A while ago I co-hosted a Co-Liv event, where I invited speaker Michelle Titus — entrepreneur and the founder of Cummari coliving and coworking house in Catania, Sicily, to share her story of creating a place for solo female travellers, artists, and digital nomads. I share a similar background with Michelle, as a female digital nomad who loves to travel and connect with others and live in nice places. I felt inspired by what she created and also by our discussions.
Cummari is built from the need to fill a gap in the market that Michelle felt had been missing around the world and in the spaces she’d stayed in during her previous career as an international correspondent. Since 2006, Michelle constantly travelled for work across Europe, North America, Australia and Southeast Asia, and in certain locations, she struggled to find suitable housing that supported both work and comfort. When Michelle realised that she shared this problem with a large community of professional female travellers.
“After so many years on the road, when I finally chose to sell my business and make Sicily my home, the first thing I wanted to pay it forward by fixing this problem for other female digital nomads”
In 2022, the need to find housing for women is more important than ever as more women are now travelling solo. In the last year, 32 million American women travelled alone, and travel companies dedicated to women have risen by 230% over the last few years.
Whilst a place like Cummari is designed to prioritise persons who identify as female, all genders and identities are welcome. It attracts both professional women, who seek to find balance between their work commitments and immersing themselves in the local culture. It evokes a sense of community that a coliving space ought to provide, an example being that some of the artists who’ve stayed at Cummari have also left their work to be displayed at the space. “Most of our guests stay in contact after they leave Cummari, either via our Cummari group chat, directly with one another or with me. The best result of Cummari thus far as been creating a network of extraordinary women from around the world that connect briefly in person at Cummari and then purposely choose to stay in touch as their journeys and lives evolve.”
Isn’t this what community is all about though? I have seen the same happening at Coworking Bansko where members are so heavily involved with anything that they truly feel the place belongs to them, that they aren’t just “using it” as and when!
Something else that I truly enjoyed about Michelle’s project is that before its renovation, Cummari had been abandoned for over 8 years. The holistic approach that Michelle applied during the renovation process included collaborating with local artisans to create bespoke pieces of furniture and painted murals. This provides Cummari with the distinctive luxuriousness of a boutique hotel whilst reinforcing the importance and the role of coliving spaces in the local community.
“In order for a coliving space to be successful with savvy female travellers, they need to put heart and soul into their space, along with safety as a high priority — this is what women seek and what has been missing in the market.”
What I found fascinating during one of my conversations with Michelle is that the most popular comment made by Michelle’s guests is that Cummari makes them feel safe. Ensuring safety is an important factor in providing suitable housing for women. This can also be enhanced with the use of the most suitable technology. In an event I co-hosted on sexual harrassment in 2020, we learned that when a common language is firmly established in a community, it can help prevent incidents of sexual harassment and assault. The more spaces that cater to women’s safety, like Cummari, the more women will be encouraged to travel.
And it seems like more women will travel alone as, over the last five years, the rate of British females flying solo has risen by 54%.
Another thing that I truly appreciate from a space like Cummari ( which I am aware was an unexpected perk) is how it breaks down age barriers, having hosted women aged between 30 and 60 since it opened. The current trend is that 81% of solo female travellers are aged over 45 years. I am one of them and I would love to see more and more places described as truly multi-generational actually being catered for. Almost 30% of fully remote companies have either women CEOs, founders, or presidents. Compare this to the measly 5.2% of female CEOs in traditional workplaces, and it’s no surprise women are choosing the nomadic lifestyle.
What’s next for Cummari, as an example of a boutique space curated for women? Michelle, together with Grippaldi Vivera architects, is currently renovating the olive tree farm (former 1800s winery) that she bought in Sicily in 2018. She shares more details about the project in the podcast . Personally, I look forward to seeing many more Cummaris, or similar coliving & coworking concepts around the world for female solo travellers who crave community, and value curated places. I’m looking forward to exploring many of them myself, and plan to meet Michelle in Sicily soon for a follow up. So stay tuned!
Thank you to my colleague and friend Lucy for cowriting this me and for always understanding my brain!