic at heart and have a dream of living on a mountain by the sea somewhere warm facing west, so we’ll see when that manifests!

Jarka: I grew up in the former Czechoslovakia but both of my parents are Hungarians, which makes my nationality Hungarian but citizenship Slovak (as Czechoslovakia split in 1992). I spent all my adult life living across the US and Australia and became an Australian citizen in 2010. And it’s true what they say, once you catch the travel bug, the world truly becomes your home.

Toks: What’s your work history and background? 

Liz: I started life as a dancer, but then I found music and from the age of 18, decided to focus more on music. 

I became a singer-songwriter, which was rapidly followed by learning how to DJ and becoming a DJ for an underground radio station in London. The pull of the music became so great that I decided to learn how to produce the music I loved playing. I enrolled in university classes to study music and became a music producer. To this day, I still am a music producer, composer, DJ, vocalist and songwriter. 

However, when I was 21, I decided to start yoga classes because I didn’t want to lose the strength and flexibility I had gained from training as a dancer from two years old. The yoga took me on its own journey! When I was 30, I went to India for six months, where I became a qualified yoga teacher. That was rapidly followed by me becoming a qualified masseuse. Throughout this time, I also studied Reiki and have now become a Reiki Master. 

I have also studied permaculture, and am passionate about permaculture design, regenerative farming and sustainable living. Life’s journey then led me to become the owner and co-founder of La Vita Sukha: a coliving and retreat space in the hometown of my parents, here in Italy. 

Jarka: My current background is in business and I am what you’d call an entrepreneur. Being able to live a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility was something I worked very hard at. 

Travel was always something I wanted to do and initially, I thought I had to get a job where I could travel so I could actually afford to see the world on someone else’s dime. 

Initially, I studied law and wanted to become a diplomat but I changed my mind during my studies in the US and embarked on continuing my education and starting my second degree in business.

I got a break by being hired by one of the most visionary people at the time in Australia, which not only allowed me to stay in the country longer but also paved the path towards becoming a citizen. 

I built a corporate career in media, cosmetics, advertising and IT for over 15 years before taking the leap and starting my own business.

Initially working as a management consultant, I later on opened an agency offering online business management services to small businesses. I still do this work, although don’t operate as an agency anymore and instead diversified my portfolio to include roles such as fractional leadership and taking on new projects, such as opening La Vita Sukha, which is a coliving and retreat centre in Italy.

Toks: What led you into the digital nomad lifestyle?

Liz: Travel has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. Born to Italian parents who emigrated to England when they were in their twenties, I frequently travelled between England and Italy from the moment I was born. I grew up loving both cultures but feeling as though I belonged to neither. This is probably what gave rise to my curiosity about other cultures and my love for travel. Being a nature lover, I’m always interested in the different climate zones and how people live in those environments. 

I love the excitement of grabbing my backpack and venturing to explore other countries and cultures. When I started travelling, I very rapidly realised the world isn’t such a dangerous place, and there are beautiful people wherever you go. The more I travelled, the more I wanted to travel and I always look forward to the next opportunity to enjoy different cultures and countries again.

Jarka: As a location-independent entrepreneur, I’m currently somewhere in between being nomadic and having a base. Perhaps you call it ‘slowmading’ but I feel like this lifestyle is changing for me as I navigate the ups and downs of it.

My main reason for becoming a digital nomad was intuitive. Something deep down was asking me to reconnect with my roots, which are in Europe. All my family lives in Europe and being based in Sydney, Australia made it rather difficult to create opportunities for spending quality time together. 

Also, I felt like I didn’t really know Europe that much. I’ve seen so much of the US (40 states), spent time in Canada, and seen most of Australia and Asia but haven’t truly explored Europe, so it became a motivating factor in addition to being closer to my family.

Toks: What led you to start La Vita Sukha, the coliving and retreat business that you are both running together now?

Liz: It’s always been a long-term vision of mine to either build or belong to an intentional community. This property belonged to my parents and when the moment presented itself for me to become the owner of it, I realised the universe had presented me with an opportunity to fulfil this vision. 

We run our coliving experiences in the spring, from March to May, and again in the autumn, from September to November. We run our coliving experiences to potentially meet people who might be interested in being part of a permanent community on a regenerative farm, which is our long-term vision.

