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

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

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(CNN) — With lavish Baroque villas, unique gardens, extraordinary landscapes, historical art and a seductive vibe, Sicily seems to be the fantastic location for season two of darkish comedy series “The White Lotus.”

The award-successful clearly show charts the tangled, erotic and in some cases risky adventures of super-prosperous vacationers keeping at the stunning clifftop San Domenico Palace, a 5-star vacation resort operated by 4 Seasons in the city of Taormina.

A former 14th-century monastery with exceptional sights of the Etna volcano and shoreline, the resort is as a lot a star of the display as its forged of Hollywood and Italian A-listers. And, states its actual-lifetime supervisor, Lorenzo Maraviglia, it’s a match for its fictional counterpart.

“The resort’s serious vibe is incredibly a great deal very similar to what you see and come to feel in the collection,” he tells CNN Vacation. “It is lively, it’s about Sicily — both intimate and pretty –and about our incredible company who this yr integrated Madonna and Sharon Stone.”

Created for HBO (which, like CNN, is element of Warner Bros. Discovery), the collection is filmed close to Taormina, Noto, Cefalù and Palermo, but the San Domenico Palace is at the heart of the intrigue and steamy liaisons that establish in excess of the program of the 7-episode time.

And when visitors wanting for their individual White Lotus escape might not get quite the similar racy experiences, Maraviglia insists his resort will at least deliver the exact same stage of provider relished by the show’s people.

“The results of the sequence is based on the fact of what happens in a luxury hotel the interactions amongst workers and purchasers, and among clientele, are extremely authentic,” he states.

But the “extreme cases like the two regional escorts coming and likely to entertain visitors are aspect of the drama and theatrics that include a layer of spiciness,” he adds, insisting that issues commonly happen at a additional sedate rate — as far as he’s conscious.

“We could discover if there are weird movements if a situation becomes obvious, but Taormina and our vacation resort are destinations the place these things ordinarily don’t happen. It truly is for family members and couples on their honeymoon. Even if an individual may perhaps have a weekend adventure, it is not perceivable by us.”

Site visitors to the San Domenico Palace will locate it exactly as portrayed in “The White Lotus.” Those people connecting doors between suites really exist. There are lush gardens for sunset beverages, rather cloisters, a panoramic pool and a terrace overlooking the bay the place company have breakfast and a Michelin-starred cafe where the show’s people often argue.

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

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 witnessed in all its glamor: the imposing historic Greek theater, the panoramic piazzetta, the pastel-coloured dwellings, exquisite alleys with cafés and glossy boutiques, the stylish restaurants like Baronessa exactly where 1 bickering couple’s evening meal scene is filmed.

The finest suites in the hotel, wherever most of the show’s intercourse scenes acquire position, have plunge pools and paintings of saints designed by the monks who as soon as lived there.

“The decor, the rooms, it really is all original, what you see is real, even the workers uniforms,” claims Maraviglia.

Even though Maraviglia may not have had to area some of the much more outlandish guest requests that crop up in “White Lotus,” he claims he’s experienced to deal with extravagant requests due to the fact the San Domenico opened past 12 months as component of the 4 Seasons chain.

“Some attendees desired to check out the Aeolian isles with a non-public helicopter and hire a yacht to Syracuse which is only an hour’s generate away,” he says.

Physically, there are only two genuine deviations from reality — the beach scenes and photographs depicting the visitors arriving by boat. The vacation resort, perched 400-meters atop Taormina’s large rocky plateau, has no sea obtain. The private deck of a nearby fish cafe, La Cambusa at Giardini Naxos, was utilized to movie sea-arrival scenes.

And since the resort has no private shoreline, the nearby Unahotels Capotaormina vacation resort is wherever friends can appreciate sunshine loungers and umbrellas at a beach club carved into a reddish cliff flanked by rock arches and sea stacks, overlooking the modest island of Isolabella.

The islet, which also attributes in “White Lotus,” is related to the shore by a narrow strip of sand and is a single of Sicily’s most stunning and well-liked snorkeling spots many thanks to its emerald-eco-friendly, continue to waters. It is aspect 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 community seaside of the picturesque fishermen village of Cefalú, concerning Taormina and Palermo.

Taormina’s bay witnessed true-daily life intrigue back in 1955, when a Polish heiress was allegedly drowned by her spouse under mysterious conditions reported to be connected to an inheritance.

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

Plant pots and phalluses

The hotel building is a 14th century former monastery.

The hotel creating is a 14th century previous monastery.

San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons

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

A ceramic sculpture of a bearded Moor’s head is frequently revealed in the demonstrate as a image of betrayal, a nod to a nearby legend dating back to medieval occasions. It is explained just one of Sicily’s Arabic occupiers experienced his head chopped off and utilized as a plant pot by a lady he had an affair with.

