The ‘sexy’ reality behind Sicily’s ‘White Lotus’ hotel


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(CNN) — With lavish Baroque villas, unique gardens, extraordinary landscapes, historic artwork and a seductive vibe, Sicily appears to be to be the ideal place for year two of darkish comedy sequence “The White Lotus.”

The award-successful present charts the tangled, erotic and often dangerous adventures of tremendous-wealthy vacationers remaining at the attractive clifftop San Domenico Palace, a 5-star vacation resort operated by Four Seasons in the town of Taormina.

A previous 14th-century monastery with exclusive sights of the Etna volcano and shoreline, the hotel is as considerably a star of the demonstrate as its cast of Hollywood and Italian A-listers. And, says its serious-daily life supervisor, Lorenzo Maraviglia, it can be a match for its fictional counterpart.

“The resort’s serious vibe is quite considerably very similar to what you see and sense in the sequence,” he tells CNN Journey. “It really is lively, it really is about Sicily — equally romantic and alluring –and about our remarkable visitors who this year involved Madonna and Sharon Stone.”

Produced for HBO (which, like CNN, is element of Warner Bros. Discovery), the series is filmed all over Taormina, Noto, Cefalù and Palermo, but the San Domenico Palace is at the heart of the intrigue and steamy liaisons that build above the study course of the seven-episode season.

And while attendees hunting for their personal White Lotus escape could possibly not get really the same racy encounters, Maraviglia insists his resort will at minimum produce the identical stage of support savored by the show’s people.

“The achievements of the collection is centered on the truth of what happens in a luxurious lodge the interactions between personnel and customers, and amongst clients, are incredibly genuine,” he states.

But the “extreme predicaments like the two area escorts coming and going to entertain visitors are section of the drama and theatrics that insert a layer of spiciness,” he provides, insisting that points typically materialize at a more sedate pace — as far as he’s aware.

“We could see if there are odd movements if a predicament gets to be clear, but Taormina and our vacation resort are destinations wherever this sort of points normally will not come about. It can be for people and couples on their honeymoon. Even if somebody might have a weekend experience, it is not perceivable by us.”

Visitors to the San Domenico Palace will come across it particularly as portrayed in “The White Lotus.” Those people connecting doorways involving suites truly exist. There are lush gardens for sunset drinks, fairly cloisters, a panoramic pool and a terrace overlooking the bay the place guests have breakfast and a Michelin-starred restaurant the place the show’s characters usually argue.

Not that Sicily is any stranger to frisson. The island has an historical Greek heritage of sexual freedoms — a past mirrored in the collection, with pagan statues and spiritual frescoes silently witnessing the wealthy guests’ extravagant activities.

Saints and prostitutes

"The White Lotus" season 2 is filmed in the San Domenico Palace hotel in Sicily.

“The White Lotus” time 2 is filmed in the San Domenico Palace hotel in Sicily.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Taormina is found in all its glamor: the imposing historical Greek theater, the panoramic piazzetta, the pastel-colored dwellings, stylish alleys with cafés and glossy boutiques, the stylish dining establishments like Baronessa where a person bickering couple’s meal scene is filmed.

The ideal suites in the hotel, the place most of the show’s sex scenes take spot, have plunge swimming pools and paintings of saints built by the monks who once lived there.

“The decor, the rooms, it truly is all original, what you see is true, even the employees uniforms,” suggests Maraviglia.

When Maraviglia could not have experienced to subject some of the a lot more outlandish guest requests that crop up in “White Lotus,” he says he is experienced to offer with extravagant requests given that the San Domenico opened final year as element of the Four Seasons chain.

“Some friends needed to go to the Aeolian isles with a non-public helicopter and lease a yacht to Syracuse which is only an hour’s drive absent,” he says.

Physically, there are only two true deviations from fact — the beach scenes and pictures depicting the attendees arriving by boat. The vacation resort, perched 400-meters atop Taormina’s high rocky plateau, has no sea accessibility. The private deck of a close by fish restaurant, La Cambusa at Giardini Naxos, was applied to movie sea-arrival scenes.

And considering that the hotel has no non-public shoreline, the close by Unahotels Capotaormina vacation resort is where by company can appreciate sun loungers and umbrellas at a seashore club carved into a reddish cliff flanked by rock arches and sea stacks, overlooking the small island of Isolabella.

The islet, which also functions in “White Lotus,” is linked to the shore by a slender strip of sand and is just one of Sicily’s most wonderful and well-liked snorkeling spots thanks to its emerald-environmentally friendly, still waters. It’s part of an archeological park and has a villa surrounded by unique vegetation that hosts a botanical museum.

Most bathing and underwater scenes ended up shot at the public beach of the picturesque fishermen village of Cefalú, involving Taormina and Palermo.

Taormina’s bay witnessed serious-everyday living intrigue back again in 1955, when a Polish heiress was allegedly drowned by her partner under mysterious situations said to be joined to an inheritance.

Spats in between couples in “The White Lotus” are also accurate to daily life. In 1967 a furious Elizabeth Taylor seemingly smashed a mandolin more than Richard Burton’s head on the terrace of their suite.

Plant pots and phalluses

The hotel building is a 14th century former monastery.

The resort creating is a 14th century former monastery.