During the summer months, we run the business as a venue for hire: for retreats, team buildings, workations, education programs, etc. The longer-term vision is to reforest parts of the land and for us to build guest housing in the form of eco structures, thereby enabling us to continue to host guests, whether they’re retreats, visitors or people who want to learn about permaculture and sustainable living. If it’s a retreat situation, both the facilitator and the retreat guests would have the full support of the community living here.

Jarka: Simply put – a desire to create meaningful ‘in person’ experiences for others. I always thought being location-independent with my work was an advantage but working online behind a computer all the time is not my idea of bliss.

Being able to offer services such as retreats and coliving programs that allow for interaction with people in real life is something I always wanted to do.

I’ve attended a number of retreats and festivals in the past and also stayed in colivings over the years. Each experience taught me a lot about myself and opened doors to powerful networks of people. I wondered how I could add an in-person experience to my portfolio of businesses without having to do everything myself.

This is where Liz comes in. We’ve connected online over our mutual interest in coliving. Later on, we realised just how much we’ve got in common in terms of our values and goals and the rest is history.

Toks: I know you’ve mentioned you two met last summer. So what is the story of how you met and then how did it lead to this partnership on La Vita Sukha?

Jarka: In the age of ‘people meeting online first’, this is one of those stories. I’ve been doing a lot of research into the coliving landscape in Europe and probably about 6 months in, I narrowed down my focus onto Italy as a coliving destination.

I committed to an immersive research experience next and planned to spend 2 months in Italy in the summer of 2023. I ended up driving about 5,000 km across Tuscany and Sardinia as my initial research led me to these regions. It was kind of a last-minute decision to include Puglia on the tail-end of my trip and visit Liz so we could meet in person.

Although I only spent 5 days in Roseto Valfortore (which is where La Vita Sukha is located), I fell in love with the charm of this village, the friendly nature of the locals, and of course with the possibility of what this chapter of building a business with Liz could look like. 

It felt right and intuitively I said ‘yes’, let’s give this a go.

Toks: I thought I’d highlight something that I feel might be a bit unique about your coliving because I’ve been at a few, but I’ve never come across one that has a music studio. I noticed on your website that you have one, and I guess that’s linked to your work, Liz. So I imagine you’re gonna let people who are staying record music, or how will that work in the context of the coliving?

Liz: The music studio exists exactly for that because I need to work as well. I love collaborating so I will always welcome the presence of other music producers, musicians and artists. Likewise, if there are any recording artists or producers who need access to a studio rather than just a laptop, I’d love to help out. In the past when I’ve been travelling, I’ve been very grateful to the people who have lent me studios when working on my laptop had reached its limits. I’d love to pay that forward. 

Jarka: It’s also good for those who are podcasters because it’s like a podcasting booth. It’s a small two-person space, rather than a big room where you could put a band in and you’re recording – just to manage expectations. 

Toks: Thank you both, especially Jarka, about the podcast recording, because I never thought of that. So even for people who aren’t really into making music, there are a lot of people doing podcasts at the moment, so I can imagine that will be really useful for them.

Jarka: Especially if they are producing as they go on the road. You could even have a person in that interview, even if it’s just a small production. And it’s fully soundproof. 

Toks: So you’re currently doing your spring coliving season and it sounds like it’s going well. I’m curious to know how you maintain, or how you intend to maintain your community beyond the in-person colivings and events. For example, are you going to have an online chat or just a newsletter or something, like what some other colivings do?

Jarka: We are committed to co-creating with our community and audience. We are mainly using social media (Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn) to spread the news about our coliving programs and upcoming retreats/events at La Vita Sukha.

When one of my posts went viral on Facebook, we had a lot of people sign up for our newsletter. It’s the main vehicle that we plan to use for rewarding people for being in our inner circle – expect special discounts, online sessions, free resources and much, much more. I guess it goes without saying that if you’d like to join, you can do so via this link:  https://subscribepage.io/lavitasukha 

For this first year, we focus on being present with those who decide to join us in this beautiful physical space. Whether that’s part of our coliving programs or as guests at our retreats. 