“This tale embodies the Sicilian essence of appreciate, enthusiasm and vengeance which are all represented in the ‘The White Lotus,'” says Sonia Bonamassa, San Domenico’s community relations coordinator. “She beheads the Moor for the reason that she loves him but he has betrayed her.”

These testa di moro ceramic heads are currently made use of by Sicilians as vases, lamp holders, citrus bowls and flower pots or just to decorate rooms.

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

“Director Mike White was incredibly receptive of these local points, we’d joke about them and he included many of our suggestions in the period, like Italian tunes, adapting his approach to actuality,” claims Maraviglia.

1 suggestion that did not make the slash, in all probability simply because it was also intense even for such an erotically billed exhibit, was a local watering hole that the actors nicknamed “the penis bar.”

Bar Turrisi, in the picturesque medieval village of Castelmola around Taormina, is stuffed with objects formed like phalluses. “Bottles, watches, cups, everything,” claims Maraviglia. Even staircases and ground tiles have penises.

Waitress Giorgia Ponturo suggests the (actual) resort staff members and crew on a regular basis frequented immediately after a rough day of capturing and hopes the collection will attract travellers to quieter, lesser-regarded places about Taormina like Castelmola.

“This bar dates back again to 1947, it utilised to be a brothel and homosexual hotspot,” says Ponturo. “Then the owner resolved to adopt the phallus motif, which was an historic Greek symbol of sexual potency and fertility, to reaffirm the virility of Sicilian men. It also delivers great 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 supervisor states genuine-existence visitors can hope the identical amount of luxurious witnessed in the show.

San Domenico Palace, 4 Seasons

Some scenes ended up filmed at a renaissance palace termed Villa Tasca, which is really positioned in the town of Monreale, close to Palermo. Set within a lush park it has sumptuous frescoes and statues, king-sized rooms and an unique pool-pond with refreshing spring drinking water. Rented for weddings and non-public situations, it is claimed German composer Richard Wagner stayed here whilst making a single of his masterpieces.

Yet another extravagant mansion featured in “The White Lotus” as the scene of an orgy is Villa Elena, which sits between olive groves around Noto. It’s adorned with old tapestries and marble parts and has a enormous pool jutting out of a temple.

“The White Lotus” pays homage to “The Godfather” mafia flicks, showcasing the location of a traditional scene — Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo, an exquisite castle with a cloister. It is really a personal house open up to guided excursions and gatherings bookings.

The best of Sicilian food items is showcased in the collection, also. Visitors gulp down ricotta-filled cannoli, cassata cakes, gelato and arancini rice-balls. Figures on a regular basis quaff local rosé and Martini. Two couples invest a wine-tasting day at the Planeta canteen on Mount Etna’s flanks, in which the volcano’s fertile black soil produces top bottles these types of as Eruzione (“eruption.”)

Because the 1800s Taormina has been a VIP international hotspot renowned for its wild functions and sexual flexibility that harked back again to the pagan Greek days when homosexuality was the norm. Anglo-Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was 1 recurrent customer.

It is reported Taormina could have been the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Girl Chatterley’s Lover.” The writer and his wife have been friends at San Domenico Palace in the early 1920s and the book was evidently impressed by an affair amongst Mrs. Lawrence and a regional donkey rider.

World spotlight

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

Not like in the show, company can not genuinely get there at the resort by boat.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Locals hope the world-wide promotion of Taormina in “White Lotus” will more attract travellers to Sicily and raise its appeal as a Hollywood phase.

Giacomo Chillé of Uncover Messina vacation agency ideas to organize guided tours to the series’ places. “There is enormous likely in cine-turismo (tourism joined to films), we presently consider Us residents to ‘The Godfather’s’ spots with personalized outings,” he claimed.

Not all people is content. Enzo Anastasi, owner of lodge La Canna, on the offbeat Filicudi isle in the Aeolian archipelago, is worried about “dumbing down Sicily to a wealthy man’s Disneyland.”

He stated: “These American sequence promote and portray the common tremendous-rich individuals and their glamorous spots, which are not the genuine, authentic soul of Sicily the place traditions and very simple existence endure.”

Taormina area Giuseppe Quattrocchi, owner of Le Bistrot du Monde restaurant, thinks the series will be a godsend for Taormina’s tourism but suggests he did not take pleasure in how Sicily was at times portrayed.

“When three attendees go searching for their ancestors in a remote village and get kicked out by their alleged kin, that’s the opposite from our inbred hospitality,” he suggests. “Also, the escorts and the reference to nearby felony businesses depict a damaging picture.”