One recent outlet of our wanderlust: destinations where creativity, beauty, and connection can flow freely. Where the boundaries between living, creating, and being intuitively overlap. One such example (and where we’d love to visit next) is at Casa Lawa, a multidisciplinary residency, kitchen, and retreat designed in a former grape press in Sicily.
Casa Lawa (or: lava in Polish) was founded by Polish-born Lukas Lewandowski, who first fell in love with Sicily on a trip with his husband in 2016. Shortly after, the duo returned again, and a glass of wine with a local winemaker coincidentally turned into an opportunity to start anew (and in many ways realize a lifelong dream)in a 1812 lavastone home with direct views of Mount Etna.
Today, Casa Lawa welcomes guests into its purposefully eclectic, richly colorful space that feels alive and ever-evolving in response to its revolving door of visitors. For Lukas, it’s all part of an ongoing journey to merge work and play, to facilitate exchange around a dining table, to savor local terroir while celebrating wide-ranging influences.
To learn more, we spoke with Lukas about his journey to Sicily, and the unique experience he’s gleaned from opening up to a life punctuated by free-flowing dialogue and chance encounters.
What have been the biggest inspirations behind Casa Lawa?
I think people are my biggest inspiration. Wherever I go and whatever I see I always take notes, photos, and talk with people…even if we speak different languages. I love to absorb the world and keep my eyes open.
Working across different realms—between food, design, art, and in hospitality—allowed me to get to know many interesting people. I began to explore more disciplines and kinds of creative work, subconsciously combining and playing around with their “boundaries.” There were times when people would ask me what I do for work, and it would make me uncomfortable because the answer wasn’t an easy one. But now, running Casa Lawa, I realize all my years of experimenting were worth it…altogether this experience allows the freedom to create with confidence and intuition.
One of the guiding principles of Casa Lawa is inviting others to “contribute new values to the space." What have you been learning or observing from visitors?
We start the day here with a good breakfast, cup of coffee, or herbal tea—it’s like giving a hug to everyone in the morning. Guests and residents shape their own stay, whether they are joining in on activities or keeping to themselves. The perfect “escape” is the freedom to do whatever you’d like, while at the same time knowing that there is someone there for you (to plan your day, offer recommendations, and allow time to be free of stress).The process is very organic, but every guest and resident leaves something behind: a memory, a conversation, a laugh, a connection. It has brought me in immediate contact with so many beautiful souls from all around the world, and fills my heart with hope for the future.
We’re drawn to the palette and playful feeling of Casa Lawa—how do you consider it here?
Color is always a common thread in my work—and though there’s no plan behind it, I have always loved how it makes people happy, releases endorphins, and evokes a warmth. I love primary colors in particular, and connect green and blue with feelings of peace and relaxation; yellow and red with passion and enthusiasm. To me, color creates a kind of balance in life.
What, from your perspective, is most compelling about the shape this space is taking?
For the first three years of my relationship with my husband, we rented out our home in Amsterdam on AirBnB, and learned a lot through that experience. When we sold our house in Amsterdam, we wanted to create more space in our heads and hearts for a new chapter in our lives…Supporting local businesses has certainly played a meaningful role for us, and we always were looking for small boutique hotels, small shops, bakeries, and coffee shops to visit…[as we traveled], we began to see things through a new perspective as both guest and host. Even in the prettiest resorts, we missed a certain authenticity...we started to talk a lot and dream about the day when we wouldn’t have to choose where we should go or stay. We craved a homey feeling. A place where everything can happen in one place. The desire to create something we couldn't find definitely has been growing over the past years. A place like this didn’t exist before in Sicily, and I’m happy to be here and contribute new things to the local life. The guesthouse is open to all, but I am especially eager to help urban creatives like myself attain new perspectives. Also, as an openly gay person, it’s important to me that we share our experiences, to show that we can create a safe space outside of a city.
If you had to fill a table for a shared meal tomorrow, who would you most love to have with you?
I would definitely like to have a meal with Sofia Loren, Grace Jones, Catherine Deneuve, Nina Simone, Isabelle Huppert, Angela Merkel, Marina Abramovic, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Ursula Von Der Leyen.