We’ve been thinking about launching a podcast as another way to ‘let people in’ but for now, we are sticking to what we know best: showing up every day as best we can 🙂

Toks: You shared recently that in addition to the spring and autumn coliving this year, you are also running some retreats as co-created experiences with others. Could you please share a bit about these?

Jarka: We are excited to be supporting business owners who we’ve built personal relationships with over the years. It made so much sense to us to be kicking off our first few retreat experiences as co-creations. 

Our first retreat, Soul Spa Weekend, is held by a wonderful facilitator duo, Ania and Karma of the Trinity Experience whom I met in Bali about 15 months ago. I also like the interconnectedness of places and experiences that brought us together in Europe. This retreat is for women only and will lean into tantric practices in addition to some spiritual rituals and ceremonies. You can follow this retreat on its Facebook event page.

Our second retreat, Opening to Intuition, is held in co-creation with a long-term friend of Liz’s, Sjoukje Gummels, a talented shamanic facilitator from the Netherlands. We will also welcome a co-facilitator from Australia, my dear friend Bianca Caruana, who will hold a sacred cacao ceremony during this beautiful solstice gathering.

Our third retreat will be with Yvonne Braschke, whom we met and connected with at the MINOMA Festival in November 2023. The exact dates are still TBC, but it will likely be during the last week of August. Yvonne is an incredibly talented choreographer artist and creative thinker, so this retreat will offer a safe space to explore, create, and rejuvenate through a carefully crafted blend of expressive arts and dance.

If anyone would like to find out more about our retreats, we will be keeping our website fully updated: https://lavitasukha.com/retreats/ 

Toks: That all sounds amazing, especially the bit about co-creation, which I imagine will be very attractive to a lot of your potential customers!

Toks: Is there anything else you’d like to add to share in this article?

Jarka: For anyone who has ever wondered about what coliving actually is, because there are a lot of digital nomads that travel on their own or maybe with friends, rent an Airbnb, and perhaps they may not want to stay in the same house with a bunch of people. I just wanted to encourage them to perhaps mix it up from travelling alone to being in a community, especially if they struggle with loneliness and isolation, or they have doubts about the lifestyle and want to back off, or want to get a home base that perhaps is not so much about the location itself, but more so about the kind of environment that they’re in. Coliving communities can be incredibly nourishing, being able to talk to other digital nomads who share the lifestyle and its challenges, because it’s not easy sometimes, especially if you’re navigating the lifestyle by yourself. To come into these communities and meet others, to have these conversations and to get a feel for what it is to be in a community with other like-minded people. 

We are calling for the mindful kind. We’re not a party house. We’re not here to take people on tourist excursions. We’re here to spend quality time together through meaningful conversations, sharing meals, and sharing just the day-to-day tasks that you do when you have a supportive and aligned community around you. And we actually aim to have smaller groups rather than 20-plus people, so it’s also a bit of a more intimate setting, and caters for both the extroverts and the introverts. I think Liz represents the introverts and I represent the extroverts. So we are here. We cater for those energies as well, but I would encourage anyone who has ever had any curiosity about colivings to come and join us and experience that for themselves.

Toks: Thank you, Jarka. I particularly liked when you mentioned introverts and extroverts because I had that in my mind just now as well. There is a misconception I’ve heard that “colivings aren’t for introverts” which I find strange. I’d say I’m an introvert myself, but I really love colivings. They’re even good in the way that you know what to expect from them – they are full of people who want to get to know each other and you’re more likely to get deep conversations, whereas small talk can be a bit harder for me. I think it’s just an easy carefree way for introverts to make friends and make good business connections than perhaps other settings. Obviously, it’s not for every introvert or every person in general, but definitely, some introverts like you [Liz] and I would enjoy that. 

Jarka and Liz: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to share more about us and La Vita Sukha!

Connect with Jarka and Liz

Liz and Jarka’s La Vita Sukha is a villa in Roseto Valforte, Pulia, Italy, that houses a carefully selected coliving community from March to May and September to November. In the summer, space is available for venue rentals and co-creating retreats. You can learn more and enquire about their services at: https://lavitasukha.com/ 

Follow La Vita on social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lavitasukha/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lavitasukha 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/la-vita-sukha/ 

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