San Domenico Palace, 4 Seasons

There’s a great deal of Sicilian lore in “The White Lotus,” along with references to the island’s mafia connections.

A ceramic sculpture of a bearded Moor’s head is usually demonstrated in the display as a symbol of betrayal, a nod to a neighborhood legend courting again to medieval periods. It is explained one of Sicily’s Arabic occupiers had his head chopped off and utilised as a plant pot by a lady he had an affair with.

“This tale embodies the Sicilian essence of like, enthusiasm and vengeance which are all represented in the ‘The White Lotus,'” states Sonia Bonamassa, San Domenico’s public relations coordinator. “She beheads the Moor since she enjoys him but he has betrayed her.”

These testa di moro ceramic heads are nowadays utilized by Sicilians as vases, lamp holders, citrus bowls and flower pots or just to adorn rooms.

The mori are emblematic of Sicily’s Arabic heritage. Other local mementoes involve colourful pigne pine nut-shaped ceramics that are considered by Sicilians to bring superior luck.

“Director Mike White was very receptive of these nearby factors, we’d joke about them and he provided lots of of our recommendations in the time, like Italian tunes, adapting his strategy to actuality,” says Maraviglia.

One particular tip that did not make the cut, likely since it was much too serious even for these types of an erotically charged display, was a neighborhood watering hole that the actors nicknamed “the penis bar.”

Bar Turrisi, in the picturesque medieval village of Castelmola around Taormina, is filled with objects shaped like phalluses. “Bottles, watches, cups, every thing,” states Maraviglia. Even staircases and floor tiles have penises.

Waitress Giorgia Ponturo states the (actual) hotel employees and crew consistently frequented just after a rough working day of shooting and hopes the collection will attract travelers to quieter, lesser-recognised areas around Taormina like Castelmola.

“This bar dates back to 1947, it applied to be a brothel and homosexual hotspot,” states Ponturo. “Then the owner made a decision to undertake the phallus motif, which was an historic Greek symbol of sexual potency and fertility, to reaffirm the virility of Sicilian males. It also provides excellent luck.”

Wild get-togethers and lavish mansions

The hotel's manager says real-life guests can expect the same level of luxury seen in the show.

The hotel’s manager claims real-life visitors can hope the very same degree of luxury found in the clearly show.

San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons

Some scenes were being filmed at a renaissance palace called Villa Tasca, which is in fact positioned in the city of Monreale, in close proximity to Palermo. Established in just a lush park it has sumptuous frescoes and statues, king-sized rooms and an exotic pool-pond with new spring h2o. Rented for weddings and non-public activities, it is mentioned German composer Richard Wagner stayed listed here while developing 1 of his masterpieces.

Another extravagant mansion showcased in “The White Lotus” as the scene of an orgy is Villa Elena, which sits among the olive groves around Noto. It really is adorned with outdated tapestries and marble parts and has a huge pool jutting out of a temple.

“The White Lotus” pays homage to “The Godfather” mafia videos, showcasing the location of a basic scene — Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo, an elegant castle with a cloister. It is really a private home open up to guided excursions and functions bookings.

The ideal of Sicilian foods is showcased in the series, also. Friends gulp down ricotta-loaded cannoli, cassata cakes, gelato and arancini rice-balls. Figures frequently quaff community rosé and Martini. Two partners expend a wine-tasting working day at the Planeta canteen on Mount Etna’s flanks, wherever the volcano’s fertile black soil provides leading bottles these kinds of as Eruzione (“eruption.”)

Because the 1800s Taormina has been a VIP international hotspot renowned for its wild parties and sexual freedom that harked again to the pagan Greek days when homosexuality was the norm. Anglo-Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was one frequent visitor.

It is claimed Taormina might have been the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Woman Chatterley’s Lover.” The writer and his spouse ended up attendees at San Domenico Palace in the early 1920s and the book was seemingly motivated by an affair concerning Mrs. Lawrence and a local donkey rider.

World spotlight

Unlike in the show, guests can't really arrive at the hotel by boat.

Unlike in the display, guests cannot actually arrive at the hotel by boat.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Locals hope the world promotion of Taormina in “White Lotus” will even more draw holidaymakers to Sicily and improve its attraction as a Hollywood stage.

Giacomo Chillé of Uncover Messina vacation company strategies to organize guided tours to the series’ areas. “There is certainly tremendous opportunity in cine-turismo (tourism linked to motion pictures), we previously take People in america to ‘The Godfather’s’ places with tailor-made excursions,” he reported.

Not anyone is pleased. Enzo Anastasi, operator of lodge La Canna, on the offbeat Filicudi isle in the Aeolian archipelago, is concerned about “dumbing down Sicily to a prosperous man’s Disneyland.”

He explained: “These American sequence encourage and portray the regular tremendous-wealthy individuals and their glamorous places, which are not the real, reliable soul of Sicily where by traditions and very simple existence endure.”

Taormina regional Giuseppe Quattrocchi, proprietor of Le Bistrot du Monde restaurant, thinks the sequence will be a godsend for Taormina’s tourism but claims he didn’t respect how Sicily was at occasions portrayed.

“When three company go searching for their ancestors in a remote village and get kicked out by their alleged family, that’s the reverse from our inbred hospitality,” he says. “Also, the escorts and the reference to neighborhood prison businesses depict a unfavorable impression.”

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